Mick Schumacher is, according to Marc Surer, the only candidate should Audi want a German driver on the grid in their first Formula 1 season in 2026.
But that begs the question of what does the German do for the next three years, as right now he is not even guaranteed a Haas seat for next season.
Schumacher is out of contract with Haas at the end of this year, with team boss Guenther Steiner making it well known he has not been overly impressed with the 23-year-old’s performances.
Securing only two top-10 results in 41 starts, he is the only driver without a single point since the summer break.
While Haas have said they will give him until the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to show he can score points, Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko believes the team have already made the call to replace him with Nico Hulkenberg.
With no other seats available for next season, Schumacher will, if Marko is correct, be out of Formula 1.
He could, however, find a lifeline down the line with Audi, who are said to want a German driver in the car when they arrive on the grid in 2026.
But 2026 is a long way off.
“There aren’t many [German drivers] on the list at the moment,” Motorsport-total.com quotes former F1 driver Surer as having told the Formel1.de Youtube channel. “Mick Schumacher would actually be the one who is furthest along.
“He has now completed two years in Formula 1 so I think he can have hope.
“The problem is the years until then, where does that leave him?”
Could Valtteri Bottas be an option for Audi?
Another option for Audi would be current Alfa Romeo-Sauber driver Valtteri Bottas.
The 33-year-old is a proven race winner with 10 wins on the board and not only has experience with a top team from his Mercedes days but also knows the Hinwil squad.
That would mean a smooth transition, one with “safe value” as Surer put it.
“He shows how good the car is,” he added. “He performs well and drives as fast as the car allows.
“On the other hand, there may be other drivers who could do it too. It won’t be [Antonio] Giovinazzi who was in his place before. We all noticed he was once fast, then not, while consistency is Bottas’ strength.”
Surer’s biggest concern with Bottas is his age as he will turn 37 in Audi’s first season.
“I would say he might be a bit too old,” he said. “Then you have to reorient yourself.”
Audi’s arrival could be too late to save Schumacher
It is being claimed this week that Schumacher’s Haas fate could be revealed publicly as early as Thursday.
While Steiner has said several times he wants to give him as much time as possible to show the team what he can do, it was not long after Mexico where Schumacher finished P16 that rumours began to circulate claiming a decision had been made.
If Schumacher does lose his Haas drive and has to settle for a reserve driver role in 2023, he will have one shot the following year to revive his career.
But it is already a long shot as, barring a complete failure from one of their drivers, this season’s top five teams are likely to continue with their 2023 drivers into 2024.
In fact, excluding Lewis Hamilton, every one of those drivers has a 2024 contract. Aston Martin are also full up already.
With his options already dwindling, Schumacher’s best bet is the Ferrari connection to Alfa Romeo for 2024, but even that is tenuous because with Alfa Romeo parting ways with Sauber at the end of next season, the team have yet to confirm if they will stick with Ferrari engines.
Schumacher cannot afford a second season as a reserve driver, it would spell the end of his chances of making a comeback. After all, why would Audi want a driver nobody else wants to take a chance on?