Toto Wolff blasts Haas as questions arise over Mick Schumacher’s future

Despite being on the sidelines this season, Mick Schumacher has been backed by Mercedes in his search to return to the grid.

Mick Schumacher’s second year in Formula 1 in 2022 proved to be a difficult one, casting doubts on his promising career in the sport. 

The son of the legendary seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher experienced the cut-throat nature of F1 first-hand as his hopes of emulating his father’s successful career were dashed. 

The Haas team, which had brought him into F1 two years prior, dropped him for a 35-year-old driver who had not raced full-time since 2019.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner’s decision to replace Schumacher raised eyebrows at the time. 

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Throughout the season, Schumacher struggled, making several clumsy mistakes that resulted in substantial damages for the team. 

Nico Hulkenberg, with his experience, offered a promising alternative, and Haas opted for him over Schumacher.

The confirmation of Schumacher’s departure came late in the year, and despite his impressive credentials as a Formula 2 and Formula 3 champion, as well as his famous surname, his prospects of securing a race seat with another team for the 2023 season seemed slim. 

The question arises: Did Haas give up on Schumacher too soon? After his second major crash of the season in Monaco, Steiner seemed visibly unimpressed, hinting that Schumacher’s time with the team was coming to an end.

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 “It’s not very satisfactory having a big crash again,” he said, expressing his disappointment. “We need to see how we move forward from here.”

However, Schumacher managed to make a comeback. 

Although his car broke down in Canada, denying him a strong result, he quickly bounced back and scored his first points at the British Grand Prix. 

He followed this up with a season-best sixth-place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix a week later. 

Unfortunately, Haas struggled to secure points in the second half of the season, and Schumacher failed to add any more to his tally. In comparison, his teammate Kevin Magnussen only scored three points during the same period.

Mercedes came to Schumacher’s rescue, offering him a lifeline as their test and reserve driver for 2023. 

As part of his role, Schumacher would play a crucial role in the development of the W14, working extensively in the simulator at Brackley throughout the year and attending races. 

Without Mercedes’ support, there was little interest from other teams in giving Schumacher another opportunity in an F1 car. 

Although some reserve drivers have successfully returned to racing, Schumacher’s options for a race seat remain limited.

Schumacher has made public appearances alongside Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, and both drivers have credited him for his contributions after their double podium finish in Spain. Mercedes is determined to keep his name in the spotlight, recognising that visibility could be crucial in securing his next opportunity and fulfilling his desire to return to racing.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff expressed his efforts to help Schumacher find a way back onto the grid, but he acknowledged that he cannot force other teams to take a driver. 

Wolff emphasised the respect for each team’s autonomy in selecting their drivers. However, he firmly believes that Schumacher was treated unfairly in his departure from Haas and remains convinced that he deserves a race seat. 

“I think teams are missing out, to be honest,” Wolff stated. 

“You need to provide an environment and framework that is different for every driver. Whoever gets him will have a very good pilot.”

Despite Wolff’s support, other teams have been hesitant to consider Schumacher. 

Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko revealed that Wolff attempted to arrange a meeting with Red Bull CEO Oliver Mintzlaff to discuss Schumacher’s future at AlphaTauri. 

However, Marko dismissed the idea, stating that they were not convinced and highlighting Wolff’s opposing stance at the FIA. 

Marko questioned why Red Bull should consider Schumacher when he is a Mercedes driver and suggested that if Wolff holds him in such high regard, he should let him drive for his own team or use his influence to secure a seat at a customer team like Williams.

Schumacher’s role as a simulator driver and his recent F1 racing experience, having participated in 42 grands prix, make him an asset to Mercedes. 

Wolff acknowledged the advantages of having a mature and experienced driver provide feedback and support in the simulator. 

He highlighted the advantage of having Schumacher available to provide data during European grands prix, stating: “It’s great to have a mature, successful, and experienced F1 driver supporting us in the sim.”

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While Wolff is prepared to let Schumacher take up a race seat elsewhere, the options are limited. Williams, with its strong ties to Mercedes, could be a potential option as suggested by Marko. 

However, Williams currently has a solid line-up, including Alexander Albon, who signed a long-term deal last year and recently achieved an impressive seventh-place finish at the Canadian Grand Prix.

It would be challenging to justify replacing a promising rookie like Logan Sargeant with Schumacher. Williams has worked closely with Mercedes in the past, with George Russell being a prime example, but it remains uncertain if they would consider Schumacher for a race seat.