Driver Predictions: Why Haas’ 2022 risk may be beneficial for their drivers
Written by Danny Jones, Edited by Morgan Holiday
Haas came into 2021 focusing on a future rebuild, signing rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. Alongside this, Haas made minimal development for their 2021 car, putting all resources into the fresh 2022 regulations in a potentially risky attempt to try and move themselves up the grid, as they have progressively fallen down the pecking order in recent seasons, and have become the main backmarker team of 2021.
Mick Schumacher was minorly connected with a potential move to Alfa Romeo for 2022, but with Alfa Romeo looking elsewhere in the driver market, and Haas looking to renew his contract, he seems highly likely to stay with the team in 2022. Schumacher’s arrival to Haas brought key publicity to the team, as F1’s most iconic name returned to the grid for the first time in 9 years. Schumacher has had a very respectable 2021, managing to outqualify his teammate every time both of them took part in a session, and has had the upper hand throughout the season so far. But, in a car which is so unpredictable and lacking development, it is difficult to truly judge his success this season. Heavy crashes have plagued his season, with FP3 crashes in Monaco and Hungary eliminating him out of qualifying, whilst a qualifying crash in France put an end to his session there. But 2022 may promise a lot for Schumacher, especially helped by his tendency to improve massively in his second season of competition, previously shown in ADAC F4, European F3 and F2, which will be to his benefit if Haas’ gamble pays off.
Nikita Mazepin had a torrid few rounds to his debut F1 season, with multiple spins before an opening-lap shunt in Bahrain, as well as free practice crashes in Imola and his blue flags fiasco with Sergio Perez in Portugal. Since then Mazepin’s form has steadily improved. He has still been unable to challenge Schumacher on the whole, but is starting to improve to the level that they could be at a similar standard toward the season’s end. Despite his reputation for spins and crashes, Mazepin has cost the team significantly less damage than Schumacher, and is starting to get to grips with the unpredictable Haas. It is no secret that Mazepin’s financial backing is keeping Haas afloat and is absolutely critical for the team moving forward. Similarly to Schumacher, Mazepin tends to improve in his second year in categories, doing so in European F3 and F2, and it would help his experience and credentials if Haas were able to produce a somewhat competitive car for the 2022 season.
Mazepin and Schumacher are both effectively locked-in for the 2022 season, so Haas’ lineup will remain unchanged. What will be interesting for the team is if their gamble to focus all development on their 2022 car pays off. Then Schumacher and Mazepin may both be able to battle with the rest of the pack, instead of being consistently stuck at the back. Both have shown flashes of brilliance lower down in the series, so both will be hoping to prove their talent in 2022.