It wasn’t meant to end like this. Just two years after breaking into Formula One, Mick Schumacher has lost his seat at the table with Haas. In a seemingly bizarre set of circumstances, Guenther Steiner’s team have decided to replace the 23-year-old with 35-year-old Nico Hulkenberg.
The German was a reserve driver for Aston Martin last term, and hasn’t raced a full season in F1 since Renault ditched him in 2019. Sure, Schumacher could have done better this term. He scored just 12 points in comparison to Kevin Magnussen’s 25 and has too often crashed out in key moments for the team. But aside from Daniel Ricciardo, he seemed like the best driver Haas could lay their hands on.
The Hulkenberg move makes even less sense when you consider the falling out between him and Magnussen in 2017. After the Hungarian Grand Prix, the German accused the Dane of being “unsporting” before the instant reply from Magnussen - “S**k my b***s, honey.” Five years have passed since that moment and their relationship is reportedly fine now, but it is easy to envisage another falling out over the next 12 months between the two.
- Max Verstappen shows true colours at Red Bull
- Lionel Messi's last hurrah?
- Gareth Southgate: we'll miss him when he's gone
Former driver and Mick’s uncle Ralf Schumacher took aim at the Steiner after the decision. “No matter how well Mick does, Günther is never satisfied with it. It must be something personal."
Now, there is only one remaining seat available in Formula One for the 2023 season. And it's at the worst team of the lot - Williams. But even that already has a name pencilled into it. With Sebastien Vettel heading for retirement and Daniel Ricciardo likely to be a back-up at Red Bull or Mercedes, Williams have all but made their decision for their second seat.
Team boss Jost Capito has confirmed that American driver Logan Sargent will take that spot, should he secure the required Super Licence points from the end of the Formula 2 season. He is currently third in the standings, and needs to finish in the top six, so it seems more than likely to happen.
That is Mick’s last hope of racing in Formula One next season. If Sargent fails to secure the necessary points, Williams will have to look elsewhere and Schumacher presents a tempting option. Over the last few months, Capito has repeatedly touted the son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher as a possible future driver for Williams.
Meanwhile, Haas kept their options open throughout but repeatedly stated they would not bring a rookie in for the 2023 season, leading many to believe they would stick with Schumacher. Instead, they’ve pulled the rug on him and left it so late that he is unlikely to win the last remaining seat on the circuit.
It’s not a done deal yet, but for all the world it seems like Schumacher will be a reserve driver next year. Toto Wolff at Mercedes has already stated his intent to get him involved with the team, stating that Mercedes and the Schumacher family "belonged together".
It’s a sad end to this particular chapter for the young man that carries the weight of his family name. But in his farewell statement, he stated it was not the end of the road for him in the sport.
"It was at times bumpy, but I steadily improved, learned a lot and now know for sure that I deserve a place in Formula 1. The subject is anything but closed for me. Setbacks only make you stronger.
"My fire burns for Formula 1, and I will fight hard to return to the starting grid."
Formula One 2023 Driver Line Up
Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
Lewis Hamilton and George Russell
Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri
Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon
Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll
Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu
Nyck de Vries and Yuki Tsunoda
Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg
Alex Albon and Logan Sargent*