Haas team principal Guenther Steiner has revealed that the American team were “pleasantly surprised” by some of Mick Schumacher’s performances last season, before he was ultimately dropped by the team and replaced by Nico Hulkenberg.
Schumacher’s relationship with Haas was an odd one, with the team’s bosses having often come under fire for their treatment of the driver.
Whilst his rookie season in 2021 was particularly strong given the circumstances the team found themselves in – Haas used their 2020 car for a second season essentially – the 23-year-old failed to really step-up in 2022, with Kevin Magnussen having proved the importance of experience.
Schumacher managed just two points finishes in 2022, whilst Magnussen achieved six and a shock pole position.
With that in mind, Steiner has opted to bring an “experienced driver” into the side to get the most out of the car, with Hulkenberg having experience of racing amongst the points places.
“He improved a lot last year,” Steiner told Auto Motor und Sport.
“He had some moments that were very good. I have to say, we were all pleasantly surprised by what he brought.
“But in the overall package, just to help the team, we decided to bring in an experienced driver again, like we had back in 2018.
“When we got into Formula 1, in the first year we had Romain [Grosjean] and Esteban [Gutierrez] and we had something similar [with one experienced driver only]. Esteban wasn’t bad, only we said that we needed someone with a bit more experience.
“Because of that, we now have two and now we have even more experience because Kevin [Magnussen] has now driven in Formula 1 for seven years and with Nico [Hulkenberg], he has been in Formula 1 for a long time and always in the position where we actually wanted to be.
“There’s a reason why we took Nico. That’s not the one, there’s a performance reason why we got him.”
Whilst Schumacher couldn’t find a race seat for 2023, he has found the next best thing.
The German will be spending the forthcoming season as Mercedes’ reserve driver, a role that has led others onto permanent seats elsewhere.
Haas’ decision to drop Schumacher disappointed many given that he’s still so new to the sport; however, Steiner has revealed why the team “decided to do it”.
“It’s always the question that very much, I wouldn’t say is difficult to answer, only to answer correctly.
“[Whether he was] better or worse [in 2022] doesn’t really matter much here. What we wanted to achieve is to improve the team.
“I think we still have potential to improve as a team, and what is the best way to advance a team? With experience. You know what they can do and who can move the team forward.
“Unfortunately, Mick was only in his second season and there are people who have been there before. They have already spent seven, eight, 10 years in Formula 1 and they simply know more and they can move the team forward.
“That’s why we decided to do it.”