Mick Schumacher on F1 exile: ‘It has been a draining few years’ - GulfToday

Mick Schumacher on F1 exile: ‘It has been a draining few years’

Mick Schumacher

Mick Schumacher

Kieran Jackson, The Independent

The duties of a reserve driver in Formula One are unique, distinctive and unlike most back-ups in other sports. With the chances of a last-minute call-up to the cockpit extremely unlikely, you lead a life in the shadows. Out of mind, but never fully out of sight. In Mick Schumacher’s case, he has been omnipresent in the F1 paddock for more than three years but, to his detectible discontent, the last 18 months have been without a race seat. “Fighting your way back is exhausting,” Schumacher tells The Independent, in the familiar surroundings of the Mercedes motorhome.

“You get this cake presented to you which is really good, but you’re not allowed to eat it. And you have to watch everybody else eat it. So it’s tough, for sure, but I know why I’m doing it.” Being the son of a seven-time world champion carries its own unusual burden. But the German, still something of a racing novice at the age of 25, wholeheartedly believes he is yet to be given a fair crack of the whip. His rookie year with Haas in 2021 was a write-off; superior to teammate Nikita Mazepin, not finishing last was an achievement in one of the worst-performing cars in F1 history. His second year was where it all went wrong, however, finishing 13 points behind the experienced Kevin Magnussen. But that wasn’t the issue; more so, the expensive crashes which resulted in Netflix star Guenther Steiner losing patience and wielding the axe.

Which brings us to now. Schumacher quickly accepted an olive branch from Mercedes boss Toto Wolff — with Schumacher Sr concluding his career at the Silver Arrows in 2012 – and he now plays backup to Lewis Hamilton and George Russell. No chances as fortuitous as Ollie Bearman’s in Saudi Arabia have come his way, though. “Frankly, the way I was two years ago has nothing to do with the person I am today,” he insists. “F1 has been a dream I’ve had since I was five years old and I’m not ready to let go of that dream, right?

“Sometimes you feel like you have a chance, then it actually never ends up happening because something else happens. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and a draining last few years. But I’m working my way back.” Some would see the time away as an opportunity to rehabilitate and reset but not Schumacher. One attribute that cannot be questioned is his commitment; he has barely missed a race in person and is regularly seen standing, headset on, dutifully listening to procedures next to Wolff in the garage. That’s the mantra when your life is “all about racing” and it is that hard-nosed, full-throttle attitude that sees him embark on the ultimate racing challenge this weekend: the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans event, driving for Alpine in their first year in endurance competition.

“I’m very excited, I’ve got a huge amount of respect for it,” says Schumacher, about an event which his father competed in before his F1 career started in 1991, finishing fifth. “It’s going to be very little sleep, long driving times at night, and the testing has been tough so far.

“We’re going for the win, that’s the ultimate target, but if we’re crossing the finish line after 25 hours, I think we can be very proud too as this project was only set up 11 months ago. The turnaround has been very fast. But the mentality is to win because… why compete otherwise?” Yet don’t be fooled: a career in WEC (World Endurance Championship) is not at the forefront of his mind just yet. Because amid a flurry of driver changes ahead of the 2025 season and the fluctuating nature of the F1 driver market, Schumacher is desperate to carve a route back into the sport he loves. Alex Albon famously provided then Williams CEO Jost Capito a racing CV in 2021 to sell his skills, littered with junior successes alongside F1 accomplishments. Could Schumacher, Formula 2 champion in 2020, do the same?

“Maybe I will start writing my CV and send it to people!” he says. “It’s never been a secret, my goal is to be back on the grid. I’ve shown in multiple ways that I am capable of winning championships. It’s just a matter of it fitting into somebody’s schedule, does it fit into their plan?” It won’t be lost on him that Alpine, his WEC team, now have an F1 seat available in 2025 with Esteban Ocon departing at the end of this season. The French team look to be Schumacher’s best option at this stage. A return to Haas seems unlikely, while forming an all-German partnership with Nico Hulkenberg at Sauber (soon to be Audi) also appears to be a long shot. And nobody is even mentioning him as a replacement for Hamilton at Mercedes, with Italian teenager Kimi Antonelli the favourite at this stage. But frankly, Schumacher won’t care where. As he says, “any team is a valuable option” and, simply put, he just wants another invite to the 20-man party.

“There’s a lot which hasn’t been seen yet, especially from a driving point of view,” he says.

“I understand how I could have improved [at Haas], and there’s a lot more to show from my side. It’s all about, what do you want in your team right now? Do you want somebody who you can build a team around? Good for marketing? Purely shut up and drive? There are so many different types of drivers.

“As for me, I’m really hungry for it. I just need to keep performing in WEC, showing everybody what I can do. Then people will know what they get if they hire me, and hopefully I’ll be able to prove to everybody that they made the wrong decision in not keeping me.”

 

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