Opinion | It is unwise for Alpine and Schumacher to enter into cooperation

Opinion | It is unwise for Alpine and Schumacher to enter into cooperation

23 August - 09:54 Last update: 11:20

Mick Schumacher has been linked with a move to Alpine, which would be a step up for the German. The question is, however, is Michael Schumacher's son ready for the next step? Based on his statistics, you have to conclude that the switch comes too soon.

Twice is the right time

Schumacher, with his surname and famous father, has been in the spotlight since the cradle. The German showed his talent for racing at a young age and, like his father once did, stepped into go-karts. There he competed for prizes every year, but did not end his karting career with a title when he made the switch to formula cars in 2015.

As with Verstappen, everything was pulled out of the stops for Schumacher junior to prepare him for the ultimate goal: Formula 1. As part of the Ferrari Academy, Mick was offered some testing alongside the regular races and this helped his development. For example, he finished second in the ADAC and Italian Formula 4 Championship in 2016. However, that was his second year in that class.

The second season would remain a theme in Schumacher's career. He also needed one learning year in Formula 3 and Formula 2, before grabbing the title in the second season. The title in F2 proved enough to be passed over by Ferrari in 2021 when Haas asked for a junior from the engine supplier.

Debut in F1

In his first F1 season, Schumacher stepped into a team that had allowed the car to deteriorate with a view to 2022. Haas had done nothing to the VF-21 and it showed. The car was invariably running at the back. Schumacher did what he had to do and beat Nikita Mazepin by a large margin. He won the qualifying duel 20-2 in his favour and an average difference of 0.598s per qualifying session. The race duel was also 10-4 in the German's favour but did not result in any points.

In his second year in F1, you would expect Schumacher to develop further, but with Kevin Magnussen replacing the Russian, he suddenly faced a different challenge. Magnussen had not driven an F1 car for a year, but the Dane was still very competitive. In the first qualifying session, Magnussen was immediately 0.537s faster than his teammate, despite the late call to drive for Haas.

The most painful part of that first race was the fact that Magnussen's faster qualifying meant he was also competing for the points. Due to the Red Bull drivers' crashes, Magnussen's P7 suddenly became P5. Schumacher started from P12, but was stuck in eleventh place.

In Saudi Arabia, we saw a similar scenario. This time Magnussen was three-tenths quicker, while Schumacher ended up in the wall and due to that crash could not even start the race. Magnussen picked up points again with his ninth place. In Australia, Schumacher was finally a tenth faster than his teammate on Saturday, but on Sunday the car simply didn't prove good enough for points. Schumacher finished ahead of Magnussen, but on P13 and thus outside the points.

Magnussen too big for Schumacher

Even in the rain, Schumacher does not (yet) have the talent of his father. The big boys in F1 distinguish themselves in the rain by their ultimate car control. Schumacher doesn't seem to have that yet, because, during the three rain qualifying sessions in Imola, Canada and Great Britain, Magnussen was at least half a second faster than his teammate. In Imola it was even a second.

The other qualifying sessions show a similar picture of the duel between the two drivers. Schumacher was only faster in Miami (0.330s), but lost all other duels. In Azerbaijan, there was even a gap of more than one second when both drivers crashed out in Q1 of qualifying.

Nevertheless, there is more and more optimism around the German and that is mainly due to the last four races. In these races, Schumacher finished ahead of his teammate each time and in Britain (8th) and Austria (6th) Schumacher even scored his first points in Formula 1. After the British GP, this was celebrated grandly by the family, with Schumacher's mother and sister also present at Silverstone.

Although those 12 points mean that Schumacher has finally got rid of the zero, the gap to Magnussen's 22 points is still very large. The fact that the Dane has been faster in qualifying for the four race weekends in question does not do Schumacher's reputation much good either.

Still, one can speak of a growth that is visible with Schumacher. Mazepin was a completely different kind of challenge (read: no challenge) to Magnussen and so those duels should also be put in a different perspective. Schumacher is still young, needs the chance to improve himself and now he seems to be doing so.

Alpine comes too soon

The question is whether he is ready for a step up and the answer to that, based on the above, seems to be a simple 'no'. A driver who is beaten by his teammate in a smaller team will have a harder time in a bigger team with more pressure and possibly a stronger teammate.

Currently, the qualifying duel between Magnussen and Schumacher is 11-2 (in Magnussen's favour), with an average difference of 0.443s in favour of the Dane. Only Alfa Romeo and Williams have bigger differences between the two drivers. In terms of points, Schumacher has narrowed the gap, but Magnussen still scores 65 per cent of the American team's total.

Although Magnussen has come back from his year away from F1 more relaxed and confident than ever, Schumacher is not the best driver in F1. Magnussen was an equal match with Romain Grosjean for years but did not impress at Renault or McLaren. It is a clear sign that McLaren, Renault and eventually Haas distanced themselves from him.

Alpine does not exactly have a star driver in Esteban Ocon, but if they opt for Mick Schumacher, they will have a very weak line-up in 2023. Neither driver has been able to outperform any serious team-mate in the qualifying duel (not counting Mazepin) and neither has been able to show spectacular things in races.

The move to Alpine is simply too soon for both Schumacher and Alpine. Let him first take the lead in a smaller team like George Russell and Charles Leclerc did, before making a step forward. He still has a lot to learn. For Alpine, as number four in the championship, it is also wise to bring in a driver with more experience. The French outfit needs consistency if it is to beat McLaren in the battle for P4, especially if it is aiming (as it is) for the top three.

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