Haas engineer breaks rank in firm support of axed Mick Schumacher

Thomas Maher
Haas driver Mick Schumacher during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend. Baku, June 2022.

Haas' Mick Schumacher during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend. Baku, June 2022.

A prominent engineer from Haas has hailed Mick Schumacher as one of the best drivers he’s ever worked with in Formula 1.

Schumacher, son of seven-time World Champion Michael, lost his seat with the American team at the conclusion of the 2022 season as Guenther Steiner and Gene Haas took the decision to replace him with veteran racer Nico Hulkenberg, citing a desire for experience and not being willing to wait for Schumacher to come good.

Now with Mercedes as a reserve and simulator driver, Schumacher has been singled out for praise by leading members of Mercedes as both Lewis Hamilton and George Russell highlighted his sim work during the Spanish GP weekend as the team fettled in their new upgrades, while Toto Wolff has also praised his contributions.

Toto Wolff: F1 teams are missing out on Mick Schumacher

“I think teams are missing out, to be honest. I think he was burned last year,” Wolff said at the Canadian Grand Prix.

“You need to give and provide an environment and framework that is different to every driver, we are all different human beings.

“And whoever gets him will have a very good pilot.”

While Haas are undoubtedly pleased with the form of the returning Hulkenberg as the German driver has eclipsed Kevin Magnussen throughout most of the eight races so far, Haas’ head of race strategy Mike Caulfield has voiced his support for the ousted Schumacher.

“[He is] one of the best drivers I’ve worked with in terms of attitude and commitment,” Caulfield wrote on Twitter.

“I’ve seen a lot of people say that he’s only in because of his name, but actually, because of his name, the demands are a lot more. I hope he gets a shot in a decent car at some point.”

Caulfield has been with Haas since the start of 2017, having arrived at the team from Mercedes. He spent six years as a race strategy engineer with the Brackley-based team, working alongside the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, as well as Mick’s father Michael.

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Unsurprisingly, Caulfield’s assertion led Twitter users to debate his point, with one pointing out Hulkenberg’s impressive form – in qualifying, if not the races – as vindication for Haas’ decision to replace Schumacher.

You do realise that this season’s car which Hulk is driving is quite a different car to what Mick drove last season?” Caulfield replied.

Another opined that Schumacher couldn’t do what Hulkenberg has managed to achieve this year.

“They’ve never driven the same car so how you can make that comparison, I’m not sure,” Caulfield replied. “Also, Hulk’s race pace has been pretty shocking.

“My feeling is Hulk would out-qualify [Mick], but Mick would be better in races.”

Put to him that a Hulkenberg/Schumacher line-up might have been the best possible one Haas could have had for 2023, Caulfield couldn’t resist taking a little dig at Haas’ driver preferences.

“Personally, I’d have taken Hulk the first time the opportunity came up for a possibility of a Haas drive in 2019,” he said.

“However, on that occasion, a driver who crashed often and struggled to get points was preferred.”

But while Caulfield was very supportive of Schumacher’s attitude and work ethic, he admitted that the German driver perhaps lacks the same outright talent as the very best drivers in Formula 1.

“Maybe he’s not good enough for that seat,” he said.

“I can’t fault his attitude and commitment. Are there drivers out there faster and with more talent? Yes, which is why he probably wouldn’t get a Merc/Ferrari/RBR seat until he’s proved elsewhere.

“I never said I think he compares with the best. All I was making comment on is like what Toto said and that the work he does was good.”

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