ALEXIA’S TAKE: The potential of a ‘Hamilton / Schumacher’ pairing at Mercedes

© LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

By Alexia Tibil

Is it 2010 all over again? It sure feels like it, because a Schumacher returns to Mercedes. However, this time his name is Mick Schumacher, and he will assume the role of reserve driver starting in 2023.

“I take this as a new start, and I am just excited and grateful to Toto and everybody involved for putting their trust in me,“ Mick said after the signing was announced.

“F1 is such a fascinating world, and you never stop learning, so I look forward to absorbing more knowledge and putting in all my efforts for the benefit of the Mercedes team,” he concluded.

After being dropped by Haas at the end of the 2022 season, with the team opting for “a more experienced” driver – Nico Hülkenberg, Schumacher found himself in no man’s land, without a seat for next year. Since his contract with the Ferrari Driver Academy has also been terminated this year, and with connections being awfully important in F1, he was not able to work out any deals to be amongst the 20 drivers on the grid in 2023.

With this in mind, a look back at Mick’s career in motorsport might prompt those who tend to question his talent, to rethink their position. He began his journey in 2008 under a different family name, to avoid getting any sort of special privileges due to his father’s success in F1, and made it into karting competitions by 2011, with a few notable results. In 2014 he drove an F4 car for the first time, a test drive for Jenzer Motorsport, and secured his place on the grid for 2015. He made appearances in all formula classes leading to F1, collecting podiums, wins and pole positions. Before graduating to F2, he won his F3 campaign in 2019, a result that has gotten him real attention from F1 teams. However, what really stood out was him becoming the F2 campion back in 2020. After this stellar season, he got a seat at Haas in F1, and ended up driving for the team until the end of 2022.

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Looking back at his first season at the pinnacle of motorsport, there are a couple of noteworthy moments, such as the British Grand Prix and the Austrian Grand Prix in 2022, where he got his first F1 points. Such performances showed that whenever the car was working good, he was at his best. He demonstrated this by showing proper racecraft during his on track battles with the likes of Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

“It’s great news,” Mick said of his signing with Mercedes.

“It’s you know, I’ve always felt very close with Mercedes, not only because of the history with my family, but also because of my time in F3.”

Circling back to the Schumacher family connection with Mercedes, it’s best to take a look back to 2010, when his father Michael Schumacher announced his comeback to the sport with Mercedes-Benz, and with his old partner Ross Brawn in charge. Brawn had just won the 2009 Driver’s Championship with Jenson Button, but after the team was sold to Mercedes, things changed for the worse. Unfortunately, in the next three years Schumacher found himself struggling in the midfield, but nevertheless, he showed true teamwork and truly put all his knowledge into helping the team move forward. Aside from helping the team at the race tracks, Michael also had major involvement in the development of their cars during his time at the factory. Making a parallel with the present day, Toto Wolff has mentioned a couple of times this year that the things Hamilton is doing for the team has been utterly reminiscent of Michael’s days at Mercedes.

“Obviously, there is his involvement in developing the car, and his presence in the factory,” he said.

“But I think on the race weekends, he has become such a senior figure, maybe a little bit like Michael was back in the day.”

On top of that, Wolff has praised Michael’s work for the team and called him a “founding father” of their success. And now, with Mick being part of the team, many obervers are seeing the deal as a proper case of ‘déjà vu’.

As for Mercedes’ dynamics next year, it is certainly exciting. With Hamilton and Russell being the main drivers, and with Schumacher’s experience with modern F1 cars, things could go into a thoroughly positive direction, especially after a rather tragic season like 2022 has been for the team. And of course, it goes without saying that in such an environment Mick has the opportunity to learn first-hand form Lewis’ experience, knowledge and success. Lewis has always been eager to be in touch with potential future Mercedes drivers, and besides that, he has always been in a fairly close relationship with the young German. While Hamilton has no intention of stopping anytime soon, he could prove to be the perfect mentor for Schumacher, a thing that could lead to an eventual return to the grid at the earliest of 2024.

Mick’s uncle Ralf Schumacher mentioned in an interview at the end of November that “Hamilton is now so advanced in age that he passes on a lot to young drivers”. He also added that after a hard year for Mick, being in a team that “actually stands behind him” might be exactly what he needs in his year off from racing. Working alongside Hamilton and Russell could end up being a key point in his career and, as Ralf already mentioned, it is the sensible step to take.

“That would be an incredible wealth of experience that Mick can get there,” Ralf added.

With Hamilton being so used to working alongside up-and-coming young drivers, experts tend to say that him being within the same working environment as Schumacher, could not only see the team develop in a more efficient way, but also pave the way for Schumacher to drive for Mercedes- powered teams in the future. Nyck de Vries, former Mercedes reserve driver, has stated on multiple occasions that seeing Lewis’ work ethic and his dedication to the development of the team has been undoubtedly a privilege, and something that anyone can learn from. And so, drawing a parallel with the present, the same thing can be true for Mick.

The Silver Arrows have always been a team that provided resources for young drivers, and now with the experience of Hamilton, Schumacher could find himself a new mentor and eventually give himself another chance to return to the Formula 1 grid, sooner rather than later.

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