As Mick Schumacher carries out his duties in his new 2023 Mercedes System 1 position he’ll inevitably have his eye on an even bigger purpose for 2024 and past.
Schumacher has, as anticipated, been confirmed as Mercedes’ F1 reserve driver subsequent yr after dropping his Haas race seat and splitting with Ferrari, the place he was a part of its driver academy for 4 years.
He can have a busy simulator programme with common work at Brackley serving to the event of the 2023 Mercedes W14 and also will attend each grand prix with the crew.
That work might be Schumacher’s speedy precedence however past that there will even be an effort to seek out him a race seat in 2024, as a result of that is only a good stopgap between his first crack at F1 and what he intends to be a second likelihood sooner or later. This isn’t what Schumacher hoped to be doing in 2023, in spite of everything.
It’s exhausting to know whether or not to learn something into the actual fact Schumacher is taking up this enforced sabbatical at Mercedes, fairly than Ferrari, past concluding this appears an ideal match for him and that he might be a great reserve for the crew.
Presumably, Ferrari may have stored Schumacher employed in a reserve position if the crew and Schumacher needed that to occur.
However Ferrari has Antonio Giovinazzi on its books and the Italian, a extremely regarded simulator driver, has loads of F1 expertise of his personal.
So, Ferrari was already properly set. And there are causes to conclude that Mercedes is a greater possibility to present Schumacher what he wants, in 2023 and past.
First, given Giovinazzi’s status at Ferrari, it’s straightforward to think about Schumacher can have a extra centered position with Mercedes.
His simulator programme and his work trackside will give him outlined duties and alternatives, he can check himself in a brand new surroundings, and the prospect to work at a crew that has achieved a lot in recent times is clearly useful.
Second, the Mercedes reserve driver position is an effective one as a result of it places Schumacher within the body for a number of groups directly.
Whereas substitute appearances are uncommon, there have been alternatives for a couple of drivers in every of the final three seasons. And although groups are likely to have their very own reserves, in recent times the Mercedes ones have been an possibility for its prospects as properly.
That lastly manifested itself in an actual F1 likelihood with Nyck de Vries making his debut by standing in for Alex Albon at Williams in Italy this yr. De Vries was additionally on name for McLaren in Brazil when Lando Norris was feeling unwell.
It stands to motive that Schumacher might be an possibility for McLaren and Williams to name on subsequent yr. Aston Martin now has Stoffel Vandoorne on its books, so must be properly coated.
Vandoorne had a near-miss in his time as Mercedes reserve – the one motive he didn’t drive rather than Lewis Hamilton on the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix is that George Russell was a part of the Mercedes pool and driving for Williams on the time, so was a greater candidate.
The purpose is, whereas it’s unlikely, Schumacher’s most likely given himself the very best likelihood of a 2023 look or two by becoming a member of Mercedes.
What about longer-term? Schumacher made his intentions clear when he was dropped by Haas final month.
“I positively wish to stick round,” he mentioned, and his goal was to establish the chance “that can convey me right into a vibrant future”.
Mercedes is unlikely to be a direct springboard to a 2024 alternative. Lewis Hamilton is anticipated to signal a brand new deal and George Russell is the crew’s long-term future.
Even when Schumacher did sufficient behind the scenes to persuade Mercedes he may very well be a legitimate contender, it’s merely unlikely there might be house for him anyway.
However there might be alternatives for Schumacher elsewhere. It simply is determined by how sturdy a case he has.
If Williams’s 2023 pairing of Albon and rookie Logan Sargeant doesn’t work out or, for instance, Albon is poached by one other crew, then it’s not in any respect troublesome to think about Schumacher discovering an opportunity there.
Expertise of the Mercedes energy unit and an opportunity to additional refine himself as a driver would at the very least make Schumacher, who ex-Williams boss Jost Capito claimed was on the shortlist for 2023 already, a viable candidate.
Some of the attention-grabbing paths open to Schumacher, although, is exterior Mercedes – and that’s to be recognized by Audi as a candidate for its Sauber-run works crew in 2026.
Audi has already made noises about the advantages of a German driver for its mission, and if that’s severely the path it desires to go in then with respect to Nico Hulkenberg (who might be 38 by the point the 2026 season rolls round) Schumacher is the one actual candidate.
Sauber, at present Alfa Romeo in F1, will subject Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu for a second season in 2023. However the Alfa Romeo deal ends subsequent yr and at that time the Audi affect could begin to present.
Bringing in Schumacher from the chilly would give the crew an opportunity to heat him up in 2024, with an expectation of a transparent step as a driver in 2025 forward of the total Audi rebrand.
Audi would ideally nonetheless have a correct, top-line possibility to guide the mission however whereas Schumacher is unlikely to be a world champion within the making, he nonetheless has one thing to supply in F1 and should but have the makings of an efficient assist act for a number one crew.
“I wish to show everyone unsuitable who doesn’t imagine in me, as a result of I do know what I can do,” Schumacher mentioned when he misplaced his drive.
“I’ve confirmed that within the junior classes, and I don’t see a motive why I can’t do this in System 1 both.”
Understanding the place he would possibly have the ability to do that could be a largely speculative train for now, if one now we have at the very least stored grounded in actuality.
The underside line is Schumacher desires to get again on the F1 grid in 2024 and it’s extremely unlikely that might be along with his 2023 employer.
The work he conducts for Mercedes in 2023 can have actual worth if Schumacher does a great job nevertheless it’s no matter he can do to help his trigger for 2024 that can in the end matter extra.