Guenther Steiner on Nico Hulkenberg replacing Mick Schumacher

Nico Hulkenberg and Mick Schumacher are in a duel for the vacant Haas seat for 2023.

With Alpine having announced the signing of Pierre Gasly for 2023 and AlphaTauri having signed Nyck de Vries, all eyes are on Guenther Steiner and Haas to decide who will partner Kevin Magnussen next season.

With Williams unlikely to announce who will partner Alex Albon until the season is finished, Haas are more than likely to be the next of the two remaining sides to confirm their driver line-up for next season.

It has been reported for a few weeks now that it appears to be a straight fight between Aston Martin reserve driver Nico Hulkenberg, and current Haas driver Mick Schumacher, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

Hulkenberg is one of the most experienced drivers in the paddock and has started 181 Grand Prix; however, he hasn’t raced full-time in F1 since 2019.

READ: Is Sebastian Vettel the most disrespected driver in Formula 1?

He’s made five stand-in appearances since 2020 and is highly rated by Steiner, who revealed that he’s “talking” to the German.

“I spoke to him,” Steiner told RTL.

“I’ve known Nico for a long time – better than I know Daniel [Ricciardo].

“We’re talking, but nothing has been done yet.”

Article continues below

The battle for the second Haas seat became a two-way fight after Daniel Ricciardo declared that he was expecting a year on the side-lines, with the Aussie having decided that a year out is what he needs.

Ricciardo was linked with a move to the Americans, but Haas weren’t happy to approach the driver whilst he was unsure if he wanted to race in 2023 or not.

Steiner further cemented this point by admitting he won’t “chase him down”; however, the Italian knows that signing the 33-year-old would be a “big hit”.

“If he’s interested in us, he’s not shy to call me up,” he told the Associated Press.

“I am not going to chase him down.

“I want him to decide what he wants to do for himself, first, before being talked into something. I think he’s a good driver and I don’t know how he got in the situation he’s in now, but I think he needs to come clean with himself and decide what he’s going to do.

“For us he would be a big hit. He was a race winner just last year. I rate him as a driver and I have no idea why he doesn’t perform right now.

“That is for him to figure out.”

With Ricciardo seemingly out of contention, it does appear like the second seat is in the hands of Schumacher, if he can deliver.

The German has arguably been stronger than his team-mate during the second half of the year, but both have failed to score points since the Austrian Grand Prix.

Haas owner Gene Haas has recently revealed that Schumacher has cost the team too much money, mainly due to his two big crashes earlier in the year at Saudi Arabia and Monaco, where his car broke in two on both occasions.

Steiner is “50-50” on whether to retain Schumacher or not, with more discussions set to take place after the Mexican Grand Prix.

“I’m honest: it’s still 50-50,” the Haas boss told the German broadcaster ntv.

“We will not make a decision between Austin and Mexico simply because there is not time. The next time would be after Mexico because we would have more time to deal with it.”

Haas has faced some criticism for piling the pressure onto the young German, instead of nurturing him.

Schumacher has arguably made considerably less mistakes than AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, who is also in his second season like the Haas driver.

However, Tsunoda has been retained for 2023, with the side believing that a driver needs three years to show their potential, something Schumacher is looking unlikely to get.

Steiner thinks Schumacher can “handle” pressure “well”, with the son of Michael Schumacher knowing “it’s part of the job”.

“As an athlete, you’re always under pressure. He knows he has to perform. We’re talking about it openly,” he said.

“Pressure isn’t a bad thing, because with pressure you also get an opportunity,” Steiner added.

“And I think he can handle it well.

“We returned from Japan on the same plane and he was in a pretty good mood. He grew up in a racing family and knows what it’s about. It’s part of his job.”

Whilst Schumacher and Hulkenberg battle for the Haas seat, Ricciardo is set to sign for Mercedes as their reserve driver for 2023, meaning he’ll be having a much more relaxed year than usual.

READ: Helmut Marko says tensions with Carlos Sainz led to Max Verstappen’s promotion

The Aussie is planning for it to be only a momentary pause, though, as he’s targeting a return in 2024.

“The more time that passes, the more I feel like it’s what I need,” Ricciardo said when asked about taking a “break” from racing next year.

“There’s not really anything in the form of opportunities for next year. Part of it is that I would like the break to reset a little bit and part of it is 2024 when there could be some better opportunities.”