MPH: Haas's Schumacher v Hülkenberg choice – but decision is said to be made


Haas has a choice of youth vs experience in its 2023 driver decision – has Mick Schumacher done enough to keep his seat ahead of Nico Hülkenberg?


Schumacher leads Hülkenberg earlier this season

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Only two F1 seats are left to be officially confirmed – one of them at Williams where Nicholas Latifi’s already-confirmed departure is set to open the way for the American F2 driver Logan Sergeant. The other is at Haas where Mick Schumacher’s tenure looks far from certain and where the veteran Nico Hülkenberg is campaigning hard for a full-time F1 return.

A choice between Schumacher and Hülkenberg is not an easy one. On the one hand it’s a 23-year-old guy still getting better against a 35-year-old veteran whose level is pretty much set. On the other, it’s a driver who has yet to fully convince about his outright pace against someone with many over-achieving grid slots on his CV including a sensational pole position for Williams.

Schumacher’s sophomore season has been a trying one – for both him and the team. He comfortably annihilated his fellow rookie Nikita Mazepin in ’21 but being measured up against a team mate of the quality of Kevin Magnussen this year has led to several cases of over-striving himself straight into the wall. The accident damage bill for Schumacher’s car this year has been very high and that’s a major consideration for a small team like Haas.

Mick Schumacher gets out of the wreckage of his F1 Haas at the 2022 Monaco Grand Prix

Schumacher has had some costly incidents for Haas in 2022


He’s a bright guy with an extremely agreeable personality. He’s made a lot of progress but perhaps not enough to guarantee his F1 future. He hasn’t done enough to make his retention in F1 a no-brainer, but nor is he obviously out of his depth. His place on the F1 grid is easily justifiable, but nor would it be a sacrilege if he wasn’t there. In the events where fair comparison can be made, he is 11-4 down to Magnussen in qualifying but the trend is promising in that three of those four occasions have been in the last five races. He put together very nice races in Silverstone (where he took his first points) and Austria (a sixth place finish after wheel-to-wheel action with Lewis Hamilton), has been running well in others before mechanical problems intervened. He has put the Haas into Q3 on a couple of occasions too. But there hasn’t yet been the amazing over-delivery or the glimpse of searing pace indicative of the potential of a true front-rank F1 star. There hasn’t been that ‘wow’ moment.

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Hülkenberg we all know about, a driver who can be searingly quick on occasions, especially in wet or changeable conditions, a very safe pair of hands whose great experience could contribute to driving the team forwards. As recently as 2020, as a stand-in for the Covid-incapacitated Sergio Perez at Racing Point, he qualified the ‘pink Mercedes’ third at Silverstone. He ran as Sebastian Vettel’s stand-in for the first two races of this season but the Aston Martin was in a very uncompetitive state at that point. He was quicker than Lance Stroll in Bahrain, slower in Saudi Arabia.

The question marks about him surround his motivation, how much he still wants it after the hard grind of F1 and the repeated challenges for year after year. His rookie season was 12 years ago and despite setting a sensational pole for Williams towards the end of that season, he never got the break into a big team with a front-running car, never did quite enough to convince Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes that he should be there. There’s also the troubling statistic that he has failed even to score a podium in all that time, despite being at Force India at a time when Perez scored three of them. He turned down an IndyCar offer after testing one and satisfied himself with being on-hand as Aston Martin’s reserve. But on the other hand, Haas boss Guenther Steiner has been impressed at the recent relentlessness of Hülkenberg’s phone calls.

This question is likely to be resolved in the next few days and in fact a decision is said to have already been made. My hunch is that we will see the return of ‘The Hulk’ on the grid in 2023 and that Schumacher’s future may lie in sports cars.