Mick Schumacher looks back with satisfaction on his first Formula 1 season. In an interview, the Haas driver talks to us about the growing confidence in his car, the special appeal of Formula 1 and his hopes for 2022.
Where do you stand on your personal satisfaction scale after your first Formula 1 race? Season?
Schumacher: I do think we're quite high there because we've performed really well with the package we have. That motivates us for the future.
Team boss Guenther Steiner played with open cards right from the start. There was nothing to be gained with the car. So was it what you expected?
Schumacher: We knew there would be no further development on the car. We practically drove last year's car, which was adapted to this year's rules, but didn't harmonize quite as well as we would have liked. And yet there were moments when things went really well, such as in Turkey.
Why was the Turkish GP a highlight? How do you measure the term highlight for yourself?
Schumacher: Because we had the feeling that we had got the most out of the car. Maybe the others didn't do so well in the mixed conditions, half wet, half dry. We made the best of our opportunities there.
The performance has also improved recently because you understand your car better. Why does it take nine months to understand your car?
Schumacher: You could drive 100 races and at the 101st race you would find something on the car that could be made even better. Every track, every training session is different, the conditions are constantly changing. Each time you have to adjust the car for it. Towards the end of the season we understood the car so well that we knew relatively quickly what we had to do to make the car feel good. That's why we were able to deliver a qualifier like the one in Turkey.
Was there a moment when it clicked?
Schumacher: There was no click moment like there was in Formula 3. I gradually settled into this car, so that I felt more and more comfortable that we got the best out of the car as a team and that I get along with my team without words. On this basis of trust, we have increasingly exhausted the possibilities of the car to the full.
Did Formula 1 live up to your expectations?
Schumacher: I had already imagined that there would be more hustle and bustle in the paddock. The Covid situation has certainly defused that somewhat. On the level I feel more comfortable than expected. I feel accepted with open arms.
Are there things you overestimated or underestimated?
Schumacher: Nothing that comes to mind directly.The car is obviously a fair bit faster than anything I've driven before. Getting to know the tires was also a big point because they are very different than in Formula 2. And of course learning how to work together in such a big team.
Why did you find your way around Formula 1 faster than in the junior classes?
Schumacher: It's hard to say. Maybe it's the approach. You start the junior formulas with the clear goal that you want to advance to the next class. In Formula 2 you always have the thought in the back of your mind: Hopefully I'll make it into Formula 1. When you've reached the top, you can let your shoulders down. You can only focus on the work that needs to be done. That's why I felt comfortable here from the start.
Is it true that you liked the Formula 2 car the least of all categories?
Schumacher: Yes, somehow. Formula 2 has a huge turbo lag. It's not that comfortable to drive. You had to adjust your driving style extremely. But it is also clear that the driving fun is always there as long as you win. In Formula 1, the little things are fun because the car is so complex.
How much can you make up for by hard work in Formula 1 compared to a junior series?
Schumacher: Work is a big part of Formula 1. You can go a long way here with a good combination of talent and work. That's why I learned that early on. For me, working with the car is not a must. She amuses me. I always try to get as much information as possible and to understand as much as possible.
Jock Clear as head of the Ferrari Driver Academy is a kind of mentor for you. Is it no longer possible for a rookie in Formula 1 without today?
Schumacher: Why should I go through it as a lone fighter? If there is help or people who can help you, then it makes sense to take advantage of this help. Jock, with his experience, is a person I fall back on whenever I can. I like to get a second opinion on how I should approach certain things.
Which lesson was the hardest to learn?
Schumacher: Probably all the starting phases. The car is extremely vulnerable. In the pack, for example, you lose almost 100 percent downforce in Monte Carlo. As a newcomer, you can't even imagine that. That you drive through corners at full throttle in practice, and in the turmoil at the start the car suddenly goes straight. You have to have experienced it and learn from these situations. For example how to behave in a duel next time.
When setting up the car, do you rely on your memory or is there a textbook?
Schumacher: I write that down after every weekend so that I have a basis in the future that I can also refer to. Then you know straight away what worked last year and what didn't.
Does Formula 1 follow you in your free time?
Schumacher: I enjoy working with Formula 1. I also think about it at home, what went well, what didn't and what could have been done better. Some athletes are too negative about it. I constantly try to remind myself that there are also positive things and we have to focus on these positive things.
How much longer is a working day in Formula 1 than in Formula 2?
Schumacher: The working day is structured differently. In Formula 1 there is a lot more media work. On a Thursday you only see the engineers in the morning or evening. But that is important in preparation for Friday. That's why the days are longer.
This year there was generally little further development, not at all at Haas. Will that be a new experience for you in 2022?
Schumacher: That will be new and I'm looking forward to it too.
Have you driven the 2022 car in the simulator yet?
Schumacher: Not at the moment. We don't have our own simulator at the moment. But that should change for next year. I don't think I will drive the car for the first time until the Barcelona test.
You know the Formula 1 tires from Formula 2. Are they really that different and is that possibly an advantage for you?
Schumacher: It makes a difference. This makes the car very stiff. During the Bahrain test, we noticed that the whole car turned upside down as a result. Maybe because we also had the wrong expectations. I don't think it's an advantage to know them, because the Formula 1 tires will be different than those in Formula 2.
For the restart in 2022, everyone expects the field to be mixed up and the teams to be closer together . Can this calculation add up?
Schumacher: There is hope that everyone will be closer together and that you can race against each other. Maybe that's how it will be in the beginning. In the end, the usual teams will set themselves apart again. The only question is by how much.
Although Haas started developing the 2022 car before anyone else.
Schumacher: The big question is how much does that bring us. But the other teams don't work with dummies either. They also know where to go. We have to wait. Hopefully we have something on the car that gives us a small advantage, at least initially.
Who is your benchmark? Just the teammate?
Schumacher: No, I do think we can set different standards for ourselves.For example, how far away we are from the other cars. We have a good idea of how far away we should actually be. If we're closer than we thought we'd know it was a good weekend. In Brazil we came pretty close to Williams in qualifying. In the race we had the speed to go ahead of them at times.
Do you gain the confidence to say: If I was in this or that car, would I be as fast or faster?
Schumacher: Everyone deserves their place in Formula 1. Anyone can drive here. You don't know whether you can win a race in a Mercedes until you're actually in it. It would be presumptuous to say that it is.
Nevertheless, your first impression: Does everyone in Formula 1 only cook with water or are there a few guys who are really well rested?
Schumacher: I probably haven't been in the business long enough to judge that. At the end of the day, we're all just humans with good days and bad days. Everyone has a different kind of talent because we all grew up differently. We all had different experiences in the junior categories and they shaped us. That's why we're all different types of riders.
George Russell was in a similar situation to yours at Williams two years ago. He rode at the back of the field without any real duels. Do you miss that too?
Schumacher: I already miss them. But we're not as far away as Williams were in 2019. That's why we still have a few duels. Of course I would like to have more and of course I hope that I can grow and develop next year.
There were a few conflicts with teammate Mazepin. Is that part of the learning process?
Schumacher: I would see it that way.
How well do you handle disappointment?
Schumacher: It doesn't haunt me for very long. Of course it's important to see the negative things and learn from them, but I generally try to think positively and take that with me. In Mexico I was outside after the first corner, but we were pretty close to the field beforehand. Based on the sector times, we could have finished 15th or 16th in qualifying. Nikita didn't look so bad at times during the race. I take this impression with me from Mexico.
Can you also quickly brush off accidents like in Monaco or Hungary that cost you the qualification?
Schumacher: That's part of it. What happened happened. I won't change it, even if I get angry about it for days. My motto is to look ahead as quickly as possible so that I can concentrate on what is important.
How confident does it give you that a Russell who spent three years learning in a team at the back of the field will be in a top car next year?
Schumacher: My focus is next year. Everything else is too far away. First of all, I have to do a good job next year. If that's the case, then I can see further into the future.