F1 rookie Mick Schumacher on his father, his surname and why not much of it bothers him

Mick Schumacher is incredibly calm for someone who carries such a heavy weight of expectation. You might even say unreasonably calm.

He’s ready to make his Formula One debut with the Haas American team this year, at the age of 21, but it feels like people have been expecting great things from him for a long time. He is hardly surprised by his surname.

Schumacher is the son of seven-time world champion Michael, one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. Until Lewis Hamilton achieved last year, Michael had 91 grand prix awards unmatched by anyone.

The burden of creating a famous friendship has hurt many racing careers. Bruno Senna has never come close to living up to Ayrton’s quote, “if you think I’m fast, wait until you see my nephew”; at NASCAR, Dale Earnhardt Jr. spent years struggling under the pressure of carrying his father’s incredible legacy.

Mick Schumacher comes with similar hype and anticipation. It’s a father-made image, for one thing, and it feels very similar – if you close your eyes and listen to an interview, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re listen to young Michael.

Schumacher is backed by the Ferrari team that won his father five competitions with him, who helped drive with Haas, a Ferrari engine buyer and technical partner. He tested for the famous Italian team and at last year’s Tuscan Grand Prix, Ferrari’s 1000th race, drove a 2004 car that won his father a title in an advertising run. It was an amazing time.

To top things off, before starting at the Schumacher Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend, he demanded the initials ‘MSC’ his father used on official F1 timing screens.

It’s hard to stop this story from drawing hearts. However, perhaps because he has always been there, it seems that Schumacher is completely overshadowed by everything.

When asked if his surname ever felt like a burden, he told ESPN: “No, certainly not.

“I’m very happy to have it. I drive and race because I love the sport and I love what I do. I don’t see it as a burden, no.

“It really doesn’t matter to me because it’s always been around and I feel very comfortable in the situation I’m in. I am very proud to carry the name into Formula One again and to be able to race and feel my accomplishment.

“I keep it and wear it proudly.”

Of course, there’s another series to this story beyond the son of a legendary driver making his debut.

Michael Schumacher’s routine health condition remains a close concern. He suffered severe brain injuries while skiing with his son in December 2013. Official updates about his condition are rare.

Sadly, unofficial updates – those from so-called family friends or people with a contagious connection to the situation – are not uncommon. Years of interesting reports in tabloid newspapers, and from some outlets that should know better, have just kept Schumacher ‘s family’ s desire to keep sensitive information out of sight. people.

With that context, the family is acutely aware of putting Schumacher in the firing line when it comes to media interviews. That explains why family speaker Sabine Kehm sat down in our Zoom interview, even though audio and video were turned off.

Kehm was Michael’s PR manager for much of his career and has been the man to issue any reports about his situation since December 2013. It is a good rule that can be dealt with any story about Michael’s condition that does not reveal a quote from Kehm is a level of suspicion.

It’s not uncommon for a team communications representative to have an F1 to sit in on an interview, but this is different. The Schumachers can be forgiven for wanting to go against the norm.

Kehm protects the rookie and makes sure no questions get close to that subject.

In fact, Schumacher is just a young man trying to create his own career. From the start, he was determined not to enter F1 by his father’s reputation – he started racing under his mother’s maiden name, Betsch – or just as a story that felt good after his father’s accident.

Ferrari has helped Schumacher’s career to this point but has supported them with results on the race track.

He won the Formula 3 competition in 2018 and then won the official F1 nutrition section, Formula 2, in 2020. While there are some doubts, some point to a weaker F2 range in 2020, for example, it is difficult to argue against these achievements on paper. He has done everything he has been asked to do so far.

Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are among the drivers who reached F1 with less pedigree in terms of the virtues of youth competition for their names.

“This proves to me that I can drive, which is great!” Schumacher jokes, referring to both of those competitions.

Even with his own confession, it took a while for Schumacher’s talent to manifest itself. He credits his father’s advice for helping him, but admits that it took a while for everything to click instead.

“There are always tips and tricks and conversation changes that [he] I tried to teach him at the time, “Mick says of his father.” In go-karting I didn’t really understand it because it didn’t make much sense to me, I was trying different things and maybe I wasn’t at the stage but still achieved the things I wanted to achieve in karting.

“When I went to Formula cars everything suddenly made sense, I had the best teacher and I’m happy to have done it all the way now. I’m happy to be here. “

It is clear that these early lessons had an impact. When Schumacher describes his own race craft it is easy to see glimpses of the signs that explained his father.

“Already back in karting I was very good at checking out what was going on around me. So basically if I saw a gap I wouldn’t think much about it, I would drive in and see what happened next.

“Most of the time it happened as the right choice so I think that’s one of my strengths, I’d say, in that case.”

Schumacher will quickly play down expectations for his rookie year. Not only is he racing for the Haas backup team, he is entering his first season with limited track time.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, F1 dropped a preseason test from six days in 2020 to just three this year, which required Schumacher to be separated from new teammate Nikita Mazepin.

“I would be ready to go racing tomorrow,” said Schumacher ahead of his last time in the car. “I have to say it feels even better to drive this car than I expected. You drive a car but … this is a lot of fun.

“It’s not something I get tired of quickly, so look forward to driving more tomorrow, and the race can’t come fast enough. So I’m I’m really looking forward to the season, I’d like to drive every day, I could put it in another eight days and go straight into the end. race week. “

The number 47

Since 2014, F1 drivers are now choosing one driver to accompany them for the rest of their lives. Schumacher has chosen number 47.

While that’s not the official reason, the fan theory likes that he stands for racing “for seven” – seven of them as his father’s number of titles. That is why he chose that second digit and the four is the number that he raced and won in Formula 3.

As four (Lando Norris) and seven (Kimi Raikkonen) are taken, 47 became a natural choice. Forty-seven is also the sum of the birthdays in his close family put together.

“It was natural for me to choose … there were too many coincidences that were probably not coincidences! I’m happy with it and I’m glad it wasn’t picked up, I think it looks good on the car “.

Schumacher likes to have an idea of ​​what’s in store and goes around his right year. During the interview he says that his rookie campaign marks the 30th anniversary of his father ‘s start at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.

It is also at the same time as the return of his father ‘s former rival, Fernando Alonso. The Spanish return means Schumacher, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton will be on the grid – surnames accounting for 20 world championships combined – for the first time since 2012.