Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has hit back at Helmut Marko’s claim that his eagerness to play “politics” cost Mick Schumacher a chance with Red Bull for the F1 2023 season.
Having lost his race seat with Haas at the end of last year, former Ferrari junior Schumacher – son of seven-time World Champion Michael – is sitting on the sidelines this season as Mercedes’ reserve driver having failed to find a vacancy elsewhere.
That is despite Franz Tost, team principal of Red Bull B team AlphaTauri, frequently expressing his admiration for Schumacher and revealing his efforts to sign the 24-year-old were rejected by Red Bull management.
Long-serving Red Bull advisor Marko recently shed more light on the situation, telling German television station Sport1 that Wolff had sought a meeting with Red Bull chief executive Oliver Mintzlaff with a view to finding Schumacher a spot for 2023.
However, Marko revealed “the topic was off the table” after Wolff “openly made politics against us at [governing body] the FIA again.”
He added: “Why should we take Schumacher? He is a Mercedes driver, Mr Wolff is responsible for him. If he thinks so highly of him, why not let him drive in his own team or use his influence to get him into a customer team like Williams?”
Having previously expressed his frustration with Haas’s treatment of Schumacher in 2022, Wolff is bemused by constant attempts to denigrate the 2020 F2 Champion’s abilities and says Marko’s version of events differs from his own.
According to Motorsport.com, he said: “I’m not even sure that we can facilitate [an opportunity for Schumacher], because every time we speak highly on him somebody feels [the need] to say something negative.
“As a little aside, I never spoke to Red Bull leadership about giving Mick a place there the way it was said by Helmut.
“Wherever I can speak highly and praise Mick, that’s what I’m doing. But at the end, it’s every team’s authority to decide on the drivers.”
Schumacher was widely credited for his role in Mercedes’ turnaround at the recent Spanish Grand Prix, where after Friday practice Lewis Hamilton admitted he was unlikely to reach Q3.
With Schumacher working overnight in the team’s simulator, Mercedes went on to enjoy their strongest performance of the season as Hamilton and team-mate George Russell – recovering from 12th on the grid – both made the podium.
Wolff has insisted he would not hesitate in allowing Schumacher to race for Mercedes if Hamilton or Russell were ever unavailable.
And while Schumacher is proving a valuable asset to Mercedes in 2023, Wolff’s priority is to help him back into a full-time race seat.
He explained: “I very much respect our contracts within the team, and whenever you have to take a reserve driver, you have to take a reserve driver.
“I think kids are missing out. To be honest, I think he was burned last year. You need to provide an environment and framework that is different for every driver and different human beings. And I think whoever gets him will have a very good talent.
“It is great to have a mature, successful and experienced F1 driver supporting us in the sim.
“With his feedback, that is of tremendous advantage. At some European grands prix, having him in the sim overnight and providing data for the Saturday is a super advantage for us.
“On the other side if George or Lewis were to have food poisoning, then we know we have a super guy that will drive the car well.
“And, as much as I like the situation for the benefit of the team, I would every day of the week prefer that Mick sits in a cockpit and actually races.”
Meanwhile, it was announced last week that Schumacher will drive his father’s 2011-spec Mercedes W02 at next month’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, having previously sampled a number of the seven-time World Champion’s cars in his time at Ferrari.