JANUARY 6, 2021
Steiner - I want Mick to follow Leclerc
Gunther Steiner faces a completely new challenge in his role as Team Principal for the Haas Formula One Team. After running exclusively with experienced drivers since the team’s debut, back at the start of 2015, the American team decided to let go veterans Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and go into 2021 with two rookies: Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin.
Although both of them have done a considerable amount of testing with two-years old Formula One cars, particularly the Russian, who completed as 12-days program with Mercedes back in 2019, in six different tracks and with Esteban Ocon at his side as driver-coach, Steiner is confident the team has taken the right decision and seems to have high hopes for Mick Schumacher, the new Formula 2 Champion.
Nevertheless, the outspoken Austrian admitted, in an interview with Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, it was Ferrari that chose which of its young drivers to place with the American team and he just had to accept that choice: “From the moment we decided to hire two you drivers, we turned to Mattia Binotto, knowing that the Ferrari Driver Academy had no few that five drivers racing in Formula 2. And the decision that it would be Schumacher that would join us came from Maranello.”
Having said that, Steiner then went on to explain why he expects the young German to blossom slowly but surely with his team, using Pietro Fittipaldi’s outings at the end of 2020 as an example: “First of all we have to keep in mind that Mick grew up in a very competent team like Prema. And, also, I’m optimistic in the way we can work together, looking at the work we did with Fittipaldi recently. Pietro hadn’t raced in nearly two years, got into the car for Bahrain and Abu Dhabi and he certainly didn’t do a bad job. The secret to growing quickly is to make as few mistakes as possible and run for as many laps as you can. Going faster comes slowly but surely with that process, because you need the mileage to gain confidence and start to find the limits of the car.”
The Haas’ man than drew an interesting parallel with Charles Leclerc’s career: “Think about what Charles did: in his first few races with Sauber he wasn’t faster than his team mate but he was learning all the time and, for us, that’s all we need from Mick in the first few races. Then, on the second half of the season, we’ll have two drivers that will be able to compete.”
That’s why Steiner has decided to keep his expectations about the young German driver as low as possible, also putting pressure on his own team to deliver a good car for Schumacher to start shining in 2022: “This year Mick just has to learn and improve; then, in 2022, he'll be in a position to show what he can do in Formula One. Therefore, it will be up to us to build and develop a car that will allow him to do just that. And then, it will be up to him to take his destiny in his own hands.”
Never one to shy away from speaking his mind up, even in the most controversial circumstances, Steiner then goes on to admit he has high hopes for the young German: “It would please me no end if we would be able to help Mick follow a path similar to that of Leclerc and move to Ferrari in the future. Don’t forget Charles actually made his official Formula One debut, in several FP1 sessions, with us, back in 2017, so we’re used to develop young talent.”
Finally, after years of speaking only in English with his drivers, Steiner is happy he’ll be able to converse in his mother tongue with the young Schumacher: “it’s always a pleasure to be able to converse with someone else in the same language you use at home, so I’m happy I’ll be able to chat in German with Mick. But, of course, English is the language we use inside the team in all the meetings, and he speaks a perfect English too. Plus, he speaks Italian, of course, which just makes things even easier, from that point of view.”