Are people being too harsh on Mick Schumacher?
Written by Billy Thomas, Edited by Alexandra Campos
After a relatively anonymous 2021 campaign at the back of the pack, Haas F1 Team have been somewhat thrust into the spotlight in 2022, as they now have a car that can consistently challenge for points and punch above their weight in a competitive and tightly-packed midfield. After six races, the American-based team have 15 points, all of which have been acquired by returning driver Kevin Magnussen.
Magnussen made a dramatic re-entry to the sport in March after Nikita Mazepin’s contract was terminated, and hasn’t looked back since, finishing fifth on debut in Bahrain and continuing to finish in the points two times since. Magnussen’s sudden return and remarkable form has inevitably got people putting more pressure on his Haas teammate Mick Schumacher to match Magnussen and score his first points in F1; something Schumacher has so far failed to do.
When looking at the drivers standings, and seeing Schumacher far down in 19th compared to his Danish teammate in 10th, it is easy to suggest that Schumacher may not be as talented as previously thought. In fact, this is what many people have been suggesting on social media, with many questioning whether he deserves to keep his seat in 2023. As summer approaches, a time when the driver market really heats up and no driver seems to be safe from rumours regarding their seat, does Schumacher truly deserve the criticism and pressure that the F1 world appears to have put on him?
In the first race of the season Schumacher was comfortably out-qualified by Magnussen, but on the opening lap of the race had a great start, moving up into the points positions…only to be spun out by Esteban Ocon which sent him to the back of the field. This began a great recovery drive from Mick, but he finished 11th, just missing out on points. Had he not been spun, he looked set to finish eighth at a minimum.
The chaotic Saudi Arabian GP weekend didn’t lead to a change in luck for Schumacher as he crashed in qualifying at one of the circuit’s most dangerous corners. He was taken to the hospital where he was thankfully cleared of any serious injuries, but was unable to compete in the race the next day, giving Magnussen a free pass to extend the points gap between them.
At Albert Park, despite having never raced in Australia before, Schumacher both out-qualified his teammate and beat him in the race on Sunday. The bad luck here for the German, however, was that this was the only weekend where the Haas car was not competitive enough to compete for points, leading to Schumacher and Magnussen finishing 14th and 15th respectively.
Next was Imola, where Magnussen qualified a remarkable fourth compared to Schumacher’s comparably low 12th. In the sprint race though, it was a different story, with Schumacher having the faster mean race pace and moving back up into the top 10 for the start of the grand prix. First lap luck would continue to evade Schumacher however, as he spun on turn 3 while trying to avoid the mayhem that Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz had caused. Another recovery drive was on the cards, but he found it hard to work his way through the pack, finishing 17th while his teammate took home a further two points: Another opportunity for points ripped away before lap one ended.
In Miami it looked like Schumacher’s time to shine had really come. He out-qualified Magnussen and drove an excellent race, looking almost certain to finish in the points. It was then that, with less than ten laps to go, he slammed into the side of his close friend Sebastian Vettel, leaving Vettel out of the race, and Schumacher in 15th. The collision was classified as a racing incident, but really it was a move that Schumacher didn’t have to make, especially while so much was on the line.
Last but not least, the recent Spanish GP was another ‘what if’ for the young German as he made it to Q3 in qualifying for the first time in his career, and ran within the top ten for most of the race, only to be let down by strategy as the team opted for a 2-stop race rather than the 3-stop which turned out to be the better plan. This led to Schumacher slipping out of the points towards the end of the race, again failing to garner his first F1 point.
Overall, despite being 19th in the standings, and 15 points behind his returning teammate, Schumacher is only 3-2 down when head to head with Magnussen in both qualifying and races. That isn’t exactly awful, when you’ve been in F1 for under two years and your teammate has been in the sport for over seven. Dire luck and a degree of inexperience has prevented Schumacher from putting a point on the board, but if he continues to drive at a good level he will surely do that soon. If anything, people should be praising Magnussen more for an incredible return to the sport and for showing how good he clearly is, rather than putting Schumacher down for not immediately matching him.
Schumacher may have to wait a little longer for his first points though, considering Haas won’t upgrade their car for a while yet, meaning other teams will begin to pull away. Plus, Monaco is next up on the calendar; a track reliant on qualifying position, something which has not been Schumacher’s strong suit throughout his junior career. A points finish in Monaco really would be something special for Schumacher.
When looking at the security of his seat for 2023, it's hard to judge. There is a large pool of talent, including Nyck De Vries and Oscar Piastri, who will be desperate to get into F1 next year, and currently Schumacher’s seat seems to be one of the most in jeopardy. Has Schumacher performed badly this season? No. Are people being quick to criticise without looking in depth? Yes. Have these things ever stopped a driver losing their seat before? No. So only time will tell.
As long as Schumacher is his surname, there will be tremendous pressure on his back. However, after some claimed his surname was what got him his seat in F1, it appears that his surname and the pressure it comes with, may be the reason he loses his seat in F1.