While it is “great” to have Daniel Ricciardo back on the grid, Hans-Joachim Stuck now wants a comeback for Mick Schumacher but under better leadership than his former Haas boss Guenther Steiner.
Schumacher spent two seasons racing for Haas in Formula 1, two seasons in which his crashes cost the team more than the points he scored brought in. We know this because Steiner told us about it.
Critical of Schumacher’s three big crashes in 2022, it was the last of the three as he returned to the pits after practice at the Suzuka circuit which was the final straw for Steiner.
Mick Schumacher ‘deserved’ better than Guenther Steiner
“It happened on the foking in-lap!” the team boss wrote in his ‘Driving to Survive’ book. “It’s just foking ridiculous. How many people could we employ with $700,000? And I have to now find that money.”
With his repair bill for the season said to be sitting around $2m, Steiner declared: “I cannot have a driver who I am not confident can take a car around safely on a slow lap.”
Haas opted not to renew Schumacher’s contract for a third season, informing the driver of the decision on the eve of the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
But with only one seat still available on the grid for 2023, and Helmut Marko adamant Schumacher wasn’t in the running, he was handed a lifeline by Mercedes as he signed on as their official reserve driver.
The 24-year-old is keen to use his time spent with Mercedes as a stepping stone toward a comeback but even team boss Toto Wolff admits it is not looking good for 2024 unless Williams sign him instead of Logan Sargeant.
Former F1 driver Stuck agrees, telling Eurosport: “In his current job, Schumacher just has to fight his way through. He will certainly be learning a lot at the moment, both with tests and simulator work. But how he gets a cockpit remains to be seen.
“If you can’t show and prove yourself in the race, you’ll quickly lose the public eye so a second year of testing would certainly not do him any good.
“It remains to be seen what Toto Wolff intends to do with him. It’s certainly not easy. For me he belongs in Formula 1 – no question.
“He should be able to show his skills again, in a car he deserves and with a decent team boss. Not like Guenther Steiner, who doesn’t know how to lead and help people. Under the circumstances, Mick would have a good chance.”
But while Schumacher is waiting for his chance, eight-time grand prix Ricciardo has been given his second shot.
Weighs in Ricciardo/Perez rumours
Walking away from McLaren last season, Ricciardo decided not to take Schumacher’s Haas race-seat which had been offered to him by Steiner, and instead rejoined Red Bull as their reserve driver.
Intent on spending the year regaining his mojo, Ricciardo was back racing in Hungary where he replaced Nyck de Vries at AlphaTauri.
“Great!” Stuck said of the Aussie’s return. “This is a man who, in my opinion, belongs in Formula 1. He’ll prove that when he’s in a good car.
“I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him that he will be Max Verstappen’s team-mate if Red Bull can’t get along with Sergio Pérez anymore. Ricciardo deserved it.”
But although Red Bull have been adamant Perez in their man for next year, Christian Horner and Helmut Marko insisting he has a contract in place for next season, speculation he could be replaced by Ricciardo if he doesn’t perform lingers.
It has been said Red Bull’s driver’s contracts are with the company as a whole, and not the individual team.
“I don’t know what Helmut Marko is planning and what agreements Pérez and Red Bull have with each other,” Stuck added. “You just have to wait and see, that’s an internal story.
“In any case, I’m happy that Ricciardo is back. I think that’s great.”