Haas team principal Gunther Steiner has hit back at critics of Mick Schumacher, and believes the best is yet to come from his young driver.
After a difficult period in 2022 following his car-splitting Monaco Grand Prix crash, some were questioning Schumacher‘s confidence in the car as he looked off the pace at Baku.
But Schumacher has mounted a remarkable turnaround since, finishing in the top eight at the last two races and fighting with champions Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton on-track.
“He wasn’t as insecure as you all thought,” Steiner told Motorsport-total.com.
“Since Canada, everything is a bit easier, you can tell he’s happier.
“That was the goal, to make him calmer. The beauty is, that has come exactly where outsiders have tried to bring in trouble.
“I wouldn’t say that’s a sense of satisfaction, but we worked towards the goal of Mick being successful and going fast. We have achieved that, I’m pleased about that.”
Not the best learning experience
However, Steiner conceded it’s been a two-year learning curve for the German. Schumacher made his Formula 1 debut in 2021 and was partnered with Nikita Mazepin, who he’d beaten by a comfortable 51 points in Formula 2 the previous season.
That superiority continued as he outmatched Mazepin in both qualifying and race pace, although neither of them were able to score their first points in F1.
“I think it was also difficult for Mick at the beginning, because he was superior last year,” Steiner continued.
“At the back, I don’t think he was able to learn that much last year about how F1 works.
“A lot of the guys come from F2 and think they already know how F1 works but it takes time, you can’t force it.”
It’s been a different story in 2022, up against 29-year-old veteran Magnussen.
A surprise recall after Mazepin was banned from racing and then dropped, Magnussen had 119 Grand Prix under his belt at the start of the season and initially had the beating of Schumacher.
But he’s finished ahead of his more experienced stablemate in the last two races, and worked well with Magnussen at the Austrian Grand Prix to stay ahead of Hamilton in the sprint race.
“Then all of a sudden he is quite inferior,” Steiner said of this season.
“I do think that has an influence on how a driver drives, how he puts pressure on himself. He had to learn that.
“I always say, ‘The further up you get, the thinner the air and the thicker the skin you need’.
“Take the duel with Verstappen at Silverstone, he lost it, but that was good for him because he was able to learn a lot in the process.
“The best way to do that is from the really good ones – when you fight against opponents like that, you learn quickly.”
Steiner also mentioned Schumacher‘s long-term career plans. He’s one of the longest-serving members of the Ferrari Driver Academy with Maranello supporting him throughout his whole F2 career.
He still has that link and as son of Michael Schumacher, many think it’s his destiny to one day race in scarlet.
But Steiner refused to grant an exclusive scoop on the situation, and said he was more distant from the discussions than many think.
“We will have to see, I will not talk about any Ferrari contracts and not about contracts between Ferrari and Mick either, because I don’t know the details,” Steiner added.
“I know the big picture, but I don’t know the details and I don’t want to know them. That’s why I don’t want to talk about contracts now. You, the media, have to respect that.”