JONATHAN McEVOY: Mick Schumacher has the toughest task in F1 this year as Haas’ new driver prepares to follow in the footsteps of his legendary father Michael
- Mick Schumacher will follow in the footsteps of his legendary dad Michael in F1
- He will compete for the Haas team 30 years after his father made his own debut
- Schumacher Jnr’s chance comes after he was crowned F2 champion last month
- His father has not been seen in public since a skiing accident back in 2013
- The Schumachers’ long-serving PR and loyal protector warns Mick is ‘private’
It will be as if the hands of the clock have been turned back when a Schumacher takes to the grid for the 2021 Formula One season.
Mick, the 21-year-old son of the famous and feted Michael, will compete for the American Haas team 30 years after his father made his own debut for Jordan at Spa, Belgium, in 1991.
Schumacher Jnr’s chance comes after he was crowned F2 champion last month in Bahrain, the likely venue for his first grand prix on March 28, now that the intended opening round in Melbourne is expected to become a casualty of Covid-related travel restrictions.
Mick Schumacher is preparing for his first time in F1 as he will race for Haas in 2021 season
Mick (centre) will follow in the footsteps of his legendary racing father Michael (right)
There are physical similarities between father and son, but how far and deep the likeness goes nobody can yet be entirely sure.
Some will say Mick’s elevation is a sign of Formula One’s closed shop: he will become the second son of a former racer on the 2021 grid, alongside Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, whose father Jos was Michael’s contemporary. The Schumacher and Verstappen families holidayed when the two boys were kids.
However, Schumacher Jnr certainly has ability — even if he will be hard-pressed to match his dad’s abundant talent — and won the F3 title in 2018 before taking the F2 honours in his second season, 10 points clear of British hopeful Callum Ilott. He managed that with two victories, no poles, but some lightning quick starts.
He is also in the Ferrari driver academy, called up in 2019, and if the dream works out as planned he will drive the red car in which his father won five of his seven world titles.
Schumacher Jnr’s chance comes after he was crowned F2 champion last month
Schumacher Jnr certainly has ability even if he will be pressed to match his dad’s talent
That is a long way off and first he needs to beat his pugnacious team-mate and fellow rookie, Russian Nikita Mazepin.
But the story always comes back to Michael, of course. The great driver, 52, has not been seen in public since he hit his head in a terrible skiing accident in December 2013. Mick was with him that fateful day.
Mick has been asked time and again about his father — round-the-houses questions mainly, everyone awake to the sensitivity of the subject. He responds in similar vein, indirectly and as vaguely as possible.
No medical bulletins are forthcoming from him or the family, though we know progress is sadly glacial.
Jean Todt, former Ferrari team principal and now FIA president, occasionally watches races with his one-time star driver, whom he has referred to as a second son. He talks of Michael, who is not believed to be bed-ridden, as ‘fighting’ for recovery.
Sabine Kehm is the Schumachers’ long-serving PR and loyal protector of the family secrets. She tells me politely but watchfully about Mick.
‘He is private, perhaps even more private than Michael,’ she said. ‘He is simply a dedicated driver. Getting to Formula One has been the priority for many years.
‘That was clear in F3 and F2 as well. They are junior categories, but they are all-consuming — it is your life and it takes everything to be successful in them.
‘Michael and Mick have always had a good relationship, as he does with the whole family.’
Mick still lives at home — the £50million mansion Michael had built on the banks of Lake Geneva, close to the Swiss-French border, complete with underground parking for 25 cars.Despite a fortune in excess of £500m, Michael tried to give his children as normal an upbringing as possible, a reason he and wife Corinna moved from Monaco to Switzerland when she fell pregnant with Mick’s elder sister, Gina Maria — now, like her mother before her, a successful Western horse rider — in 1996.
The children were largely kept away from race tracks during Michael’s career. He once said: ‘How can a little boy understand all the hubbub, the crowds, the flashes?
Mick still lives at home in a £50million mansion Michael had built on the banks of Lake Geneva
‘My children ought to be able to grow up just as Gina Maria and Mick without the pressure of being Michael Schumacher’s children. Our daily life is that of an ordinary family. We eat together and take the children to school.
‘They know my job, they watch the television and know a bit about it. Since they were about two they recognised the red car and know it is Daddy’s car. I’m very open with them, answer all their questions.’
Family friends talked of Mick as ‘a very sweet little boy, always sunny, always laughing’. Gina was a mummy’s girl who spent as much time as possible in the stables.
When Mick first started karting he entered as Mick Betsch — his mother’s maiden name — or Mick Junior, to give him at least a little protection from the pressure of the Schumacher moniker.
His father (right) has not been seen in public since a horrific skiing accident back in 2013
His mother has travelled to several of his races. ‘She has been very supportive of his career,’ said Kehm, dismissing the notion that Corinna might be particularly concerned about her son driving at 200mph given Michael’s unfortunate (albeit post-racing) accident.
‘When she is at races she is always happy for him. You can see that on her face. It usually shows.’
Michael’s great sporting passion away from the track was playing football. Mick has the odd game for charity or for fun but is more likely to be found on his bike. He enjoys squash and tennis and is regularly in the gym, as his work demands.
‘He loves sport and trains hard,’ said Kehm. ‘All the modern drivers are seriously dedicated and look to be the best they can in all aspects of the job. Improving off track is part of the skillset of a racing driver now. You could say Michael established that.’
Yes, the story always comes back to Michael.
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