David Coulthard believes Mick Schumacher needs to stamp his authority on Haas team-mate Nikita Mazepin in the quest to secure a future Ferrari drive.
Formula 2 rivals Schumacher and Mazepin will form an all-rookie pairing at Haas in 2021 after the team decided on a complete change of driver policy, ousting Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen who had both been with them for four years.
Schumacher, son of Michael, the seven-time former World Champion, is a member of the Ferrari Academy and the natural progression would be for him to eventually race for the team with which his father dominated F1 in the first five years of this century.
But the 21-year-old German has acquired a reputation as something of a slow starter in the junior categories before ultimately showing his quality – and Coulthard thinks that in F1, he may not have quite so much time on his side.
“I’ve seen him progress from lower formulas. He is a focused, fit and hungry racing driver,” the Scot told The Express.
“He has his own personality but he has put himself at the front of championships with all of the support and opportunity that has been put in front of him.
“You know the classic thing about a horse to water…you can give someone a great car or a great team but if they don’t have the skill, they won’t do anything with it.
“Haas will be a safe place for him to learn. I don’t think he will struggle in beating Mazepin – if he does then he has a problem.
“If he doesn’t, then that’s exactly what I expect. In doing so, in a couple of years he could earn the opportunity to be with either Ferrari or another team.
“It all depends on Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz.”
“I think it will be very difficult for him at the start,” said Binotto. “If I look at his past experience in both F2 and F3, normally he is delivering his best in the second season and not the first.
“I think Mick, the way he has developed himself, is learning a lot in the first season and becomes very strong in the second half of the second season. That’s why I think two seasons will be important for him.
“But already in the second, I’m expecting to see progress compared to the first one.”