Mick Schumacher: More Than A Surname
Despite an enviable CV in the junior ranks many still question the talent of Mick Schumacher. So is he just another case of an average driver with a big name? No, and here is why
This year the name Schumacher is back in Formula 1. More than eight years after Michael's farewell, his son Mick is now at the pinnacle of motorsport. But Mick is much more than just a driver with an iconic name. Mick is a race winner in all categories he participated in, having won the F2 and euro F3 titles. Clearly, such a CV is worthy of an F1 seat. However, thanks to his surname, many associate his entry in F1 as a mere act of marketing. Truth be told, thanks to the large amounts of money involved in Formula 1, just being fast is not enough, and the name Schumacher brings money, as it attracts a lot of media attention and sponsors. However, attributing Mick's signing to Haas as a mere act of marketing is a lazy argument. Of the 20 drivers present in Formula 1 in 2021, only other 3 won the F3 / GP3 and F2 / GP2 titles (Hamilton, Leclerc and Russel) before entering F1, and it's not like the 2021 grid is necessarily weak. In 2021 the grid has four world champions, and only 2 (Latifi and Mazepin) of the 20 drivers have not won any junior championships.
Mick has said he isn't bothered by comparisons with his dad.
Formula 3: Cold then Hot
His worst year in junior formulas was his debut year in European F3. Despite being in what is typically the best team, Prema, Mick only managed one podium, not achieving any victory, something that he in every other season. This year, Mick was also beaten by all his teammates. However, it is important to note that all of his teammates had at least one more year of experience in the series.
In his second year of F3, Mick blew away the competition. In the first half of the championship, Mick's performances were a bit lacklustre, with only three podiums, one of which was a victory in the third race of the Belgium round. However, after his first win in Spa, Mick was unstoppable, winning seven races, as many as all his rivals in the same period, outscoring championship leader Dan Ticktum by 109 points.
Mick driving the Mercedes-Powered Dallara F317 in 2018.
Formula 2: High Expectations
After winning the F3 championship, Mick moved to F2, a significant jump, mainly due to the switch to high degradation Pirelli tires. Despite the high expectations, the first year of F2 was somewhat mediocre, having finished 12th in the championship, ending behind other rookies like Guanyu Zhou, Anthoine Hubert and Callum Ilott. This year, Schumacher still managed to get one win in the Hungarian round's sprint race, beating his most experienced teammate, Sean Gelael, in the championship by 38 points. Although Gelael doesn't have an excellent curriculum in the junior formulas, in the previous year, he had obtained almost double the points with the same team (Prema).
His second year of F2, just like his second year of F3, did not start in the best way, with only 2 point finishes in the first two weekends in Austria. He managed to recover some form in Hungary with a double podium. The two Silverstone weekends that followed were not exceptional, still getting second place in the 70th anniversary GP feature race, which would have likely been a victory had it not been for the collision with his teammate, Robert Shwartzman. But it was after Barcelona that results began to appear regularly, with two victories (in Monza and Sochi) and another five podiums, including three weekends with double podiums. Contrary to his F3 winning season, Mick did not win the F2 championship simply by winning more than any other driver. He won by being the most regular, having more double podium weekends than any other.
Mick driving the Dallara F2/18 in 2020.
Less Impressive Rookie?
One of the main criticisms of Mick is that he only wins in the second year. Indeed, Mick's rookie years are not exactly spectacular, but the leap in competitiveness in the second year is remarkable. The fact that Mick Schumacher won the F2 and F3 championships after finishing 12th in his first year shows an excellent learning capacity. In his own words, "Everything is a learning curve. If you take time to go into detail...in the long-term, it will work out better than if you try and rush things". If we compare Mick's competitive leap with that of his F2 title rival, Callum Ilott, who, according to many (myself included), deserved an F1 seat, there is some similarity. In his first year of F2, Callum finished 11th and went on to 2nd in his second year. In euro F3, Callum finished 12th, 6th and 4th between 2015 and 2017.
As you can see, a more mediocre first year is not uncommon in good drivers. Winning in the first year is an exception, not the rule. Recently there have been many exceptional cases, such as Lando Norris in euro F3 and Leclerc and Russel in GP3 and F2. In the past four years, two of the four F2 champions were rookies (Leclerc and Russel), but in the GP2 era (2005-2016), only two of the 12 champions were rookies (Hamilton and Rosberg), with Rosberg winning in the first year of the championship. Concerning euro F3, between 2003 and 2018, only two champions were rookies (Norris and Ocon). In GP3 / FIA F3, 9 of the 11 champions were rookies, however of these 9, only Kvyat and Piastri had not previously competed in the euro F3.
Mick and Callum Ilott in F2.
So does this mean that Mick Schumacher is a future champion who, like his father, will dominate the sport in the next decade? Hmm no. Results in junior formulas are a good indicator of a driver's quality, particularly whether or not he deserves to reach F1, but they are just that, an indicator. In reality, from the moment a driver gets to F1, he is judged by his last race. This shortsighted view often leads to the premature end of many talented drivers F1 career, sometimes unfairly.
A recent example is Stoffel Vandoorne, who arrived at F1 with an enviable CV in junior formulas. However, his results in F1 were not impressive, and after just two years, Vandoorne was relegated to a development role at Mercedes. Another critical aspect for success in Formula 1 is "being in the right car at the right time". This is often attributed to luck, but it is actually a result of the driver's choices. Just look at Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes and all Alonso's changes after leaving Mclaren in 2007. In Hamilton's case, such a change completely changed the course of his career, leaving what was at the time a competitive team, but that after his exit never won a race again, to go to a team that one year after his arrival became one of the most dominant teams in the history of formula 1. In Alonso's case, even though he continued to win races and fought for the 2010 and 2012 titles, he never really had a car that was considered the best in the field.
In conclusion, based on his junior formulas CV, Mick Schumacher is undoubtedly worthy of reaching formula 1, regardless of his surname. However, any judgments about his achievements in F1 are too premature. This year he is in a good situation for a rookie. Haas appears to be the slowest team and has already stated that there will be no updates throughout the year. This implies that the expectation of points is low since the distance to the rest of the field will only increase. So all you can realistically ask Mick this year is to finish as many races as possible, not get involved in stupid accidents, and to beat your teammate, Nikita Mazepin, who, just like him, is also a rookie.