F1 Debates: Hulkenberg or Schumacher – Who should Haas sign for 2023?

Total-Motorsport.com journalists Andrew Wright, Ed Spencer, Nigel Chiu and Adam Dickinson take a look at who should get the final seat at Haas for the 2023 Formula 1 season

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There have been question marks about Mick Schumacher‘s future in Formula 1 for the majority of 2022 and this month the speculation will finally come to an end.

Haas are the only team yet to announce their 2023 F1 driver line-up, although Williams are waiting to confirm Logan Sargeant should he get enough super licence points, and it’s Schumacher‘s seat which is under threat.

Kevin Magnussen signed a multi-year deal when he made a surprise return to Haas earlier this year, following Nikita Mazepin‘s dismissal when Russia invaded Ukraine, but the Dane does not know who he will be driving with.

What have Haas said?

Guenther Steiner has been bombarded with questions about Schumacher since the 2020 Formula 2 champion had his second big crash of the season at the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Haas team principal has not given anything away, although Steiner admits Schumacher has a “50-50 chance” of keeping his seat, suggesting it’s between him and Nico Hulkenberg.

“For me it’s no longer about one race, one lap,” Steiner told RTL. “For me, it’s about what’s best for the Haas team in the medium to long term.

“It’s about who leads the team stably into the future. Mick has got some experience, obviously it’s his second year in F1.

“But is that enough to take the team forward? We need leadership from this position. And these are all the things I evaluate, that’s the most important thing. How can we take the team forward?”

Haas’ Mick Schumacher after crashing out of the Monaco Grand Prix Pool via REUTERS/Christian Bruna

Those comments coincide with Steiner‘s ruthless assessment of Schumacher at times this year, as he called on his driver to “stop crashing” and for “more consistency”.

An announcement will be made before the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP, which takes place from November 18-20, but what do our Total-Motorsport.com journalists think – Who should Haas sign for 2023?

Here’s Andrew Wright, Ed Spencer, Nigel Chiu and Adam Dickinson‘s thoughts.

Andrew Wright: Haas would be prudent to sign Hulkenberg for 2023 and beyond

It pains me to utter these words, but as the saying goes, there can be no sentiment in business, and I think Haas would be prudent to sign Hulkenberg for 2023 and beyond.

Schumacher is young and has potential and his time will perhaps come again, but at a cash-strapped – relatively speaking – backmarker, points quite literally make prizes.

The German has had ample opportunity to find his feet but has failed to establish any real momentum and, in the presence of a strong teammate in Magnussen, has been found wanting, both in terms of speed and reliability.

With Hulkenberg, Haas would be getting a driver with experience, pace, and, most importantly, a fairly clean record.

While he and K-Mag have had a frosty relationship at times, I would expect them to bury the hatchet and form quite a formidable line-up. All they need is a car to match.

Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg during qualifying for the 2019 United States Grand Prix | Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Spencer: Wise for all parties to give Schumacher another year

In an ideal world, Hulkenberg, Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo would all be on the 2023 F1 grid, but sadly, for this trio, there are only 20 spots on the grid, not 26 making their lives more challenging.

It is a two-horse race between Schumacher and Hulkenberg, and although both would be worthy choices, I would be taking a punt on the former to retain his seat for 2023.

Although Schumacher has made mistakes this year, he’s risen to the challenge laid down by his boss Steiner following a slew of early season crashes, scoring twice at Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring showing good race craft in the process.

What has, however, prevented him from adding to his tally of 12 points is a combination of questionable strategies, lack of car development and just pure bad racing luck, which have overshadowed his good qualifying performances that included a Q3 appearance at Zandvoort.

He’s still not the finished product, nor may he be a Ferrari driver of the future, but younger Schumacher is no slouch.

That’s why I believe it would be wise for all parties to extend his current deal for one year before he plans out his next move which may include a switch to the Audi-owned Sauber team.

Nigel Chiu: Schumacher has earned himself more time

Going off Steiner and Gene Haas‘ comments all year, it doesn’t look like there is much hope for Schumacher. However, maybe they are using the media to give him a little bit of extra motivation to see what he’s made of and to test his character.

I think keeping him for another year would be the right choice, rather than going for Hulkenberg who has not driven full-time since 2019.

It’s so difficult to come back after a long time out of the sport, something only Fernando Alonso has excelled at over the last three decades.

Look at how it went for the likes of Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher, who are significantly better than Hulkenberg, with all due respect to the former Renault driver.

Since the Canadian GP in July, Schumacher has been just as good, if not better, than Magnussen in terms of raw pace.

Formula One F1 – Italian Grand Prix – Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Monza, Italy – September 11, 2022 Haas’ Mick Schumacher and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen during the race REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

Poor strategy, a car which has lost out in the development war and misfortune is the only reason why Schumacher hasn’t scored more points. Don’t let the championship standings misguide you.

Schumacher‘s junior days proved he needs time to get to grips with a car and another season would only be fair.

After all, Yuki Tsunoda has been given a third season at AlphaTauri so Schumacher should too at Haas.

Adam Dickinson: Hulkenberg fits the bill exactly for what Haas require

Haas don’t need to gamble on a future F1 world champion. They don’t need to search for a star of the future, they need a proven, midfield driver who can score points and occasional top-six finishes, and Hulkenberg is all of that.

While it’s always good to see new drivers given opportunities in F1, Haas ran that gauntlet in 2021 and it’s not paid off at all.

In fact none of the last five full-time F1 rookies (Nicholas Latifi, Nikita Mazepin, Tsunoda, Schumacher and Zhou Guanyu) have starred.

Yes Hulkenberg‘s allergic to podiums but for a team like Haas that’s hardly relevant and the rest of his record speaks for itself.

A borderline top-10 driver of the 2010s, the Hulk scored points in over half his F1 races and his only two seasons without multiple top-six finishes were his first and last.

One of the more unfortunate drivers of the era, he did contribute to some of his podium near-misses but there’s no doubting the level he was for most of the decade.

And there should be little doubt at where his level is now. To have enhanced his reputation so much in three years as a test driver is remarkable but every time Hulkenberg‘s been called up in the 2020s, he’s delivered.

He immediately outmatched Lance Stroll on just his second day in 2022 machinery at the start of the season, and when he had chance to get up to speed in the 2020 Racing Point, arguably his most competitive car, he put it third in qualifying.

Hulkenberg‘s done all he can to earn himself an F1 seat for 2023, he fits the bill exactly for what Haas require and Steiner and Haas need to recognise that.

Nigel Chiu
Nigel Chiuhttps://total-motorsport.com/author/nigel-chiu/
Nigel Chiu is an NCTJ-qualified journalist who worked at Total-Motorsport for 18 months until May 2023. He has been following F1 since 2007 and hasn’t missed a Grand Prix weekend since. Nigel’s worked with several motorsport websites, plus Eurosport and subsequently went on to work with Sky Sports F1 where he travels to multiple F1 races each season.
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