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F1 welcomes return of the Schumacher name

MARANELLO: This file photo taken on September 29, 2020 and handout by Ferrari on September 30, 2020 shows German racing driver Mick Schumacher at the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) in Maranello, Italy. – AFP

PARIS: For the winner of the Formula Two world championship to make the step up to F1 is a natural progression that would not normally raise an eyebrow — but when that driver carries a famous name things are bound to be a little different. Mick Schumacher, son of the seven-time world champion Michael, is the young driver in the spotlight as he makes his Formula One debut for Haas in Bahrain on Sunday, but he thoroughly merits his drive. After starting his career in karting, Mick went on to win the Formula 3 European championship in 2018 and the Formula Two title in 2020.

Not a bad CV for a young man who turned 22 yesterday. But next week, the noise around him will echo with reminders of his father whose last race in a glittering career came in Brazil at the end of the 2012 season. The 52-year-old Michael Schumacher has not been seen in public for more than seven years after a skiing accident, witnessed by Mick, in the French Alps left him with severe brain injuries. But he remains the touchstone for his son. “I definitely look at what he achieved, and I try to learn from it,” said Mick in February.

For the younger generation who arrived on the scene too late to see Michael in action, or those who only remember him from his underwhelming comeback with Mercedes, it is easy to forget how Schumacher dominated the sport every bit as much as Lewis Hamilton does today.

He won two titles with Benetton before taking the big move to Ferrari with whom he won another five titles. “He’s been the benchmark for so long and for me he’s still the benchmark, so I’ll always refer to him,” said Mick. “That’s on the sporting side, and on the human side, I’ll always admire how his consistency across all those years and how he kept his feet on the ground. That’s something I appreciate very much, but also something I can learn from and carry through my career.”

‘Not easy’
Former world champion Nico Rosberg, whose father Keke had won the title in 1982, 24 years before he debuted in F1, highlighted the extra pressure that Mick would face having a famous father. “It’s not easy to be the ‘son of’,” Rosberg told website Sport1. “And with Mick, it is 10 times more difficult, because Michael’s era was not so long ago and he was much more successful. I hope Mick can put that aside and concentrate well on his job — because otherwise it takes a lot of the fun away.”

Even without the pressure of the spotlight, it was never going to be an easy entrance for Mick. His Haas team are likely to feature in the middle and rear of the pack while his teammate, fellow rookie Nikita Mazepin perhaps faces even greater pressure.

He is also a ‘son of’ although not Formula One aristocracy. Rather, his billionaire father Dmitry Mazepin is a non-executive director of Russian company Uralkali, who are the main title partner of the Haas team. There is a good chance, however, that Mick will fare better than his dad did when he turned out for Jordan in his first Grand Prix in Belgium in 1991.

Michael Schumacher did brilliantly to qualify in seventh but a failed clutch meant he did not make it beyond the opening lap of the race itself. Whether he will come anywhere close to 91 race wins and seven world titles, only time will tell. No pressure at all. – AFP

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