Three reasons Mick Schumacher might not live up to the expectations.
Mick Schumacher, son of former Formula 1 driver and 7-time world drivers champion Michael Schumacher, has been signed as one of two new drivers for Haas F1 Team for the 2021 F1 season, the other one being Nikita Mazepin, following his [Schumacher’s] title-winning second season in the 2020 FIA Formula 2 championship. His trademark being his unbelievable starts and amazing consistency. Many F1 fans, former drivers, pundits and so on, have high expectations for the German’s debut season in F1, even Scuderia Ferrari’s Team Principal Mattia Binotto has stated that Mick might be driving for the legendary team in 2023…
Personally, while I’m definitely very impressed with the young German and believe that he has large potential, I’m a bit more sceptical – and here are my three reasons why.
Written by Oskar Yigen, Edited by Issa Chaker
1. Dealing with the pressure
This one is a fairly obvious and pretty boring one, some would say. But you can’t ignore the fact that tremendous pressure and attention is resting on young Schumi’s shoulders, and while he’s dealt impressively well with it in his second F2 season, his first year in the feeder series didn’t quite go as… ”smoothly”, let’s say. Throughout the season he was involved in multiple incidents, and while he showed some serious pace with a couple of stunning recovery drives in the sprint races, many were of the opinion that the weight of expectation had gotten to his head.
It took him a season to shake off the nerves, and after doing that he’s been brilliant. But seeing as it also took him a season to get up to speed in Formula 3, and to a certain extent also in ADAC Formula 4, one might one wonder if the same will occur in his debut season in the pinnacle of motorsport.
A reason that Mick might not experience difficulties as a consequence of the pressure would be that he has now had plenty of time to learn how to cope with it, seeing as he has dealt with it on more than one occasion. However, there seems to be a pattern forming of him always taking a year to get used to a new series – and in my opinion, i don’t see that changing just because he has experienced it multiple times before. As they say, if it happens one time it could be a coincidence, if it happens two times it’s worth taking note of, and if it happens three times it’s a definite pattern… And let’s not forget that the stage is now much bigger, which might only make it worse.
2. Qualifying pace
The main qualities that won Schumacher this year’s title was his consistency and his spectacular race starts. Both of those were making up for a pretty poor qualifying record (considering he turned out to win the title), never even qualifying in the top 3. And while he definitely doesn’t lack race pace or race craft, not being able to qualify well is a problem that needs to be addressed before turning up to Bahrain for the first race of the 2021 season. Especially so since in F1 it isn’t as ”easy” to make up for starting far down the grid as it is in F2. Dirty air being the main reason for this, it takes away downforce from the trailing car in an on-track battle, making it extremely difficult to follow closely and eventually execute an overtake, this isn’t such a big problem in F2 since the spec-cars used for the series focus much more on mechanical grip, thus being less reliant on using the air that they´re passing through to produce downforce.
All this contributes to the fact that qualifying means a lot more in F1 than it does in F2, which undoubtedly won’t benefit the 21 year-old driver if he keeps being reliant only on his race craft to produce results coming into next year. He also can’t rely on his rivals making mistakes and clashing with each other whilst keeping his own nose clean as much as he did this season, because F1 drivers are much more consistent and clean than the ones from the lower formulas.
3. A new car, a new clutch system?
As I mentioned earlier, one of the ways Mick Schumacher made up for his rather disappointing qualifying was his extraordinary starts. Consistently making up places off the line (including going from 7th to 2nd in the Monza feature race the on start/finish straight alone, which set him up to win that race) has been his best attribute – sometimes it seemed as if he had an extra gear compared to the other drivers. But there are a couple of good reasons why this ability might not transfer into F1, or might not be as extreme as it has been throughout this year.
The main reason is the difference in the clutch systems between Formula 1 and its Feeder series. While I do not have enough engineering knowledge to tell you in technical terms what creates this difference, I can state the obvious: The F2 clutch system is far more unreliable and harder to use than that of F1 (just look at how often someone stalls or bugs down completely off the line), and because of this the difference in the drivers’ ability to perform a good start is accelerated and seems bigger than it eventually will turn out be once they reach Formula 1. This means that while Schumacher will most likely still be an amazing starter using the F1 clutch, he might not be as good compared to the other drivers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely possible to make up leaps and bounds over the first couple of hundred metres in F1, as primarily Kevin Magnussen, Antonio Giovinazzi and to a certain extent Kimi Räikönnen has shown last year – but 5 places in a mere 300-500 metres seem unlikely, especially because F1 cars go much faster in a straight line than the F2 cars, so there’s a lot less time to actually get past people. And it’s also worth to mention that he’ll be driving in arguably the worst car on the grid seeing how Haas’ Team Principal Gunther Steiner has stated his pessimism about the upgrades they were bringing from 2020
To sum it all up, I definitely think that Mick Schumacher has a bright future in F1, no doubt about it. What I’m a bit sceptical about though is his first one or two seasons for all the reasons that I’ve written about earlier. In my opinion, Mick’s F1 career could go in all thinkable directions – the way in which it ends up heading to is all up to him and how he performs, and he’s got to get a move on because bringing the Schumacher name back on top of the history books is not going to be easy and will take a long old time…