Mick Schumacher's chances of the second Haas cockpit had recently increased again due to strong performances after the summer break. The accident at the end of the first practice session came at the worst possible time.
The engineers had already folded up their notebooks and the command post was preparing to leave for the garage. Then the TV pictures suddenly showed a badly battered Haas in the meadow of the first Degner curve. Mick Schumacher just climbed out of his car. The first training for the GP Japan was actually already over. Some drivers made a few test starts on the home straight. Including Schumacher.
On the way back to the pits there was a crash. "When driving back to the pits, you're not allowed to fly off," said team boss Guenther Steiner. His driver apologized by not seeing the standing water in the spray from Charles Leclerc's Ferrari ahead. "But the water was already there on the previous lap," Steiner replies. In the break between the two training sessions, there was a transmission break between the driver and the team manager.
Schumacher explained the mishap by saying that it was raining more and more at the end of the practice session and on his lap back he wanted to collect some more information about the tires for the afternoon session. The intermediates also offered less and less grip with increasing running time. "It was like aquaplaning on the Autobahn. The car floated up at the front and spun in one direction at the back. I was already standing sideways." Bad luck for him and for the mechanics: At this point you are very fast even in the rain and the damage in the event of a take-off is correspondingly large
Damage of half a million
Steiner already had the bill in mind again. "The damage is half a million dollars," was the first assessment. The nose, the front wing, all components of the front wheel suspension left and right, both wheel carriers and the underbody shattered in the impact. Since the damage was impossible to repair in the two hours between first and second practice, Haas decided to swap the chassis for safety reasons. "That way we can take our time to see if something has been damaged," Steiner said.
The accident came at the wrong time for Schumacher. With four strong races since the end of the summer break, he had just put himself back in a good position for the duel with Nico Hülkenberg for the second Haas cockpit. Steiner praised: "Mick did a good job in the races. There were a few points in there. It wasn't his fault that it wasn't enough."
Schumacher cannot imagine that one accident will influence the decision on who will be awarded the contract next year. "I would be surprised if that were the case. It's a moment. But I've been consistently good lately. That should count for more."
Schumacher hopes to be able to rectify the mistake for the rest of the weekend, even if he lost a whole practice session. The 5th and 7th places for the Haas drivers show that the US Ferraris are working. "In the dry we won't be quite as strong as in the rain, but the first impression is positive."
Driver for Magnussen
The South Tyrolean makes it clear what he's looking for next year. "In addition to speed, experience, consistency, reliability." The unnecessary one "Accident is not a good cover letter. Haas needs someone to drive Kevin Magnussen. The Dane had a few slacks after the summer break and only woke up now when Schumacher increased the pressure. The promotion to Q3 in Singapore was a first answer.
But then he threw away the chance with a collision with Max Verstappen on the first lap. This led to a forced pit stop because of a tattered front wing. "It was unnecessary, but we can't complain if we make mistakes ourselves beforehand. Max is not Kevin's opponent. He doesn't have to object to that. Two corners later he overtakes him anyway."
The second practice session fell flat for Schumacher. 90 wasted minutes to get to know the track better and to optimize the setup for the rainy conditions. Magnussen had to do the job alone. With the realization that the Haas is competitive in the rain