Following the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix, Mick Schumacher‘s future in Formula 1 was in big trouble. Two crashes, no points and a lack of pace in the opening seven events meant he was under pressure to save his seat at Haas.
But, there was an upturn in form including a great sixth place at the Austrian GP which came a week after his maiden points finish at the British GP.
He is currently 15th in the F1 driver standings and hasn’t scored points in the last five races.
Looking at that, you would think Schumacher is on his way out of F1 which could be the case. However, his recent performances have actually been very good.
A difficult start to F1 2022
Schumacher had a poor start to the season considering this was his first true test to see how good he is, after a rookie campaign where he faced very little competition against Nikita Mazepin.
A mistake in qualifying for the Saudi Arabian GP saw him crash heavily with his car unrepeatable for the race.
Two spins at Imola meant Schumacher finished down in 17th and against a driver who was returning to F1, he was outperformed in the first seven Grand Prix.
His mid-race crash at the Monaco GP felt like the knockout blow for a driver who had already been dealt a fair few punches.
Chief engineer Ayao Komatsu did not hold back when discussing Schumacher‘s first part of the season.
“Imagine not having had Kevin, but Mick and the same driver as last year,” said Komatsu.
“So Mick has not scored a point this year or reached Q3. If we had the same driver combination as last year, we as a team would have been 10th with zero points and a best qualification of 12th or something like that.
“We would have thought ‘Oh my god’! We’ve put so much effort into developing that car, and then we can not even reach Q3′.
“With someone like ‘Kev’, in his first qualifying, without being 100 percent fit, he is in Q3 and finishes the race in fifth. It provides a huge motivation for the team.”
Schumacher’s underrated performances
Since Schumacher and Magnussen qualified on the third row of the grid in the rain in Montreal, there has been little to separate them.
As he did in Formula 2 and Formula 3, the second half of Schumacher‘s second season came on strong as he grew in confidence and delivered under pressure.
Why it takes him so long to perform is anyone’s guess, he would make his life a lot easier by hitting the ground running straight away.
Nevertheless, Schumacher has been competitive against Magnussen in recent events, outqualifying him at Spa-Francorchamps and was only beaten in the race by the Dane due to strategy.
At Zandvoort, Schumacher did a brilliant job to get into Q3 whilst Magnussen qualified in 18th.
Unfortunately for the German, a slow first pit stop, which was also too early, dropped him down the field and the chance of scoring points for a third time in 2022 were gone.
At the Italian GP, Schumacher suffered more misfortune when he had barely any running in practice.
He stepped aside for Antonio Giovinazzi in FP1, had an engine failure in FP2 and a clutch issue in FP3 yet he qualified less than one tenth behind Magnussen.
In the race, Magnussen was hit by Valtteri Bottas going into the first chicane so sustained significant damage which makes a comparison versus Schumacher difficult.
On a track where the draggy Haas was exposed, Schumacher finished 12th and was given an optimal strategy for the first time since France.
“Considering I haven’t really driven much this weekend and had a difficult qualifying, to then actually be close to the points, I think mentally already being in the points, it was a strong recovery,” said Schumacher.
“The Williams was super quick on the straights, even pulling away in the DRS so I had to get the move done somehow, and it was a decent one.
“Overall, we’re really happy about the performance we’ve shown, and we really were on a good course as everybody else was struggling on their tyres and we were on a very good tyre.”
Is it enough for Schumacher to remain in F1?
In general, you have to look at a season as a whole when judging a driver. The story of Schumacher‘s 2022 F1 campaign has been one of two halves.
He’s definitely going in the right direction and can only be judged against his teammate which he has outperformed at the last three events.
Guenther Steiner hasn’t held back on Schumacher, perhaps because he knows his driver is responding to his critics well.
The Haas team principal’s latest comments on the 23-year-old suggest there will be no news about who will be driving alongside Magnussen for some time yet.
“I’ll be honest, we don’t know if Mick will stay or not,” said Steiner. “He has delivered very good races in Canada, Britain and Austria. But he lacks consistency – he would have to deliver strong performances more often.
“We are not in a hurry regarding the driver question and Mick still has chances to show what he can do.”
Nico Hulkenberg and Antonio Giovinazzi are options
Haas appear to want a driver who has experience in F1, a safe pair of hands which is why Nico Hulkenberg and Antonio Giovinazzi have been heavily linked to the seat.
It’s why Magnussen and Romain Grosjean spent three years together, despite neither driver being held among F1‘s elite names.
“It is certainly possible that Schumacher will be in the Haas cockpit again next year, but the probability is 50-50,” Steiner told RTL.
‘We don’t have to decide now, however. You put us under pressure and we don’t need that, we only hurt ourselves.
“A man like Nico brings experience. What can a driver do to make the team better and bring us to the top? How much risk do you want to take?
“With a young driver, you usually take more risks because you don’t know how far he can go. You can’t calculate that mathematically.”
Schumacher though is doing everything he can to retain his place and given that Yuki Tsunoda and Zhou Guanyu have kept their seats for next season, the 2020 Formula 2 champion should too.
If it’s not Haas, only Williams would be a potential option for Schumacher, as a replacement for Nicholas Latifi, but it does look like his F1 career could be over already.
That would be a big shame because his form has been good for a few months now, nothing special and he hasn’t had the points to show it because of the pace of the Haas car, but it’s certainly enough and he deserves more time to impress in F1.