Kevin Magnussen v Mick Schumacher: One clear winner, one out of a job

Michelle Foster
Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen. March 2022

Qualifying: 16-6
Races both finished: 7-8
Points: 25-12

There was only one winner in the Haas team-mate battle, and it is fair to say it wasn’t Mick Schumacher, his failure to keep pace with Kevin Magnussen ultimately costing him his Formula 1 race seat.

Schumacher found himself with a new team-mate for this year’s championship, Haas dropping his fellow 2021 rookie Nikita Mazepin due to circumstances out of the Russian driver’s hands. Perhaps it would have been a different story – and different 2023 plans – for Schumacher had that not happened.

But it did, Haas recalling former driver Magnussen in the 11th hour of pre-season testing in what proved to be an inspired choice by Guenther Steiner and co.

The Dane was immediately in the points, scoring on his returning with a brilliant fifth place at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Haas was up and running, the team taking the all-new technical regulations by the scruff as, like they did in 2016, they used their year off – which 2021 pretty much was – to design a decent car.

And with that Schumacher found himself under real pressure for the first time in F1.

He recorded his first of three chassis-breaking crashes of the season at round two, the Saudi Arabian GP, a heavy shunt in qualifying putting him out of the race, a race in which Magnussen scored. More pressure, a theme that was to run for the rest of his season with only a brief respite mid-season.

Magnussen, showing no sign of being away from the Formula 1 grid for a year, was back in the points at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, scoring in the sprint race and the grand prix. His tally up to 15, Schumacher’s zero.

Although both drivers recorded two DNFs in the next five races, Haas were left to rue that Magnussen’s car put him out in the Monaco, Steiner likely seething that the driver most likely to score points was let down by his car. The steam rose when Schumacher crashed, his second $1m-plus accident of the season.

He did redeem himself with points at the British Grand Prix and again in Austria, but as Magnussen also scored in those races, albeit finishing behind the 23-year-old, it took a little bit of the shine off Schumacher finally breaking his duck.

But then came Haas’ mid-season update, their only big upgrade of the championship, and it was a step backwards. Instead of closing the gap to the teams ahead, it widened and both drivers went on a seven-race point-less run.

Magnussen, though, had his five top-tens as a cushion, Schumacher was stuck on two and by the time he crashed in FP1 at the Japanese Grand Prix the writing was on the wall.

Magnussen scoring at the United States Grand Prix, bagging pole position (his and Haas’ first-ever) in the wet in Brazil, and adding a final point for the season in the sprint race were the nail in Schumacher’s coffin. He learned in the days ahead of the season finale his time with Haas was over, Magnussen given a new team-mate in the returning Nico Hulkenberg.

It’s a decision Haas made based on what they saw from their two drivers in 2022: experience clearly beating youth.

Magnussen demonstrated throughout the campaign what years on the grid bring to the table, his steady hand and head bagging points when they were up for grabs. Schumacher, in contrast, made silly – and costly – errors with even his own uncle, Steiner’s biggest critic, pointing out in Monaco no one else ran wide, a mistake that put him out of the race.

Schumacher’s point may have been the difference between Haas finishing eighth instead of ninth, but at least a quarter of that prize money was wasted on his crashes – and that’s just the three big ones.

Schumacher’s fan club, of which many have a mic in their hands on a post-race Monday, would say, as they did many a time, his mistakes were the result of the pressure that Steiner kept heaping on his shoulders. They’d also say being told your job’s not secure doesn’t bring out the best in anyone.

But others would argue Magnussen knows first hand a Formula 1 contract is only worth the paper it’s written on if you bring in the results, after all he’s already been dropped once by Haas.

And yet he did the job, his last Hail Mary pass in F1. Schumacher unfortunately didn’t.

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