Nico Hulkenberg thinks Mick Schumacher’s first F1 season with Haas is proving even more character-building due to the “friction” with Nikita Mazepin.
The two rookies were installed as the Haas driver line-up for a 2021 season the team had virtually written off, in order to focus on creating a much more competitive car for when the new regulations kick in next year.
So far, results have been largely as expected, with Schumacher and Mazepin racing among the backmarkers and yet to even get close to scoring points.
There have been plenty of novicey errors, including some crashes from Schumacher, who has also found himself riled by examples of dubious driving tactics from his Moscow-born colleague at the Azerbaijan and French Grands Prix in particular.
According to Hulkenberg, that has introduced another dimension to the learning process his fellow German, the reigning Formula 2 champion, is going through.
“He’s just going through a huge year of learning,” said Hulkenberg, quoted by RTL, about the son of Michael Schumacher, the seven-time former World Champion. “It’s not an easy year, but I think his learning curve is really steep and steady. He is doing really well.
“He obviously has a car that is not very competitive, which is of course not easy, especially when you are promoted to Formula 1 as a rookie.
“There are so many things beating down on you and so many things to learn. In a car that is not competitive, you will be overtaken in every race. You actually only fight against your team-mate.”
And as for that team-mate, there is little doubt that so far Schumacher has been getting the better of the argument results-wise. In eight of the nine races this season, the German has finished ahead of his colleague – Mazepin’s first-lap crash on his debut in Bahrain being the team’s only retirement.
Of Mazepin, Hulkenberg, who this year is the reserve driver for Mercedes and Aston Martin, said: “I think, from a sporting point of view, he may not be the very best yardstick.
“Maybe it’s a challenge in terms of character, as you could tell there is a bit of friction between the two of them in the team.
“There were also a couple of racing situations in which things weren’t so fair, but sometimes that is part of it.”