What does Mick Schumacher need to do to survive in F1?
With a surname like that, comes big expectations.
Image from Haas
Despite finishing 20th, Nicholas Latifi became the ‘rookie of the year’ thanks to a lack of new drivers entering the sport last year. This year, the competition is way fierce, with Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher, and Nikita Mazepin fighting for that glory. While Tsunoda has been setting the F1 world on fire with his acrobatic driving style and bold overtakes, Mazepin took his own share of attention as well by managing to spin 7 times in the course of 6 sessions. It is ironic how Mick Schumacher, the F3 and F2 champion, along with his legendary surname is getting less attention, but he still has a lot to prove.
Image from Haas
1. Beat your teammate
As much as this is a cliché, beating your teammate has always been crucial, especially within the lower midfield teams where a bad season could easily end your career. Schumacher is currently in a similar position to what George Russell was in 2019. They are both driving the worst car on the grid as a rookie, and it is not easy to prove you belong in the grid in those circumstances. Yet, we have seen George Russell survive his rookie year in a horrendously slow Williams, so there is definitely something Schumacher can take away from it.
Image from Youtube
One thing George Russell was able to do week in, week out, was beating his teammate Kubica. Russell was never outqualified by a teammate in 2019 and had a 0.625-second gap in average to Kubica regarding qualifying performance. Schumacher kicked off his first race decently, qualifying 0.824 seconds ahead of Mazepin, and finishing 16th thanks to some DNFs in the field. If he can keep these kinds of performance coming, he will solidify his position within the team, and also within Ferrari’s junior driver program.
Image from Motorsport.com
2. Take your time
The good news for Schumacher is that he and Haas has a ‘multi-year’ deal. Although it was not disclosed how long the contract period was, it is safe to assume it is a two-year deal, maybe with an option clause to extend it into the third year if both parties are interested. This means he has the luxury of taking his time to get embedded within the team, adapt to the car, and the racing environment. A common mistake seen from rookie drivers comes from the pressure that they need to deliver. Schumacher has little to no pressure; as he is in the slowest car, his team knows they will finish last in 2021, and he has a drive most likely secured for 2022. Without that pressure to ‘rush’ and force himself, he can stay away from costly mistakes in qualifying, or desperation moves during the race.
Image from FIA
Furthermore, past results seem to show how Schumacher is a ‘slow learner’ and he himself has admitted that in quite a few interviews. Back in F3 and F2, it took him a learning year and a half to get himself comfortable, and then he finally started banging in the results in the second half of his sophomore season. If Haas is able to bring a midfield contending car for 2022, and Schumacher is confident within his team, we can expect some satisfying results starting to stack up.
Image from F1i.com
3. Capitalizing on other’s mistakes
DNF and penalties are unfortunate for those involved but are opportunities for others. Drivers like Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo(during his seasons at Renault) and Giancarlo Fisichella(during his Benetton/Jordan seasons) have shown that they can create podium finishes out of thin air. While drivers like Nico Hulkenberg choked on those chances, despite being a solid driver. While in a Haas, getting on a podium would be a very far stretch, what Schumacher can do instead is to try to gain some world championship points.
Image from Archyde
Of course, this is not an easy task, and just because you failed to score a point when you had the chance does not mean your career is immediately over. For example, Russell himself has had some bad luck and mistakes when it comes to points finishes, but he still has a solid position within the Williams team. Still, if you can get some points in the bag, that will never hurt your resume, especially in the 2021 Haas.
Image from F1 Wiki.
At the end of the day…
As much as being a Haas driver in 2021 is pretty unfortunate in F1 terms, it might actually end up being the better opportunity for Schumacher. Low expectations, low internal pressure from the team, and a secured drive in 2022 means he has the time to mature himself as an F1 driver. It is a bit early to judge, but especially with a teammate who seemingly prefers to drive in a circular motion than a straight line, he has the right environment to learn and be ready. Wishing the best of luck for Mick Schumacher in his F1 career.
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