The tremendous progress Haas made in the 2022 Formula One season and the arrival of Kevin Magnussen as an experienced team-mate should have given Mick Schumacher a healthy position in his second year at F1.
But instead the first four races of this year showed an awful lot of rough edges.
A mistake in qualifying for Bahrain meant he could not join Magnussen in Q3. A mistake in Saudi Arabia’s qualifiers led to a major accident which meant he didn’t even compete.
A strong Friday and Saturday in Imola brought him to 10th on the grid for the grand prix, and then two turns in the race left him in 17th place.
Schumacher was the only one to surpass Magnussen in Australia – which was in a way Haas ’least competitive performance.
This is a significant drop after the difference Schumacher had from his previous teammate Nikita Mazepin in their starting seasons last year, and it has the potential to change the perception of Schumacher – who earned a lot of respect for leading Haas ’2021 tough, though his year was far from ruinless.
Scott Mitchell highlighted the degree of Schumacher’s failed performance in a recent episode of The Race F1 Podcast.
MAGNUSSEN BENCHMARK IS NOT COMPARED
“It’s not good for Mick. This season has been a big test for him, ”Mitchell began.
“When Kevin Magnussen made his last-minute deal to enter halfway through pre-season testing, we talked about how it was a great opportunity for Mick to learn from a more experienced driver, who knows the team very well, who is a well-known, good, level Grand Prix driver. He’s not a lost world champion, but a very, very decent cameraman and also someone who gave Schumacher a benchmark after spending last season with – roughly speaking – a rather unfortunate rookie. Nikita Mazepin last year was not a benchmark for Schumacher.
“But within that there was also a big challenge, because in the end we needed to find out how good Schumacher is here. And Magnussen was supposed to be a very public benchmark to measure up to, not just internally to improve it.
“It simply came to our notice then. It’s not at Magnussen’s pace during one lap. He does not unite pure races. ”
JUST TAKE THE POINT
Does the pressure to score the first points affect Schumacher? Given that Haas needed a miracle to score in 2021, he had nothing to lose. He now has a package that his teammate shows he is very comfortable in the top 10.
“I think there are bits of the promise we saw in a decent New Year’s season from Schumacher last year, but he just needs to spend the whole weekend,” Mitchell continued.
“Even if he ends up grinding one very heavy point for 10 or something, he has to get that monkey off his back. He has to break his points and just doesn’t have to worry about that pressure.
“Magnussen will give great results for Haas this year. As much as Schumacher has done well, I just don’t think he’s at that driver level yet. He could become that, he could get there. But he is not at the moment. “
THE BEGINNER SHOWED
Mitchell believes that Zhou Guanyu should also be considered a relevant benchmark for Schumacher, as with a year under control Schumacher should look more sober in F1 than rookie Alfa Romeo signing.
Zhou won the first points at his first Grand Prix, although there was a degree of luck behind it. He hasn’t repeated such a high level since then, but Mitchell thinks he’s had more peaks than Schumacher so far in 2022.
“What’s a bit worrying is that we didn’t see anything from Schumacher at the first four 2022 Grand Prix which is quite similar to what Zhou Guanyu did at Alfa Romeo. And Zhou is a rookie, ”Mitchell said.
“OK, that Alfa Romeo is probably a better package than Haas as a whole. But there were a few moments with Zhou where you said, ‘Actually, he did a really decent job there’. And I just don’t feel like we got that from Mick.
“I may be a little rough, but the start of the season wasn’t particularly impressive.”