The Race In The Ferrari Academy Is On!
Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott & Robert Shwartzman. Who Do Ferrari Turn To For A Formula 1 Seat?
Whenever a driver performs well in FIA Formula 2, they often find themselves at the top and on the radar in Formula 1. Whenever a driver with backing from an F1 team delivers, they seal the deal with an F1 drive the following year.
It has been the case for Charles Leclerc, George Russell, Lando Norris, Alexander Albon, and Nicholas Latifi. The only exception being 2019 champion Nyck de Vries, who lost out on an F1 seat and opted for FIA Formula E instead.
This year's class in Formula 2 has been one of the strongest grids since 2018, where the likes of Russell, Norris, and Albon stood out and earned their shots into F1. At the top, three drivers are aiming for their shot into F1, but all have a problem: They all are part of the same academy.
Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott, and Robert Shwartzman have all been outstanding drivers this year and rightly deserve a shot for the title in this year's championship. All three have won races, been consistent point scorers, clinched podiums and all have led the championship at some stage.
All three fall under the same family: The Ferrari Driver Academy. The very academy that's seen the likes of Leclerc, Sergio Perez, Lance Stroll, and the late Jules Bianchi be apart of. More drivers are to follow in the future, with these three hoping it'll be one of them next in line.
However, there lies a small problem: There are not enough seats for all three.
Whilst Ferrari supply two customer teams and have connections with both teams, the chance for the all three to take seats there is highly unlikely.
Alfa Romeo likes to appoint a driver of their own accord, with a second driver coming from Ferrari. Haas however, sign their own but are open to signing an FDA driver if they wish to.
With at best, one or two seats available, who goes where? Who misses out? Schumacher, Ilott, or Shwartzman? Let's observe the options:
The surname needs no introduction // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited.
The son of the legendary seven-time world champion, Michael, Mick Schumacher is having a coming of age this season in F2. Currently, the points leader, the German with six races left is in pole position for the title.
Whilst Mick doesn't have the win counts like Shwartzman, or the pole counts like Ilott, Schumacher has the most podiums out of anyone with eight podiums and one win so far. He's been ultra-consistent, and it's paying off as he continues to collect points and play the long game.
He's not a much of a risk-taker, and rarely makes mistakes. Those mistakes include running off-track whilst battling for the lead in Austria, and colliding with his PREMA teammate whilst hunting for the win. Aside from that, Schumacher is doing everything right so far with three rounds left to play.
It comes to no surprise that Mick is targeted for an F1 seat next year. Even with the lead, Mick's presence with the FDA has been strong since he joined the academy at the beginning of 2019. Already Mick has tested with Ferrari and Alfa Romeo and looks set for more runs this year.
Even if he doesn't win the F2 title this year, the appointment of Mick and the return of the Schumacher name into F1 will be big! It is likely Alfa Romeo will sign Schumacher on to partner Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi, or Sergio Perez, who recently has been released from BWT Racing Point.
Britain's Next Talent? // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited.
It may be Callum Ilott's second year in Formula 2, but the contrast from his rookie year to now is a massive step forward for the Brit.
From two podium appearances to a championship fight is a leap from Ilott, switching from Sauber Junior Team to UNI-Virtuosi Racing has helped his development and bolstered him into race-winning material. His qualifying has also stepped up massively. A regular in the top five during qualifying, Ilott has used this to his advantage and scored big points.
Whilst he's scored plenty, he's also missed lots of points. A few races of bad luck or gremlins have occurred for the Brit this year, including a chance of winning at Silverstone, Monza, and Spain. His point-less weekend at Belgium also allowed his rivals to catch up, putting the pressure on the Brit. But Ilott has been able to recover, delivering outstanding comeback drives from the back to clinch vital points.
Whilst Ilott shares the same F2 experience as Schumacher and is ahead of Shwartzman in the standings, Callum is somewhat at a disadvantage to the two. Ilott, whilst has driven an F1 car isn't as well-backed as his FDA teammates. Schumacher with his surname and Shwartzman with his backing from SMP Racing trumps Ilott's support he currently holds and talks of recruiting the two over the Brit raises a concern for his chances of racing in F1.
A likely destination for Ilott would be at Haas as they've said they would welcome a rookie driver. But it is unknown what the future likes with Ilott whether he can scramble an F1 seat like Albon did in 2018, or he looks elsewhere like de Vries last year. Either way, Ilott still dreams of racing in F1 and is focused on the job at hand. After Russia, Ilott will have a long break to discuss possible options for 2021, whether it is for F1 or not.
From Russia with Love // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited.
For many, Robert Shwartzman was a driver destined for Formula 1 ever since he demonstrated his skills in FIA European Formula 3. The Russian ever since has gone on to win FIA Formula 3 and win multiple races in Formula 2, citing another title in his ranks.
Right from the get-go, Shwartzman was up to speed immediately in F2, clinching a podium in his debut whilst a week later claim his first win in a rain-soaked Red Bull Ring, beating fellow rookie Yuki Tsunoda. His season got stronger with a win at Budapest for making the right strategy call and a dominant win at Spa-Francorchamps put him at the front.
But a mediocre weekend at Monza followed, then a scoreless weekend at Mugello came which left the Russian down in fourth, behind Schumacher, Ilott, and Christian Lundgaard. His lead was gone and demonstrates that in Formula 2, you can't afford to have bad days. The Russian has had a few this year ranging from first-lap spins, teammate collisions, or mechanical failures.
Despite his championship status, Shwartzman has been rumoured to be called up to F1 for 2021 as he already possesses the necessary superlicence points for F1. With his backing and support from SMP Racing, it helps make Shwartzman an attractive signing and could help bolster their line-up.
Alfa Romeo was tipped to appoint the Russian, but with the emergence of Schumacher late into the F2 season, it's likely Haas who could swoop in and take on Shwartzman. Haas would welcome an FDA driver, plus a driver who has a robust financial backing which will help ease the cash flow from owner Gene Haas.
The final push for the F2 title is on! // Image Credit: Formula Motorsport Limited.
DOES FERRARI HAVE A ACADEMY PROBLEM?
Ferrari has the most drivers competing in Formula 2 with five drivers, including Marcus Armstrong and Giuliano Alesi, who are facing tough seasons. Whilst having a large amount of drivers compete in the series is good, it can lead to a problem that Ferrari faces at the moment.
If the majority of the drivers are successful, it leads to tough decisions being made on who gets promoted and who gets left behind. Often or not, those who get left move on elsewhere. At the end of the day, someone out of Mick, Callum, or Robert is going to lose out and it's going to hurt. Too many drivers all ready at the same time, and little amount of seats are available.
Ferrari is not alone in having an 'academy problem'. Red Bull also has an issue, but mainly for its lack of drivers they hold at F2 and who are ready for F1. Whilst Yuki Tsunoda and Jehad Daruvala both race under Red Bull colours, they are not fully ready to jump into F1.
Tsunoda's fine form in F2 this year so far has earned him an AlphaTauri test, but his recent form and drop to sixth-place overall has put doubt whether promotion to F1 will happen due to a lack of superlicence points. If Tsunoda doesn't succeed, then Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat look safe for another year.
For the FDA boys, Ilott and Schumacher need to finish in the top three to guarantee a superlicence and a possible shot into F1. Although Schumacher has the upper hand over Ilott on that front. As for Shwartzman, he can afford to finish where he is and get a superlicence but will aim to improve his position to increase his acclaim and attraction to F1.
If something were to happen to the three at the end of the season and suddenly drop off, a third season for Schumacher and Ilott in F2 won't present the same chances for F1. For Shwartzman, he can afford a second season in F2 where with a year's experience, can use it to his advantage.
At the end of the day, whatever Ferrari decides, someone is going to lose out potentially and it could harm their chances of getting an F1 seat or reaching it altogether. And for one of these three to lose out, would be a great shame for F1.