Schumacher fails to distinguish himself after unexpected change of team mate

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If Nicholas Latifi suffered the embarrassment of being beaten to a points finish by a substitute driver in the same car as him in Italy, the ignominy Mick Schumacher experienced in Brazil was little better.

While team mate Kevin Magnussen brought joy to Haas by claiming a shock pole position for the sprint race, Schumacher started from the tail end of the field. Both drivers had a crack on slick tyres on a drying track at the end of Q1, but Schumacher wasn’t able to get his up to temperature in time, and ended up almost two-and-a-half seconds off his team mate.

This was far from a typical reflection of their relative performances, but it was unhelpfully timed for Schumacher, whose departure from the team was confirmed following that race weekend. A year earlier, Schumacher had been conclusively the team’s better driver, and beat previous team mate Nikita Mazepin by similar margins in some wet qualifying sessions.

Mazepin’s enforced departure from the team halfway through pre-season testing, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted Haas to sever ties with his father’s company, meant Schumacher suddenly acquired a new, much more experienced and faster team mate in the form of Magnussen. This offered both an opportunity to learn and a tough new benchmark.

Schumacher didn’t race in Jeddah after crash

Magnussen set the bar high from the off, delivering Haas’ best result for four years in his first race back. Schumacher, who was knocked out in Q2 after lapping half a second off Magnussen, was hit by Esteban Ocon soon after the start and finished out of the points. It got worse for Schumacher at the next weekend in Saudi Arabia, where he missed the race after smashing up his car in qualifying.

While Magnussen picked up points scores in three of the opening four races, a narrative quickly developed around when Schumacher would do the same. Nine races in he was still on zero, but while he had added another costly crash in Monaco and hit Alonso after qualifying in the top 10 at Imola, luck had gone against him at times too. He qualified on the third row in Canada and was running seventh when a hydraulics failure put him out.

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The breakthrough came at Silverstone, unexpectedly, as he laboured with a misaligned steering wheel in qualifying and started 19th on the grid. From there he climbed to eighth in the race. Better followed in Austria where he claimed sixth, urging the team to let him past Magnussen whom he felt was holding him up, and moving ahead after his team mate developed an engine problem.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Interlagos, 2022
Magnussen brought joy to Haas with shock sprint race pole

It seemed like Schumacher was finally on his way. But amid murmurs of discontent over his performance at Haas – and especially the damage bill he generated – he failed to build on that breakthrough and despite reaching the chequered flag in all of the remaining races he never featured in the points again.

It would be easy to exaggerate the performance difference between the two drivers over this second phase of the season, for Magnussen added just three points to his score in the same time. From their extreme starting positions in Brazil they ended up separated by just three cars on the grand prix grid. Schumacher’s race was ended by Daniel Ricciardo’s careless move, though Schumacher inflicted much the same on Latifi in the finale.

Schumacher’s performance alongside Magnussen ultimately failed to make a convincing case for Haas to keep him. The crashes early in the season especially did not help his cause and Magnussen scored over twice as many points. But it wasn’t a rout: Schumacher spent more laps ahead of his team mate and when both cars took the chequered flag he was usually ahead, and it’s not hard to imagine how another team might have looked at those results and decided he was worth another chance.

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Unrepresentative comparisons omitted. Negative value: Schumacher was faster; Positive value: Magnussen was faster

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