Mick Schumacher believes he has proved his doubters wrong as he fights to secure his F1 future.
The 23-year-old has endured a difficult sophomore F1 season – he struggled to match the performances of new teammate Kevin Magnussen at the start of the campaign, and has received no assurances that his contract will be extended beyond the end of 2022.
Schumacher came under increasing pressure after Haas team principal Guenther Steiner admitted he couldn’t afford any further crashes following two major accidents in Saudi Arabia and Monaco.
But Schumacher managed to turn around his form and finally ended his long wait for points with eighth place at Silverstone, which he followed up with a fine sixth at the next race in Austria.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Crash.net ahead of the F1 Dutch Grand Prix, Schumacher said the tough period he went through has made him a stronger driver.
“It’s clearly a period that made me a better driver and made me stronger,” Schumacher said. “I embrace those moments because I’m always aware they will make me a better, faster driver.
“I wasn’t in any way affected by it, because I just didn’t really let my head get to it. Of course what I was doing was trying to do my best. If the team says I’m not doing the best I can then I have to accept that and try and do it.”
Schumacher spoke about pressure, adding: “I’ve had this in the past, so I probably knew how to deal with some of it already. But yeah I think it’s obviously a bit different when you are in F1.
“I know that now I am able to overcome these things. Hopefully the day I am in a title fight it’ll come to my good, let’s say.”
Asked if he feels like he has proved his doubters wrong, Schumacher replied: “Yeah I think I’ve shown that I’m able to come back from a tough situation.
“And am able to work under that kind of pressure, and I don’t think many drivers are able to do that.”
Where will Schumacher end up in 2023?
Schumacher, who is out of contract at the end of the year, is searching for a seat for 2023, with former Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi currently considered the favourite to partner Magnussen next season.
Schumacher has been linked with replacing Fernando Alonso at Alpine, with close friend Esteban Ocon telling his team that Schumacher is his preference for his next teammate.
But Schumacher has competition for the vacated seat, with Pierre Gasly and Daniel Ricciardo also thought to be in contention with a switch to Enstone.
Schumacher shut down speculation about his future on Thursday, saying in the press conference “what is being discussed behind the scenes between us is something I’d rather keep between us. That’s contractual matters which I can’t go into detail with”.
But Schumacher stressed that F1 remains his “sole focus” for the 2023 season and he has been publicly supported by close friend Sebastian Vettel, who said his compatriot is “probably better than what people think”.
“I guess it’s hard because if you talk about yourself in that sense you will probably be biased,” Schumacher said when asked about Vettel’s comments.
“For me, I feel I’ve been part of racing as long as I could think, even before I could think. I sat in a go-kart when I was two years old. I love this sport.
“I think it’s interesting how quickly things change. I’ve proven in my junior days and I feel like I’ve proven myself in F1 as well. But whatever happens, will happen.”
Schumacher’s affiliation with Ferrari is reportedly set to come to an end at the end of the year, having been on the Ferrari Driver Academy’s books since 2019.
Although he refused to comment specifically on the matter, he said his dream remains to one day drive for Ferrari and emulate his father, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher.
“I think the ultimate dream for everybody in F1 is to drive for such an iconic brand at some point,” Schumacher said.
“Again, I can’t go into any more details than that as it’s contractual, and we are never allowed to speak about any contractual-related stuff to the media.”
Asked if Mercedes, who his father also represented, could also be a possibility in the future, Schumacher responded: “If Mercedes is an option… I think at the moment everything is an option.”
Schumacher has gained a reputation for his scale of improvement over time, having made slow starts in F3 and F2 before mounting a successful title bid in his second season in each category.
He puts this down to being a driver who progresses with “nurture”, rather than one who reaches their peak at a faster rate. And Schumacher is convinced the best is still to come from him in F1.
“I guess there’s nature and there’s nurture and probably I would mostly fall into the division of nurture,” he explained.
“The good thing is, most people that are natural, they will probably start and maybe they are not quite sure why they have reached that or why they are like that. Maybe they reach 100 percent much sooner.
“Maybe people who are nurtured will drive at 70 percent and still match them, but then they have much more scope to go to. That’s where the nurture in some ways can be better than the natural. You don’t stop. You don’t stay still.”