Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 29 November 2020

Mick Schumacher a chip off the old block, and heading for the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

With track time at a premium, Schumacher junior will hope to secure a seat for 2021 by impressing at Yas Marina

Alfa Romeo's German driver Mick Schumacher competes during the Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari race track in Imola, Italy, on November 1, 2020. AFP
Alfa Romeo's German driver Mick Schumacher competes during the Formula One Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari race track in Imola, Italy, on November 1, 2020. AFP

Mick Schumacher is headed for Abu Dhabi and - you can be in no doubt - Formula One.

You heard it right: not seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, of course, but the next generation of the famous motorsporting name, who, as it turns out, is a chip off the old block.

The son of the seven-time F1 world champion and Ferrari racer was supposed to make his own debut at the Eifel Grand Prix first practice in Germany last month.

Taking his F1 bow on the track where his father was deified would have been more than perfect. But life’s not like that, is it?

Nurburgring is notorious for the low fog, clinging wet clouds, plunging temperatures and weather that rolls off the Eiffel mountains and falls like a lake.

If the opening race in Melbourne in the glorious Australian sunshine, is the high point of every season, muddy Nurburgring is usually the low.

This year was no different. Weather so bad F1 cars were not allowed to run. Despite his exhaustive preparations, Schumacher Mark II was robbed of his chance.

And the calendar is so intensive, track time so precious, Ferrari say the next opportunity is Yas Marina Circuit, on December 11, for the season-ending Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Given Ferrari is partially owned by Mubadala, Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund and sponsored by national airline Etihad Airways, the date is hardly surprising.

Those who have followed my writings will know that much as I wouldn’t wish his current plight on my worst enemy I was no particular fan of Schumacher senior as a racer.

Remarkable driver he may have been but my feeling is that he may well have been able to win on talent and application alone but all too often resorted to dirty tactics (let’s call it that rather than something more damning).

That he also had one-sided contracts so the only driver on the grid with an equal chance - his teammate - was contractually barred from racing him, is shameful.

___________________________

Fog ends Mick Schumacher's F1 debut

___________________________

I interviewed Schumacher a couple of times and despite our press conference run-ins he was nothing less than professional. Actually very likeable. Of course he had an agenda because this was at the height of his battles with Damon Hill and he wanted to get in the Williams driver’s head through the British press.

When I publicly asked him after Ferrari’s 2002 Austrian Grand Prix debacle if he wanted to win because he was the best driver or the one with the best contract my interview privileges were summarily revoked and never returned.

And I’ve always viewed parking his Ferrari on a blind hairpin, in an effort to win the 2006 Monaco GP, nothing less than dastardly.

All that said, I would love to see his 21-year-old son crack F1. His dad was no monster, he just let ruthless ambition get the better of him. The signs are that this Schumacher has the tools and is prepared to do it the right way.

He has risen through the ranks of the Ferrari Academy on merit even if his name gave him a leg up.

In an interview with formula1.com, Mick said: “[I was] trying to have as much freedom for myself as possible. It gave me the opportunity to grow on my own and understand how to be a normal kid.”

His move through the formula, even today, is methodical and calculated when he could easily have taken short cuts.

“If you take your time to go into the detail, to learn things right, in the long-term it will work out better than if you rush things,” he added.

He was runner-up in the German and Italian F4 series, clinched the European F3 title and now heads the F2 championship by 22 points with four rounds to go.

That the race cars, unlike F1, all have the same chassis, engine and tyres and are, ostensibly, utterly equal, speak volumes for Schumacher’s talent.

But the spanner in the works came just last week when Alfa Romeo re-signed former world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi.

That leaves two seats at English-based Haas, with one likely to go to Russian billionaire’s son Nikita Mazepin.

So Schumacher is battling to win the final F1 feeder series - with equal equipment - against another Ferrari Academy racer, Britain's Callum Illiot, and a place on the 2021 F1 grid the likely prize.

For most that would be the ultimate goal but the truth is that for Schumacher junior the battle will only just be beginning. Having the legendary Michael Schumacher as a father cuts both ways.

Updated: November 12, 2020 07:27 AM

Editor's Picks
THE DAILY NEWSLETTER
Sign up to our daily email