A Giant Step Forward –

Mick Schumacher On Joining The Ferrari Driver Academy

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Mick Schumacher is the son of Formula One’s greatest ever Champion; the shy darling of a sport which tentatively mourns the absence of his father with almost religious regard. He’s also recently become the newest member of the Ferrari Driver Academy. In an exclusive feature for Mobil 1 The Grid, Jennie Gow sat down with the 19-year-old to talk about his hopes for the future as he carries the weight of his father’s name and legacy on his shoulders.

Mick Schumacher is dressed in his red race suit. Looking at him, you cannot help but be reminded of his father. Staring into his piercing blue eyes is like looking into the soul of Michael, in the body of a young man who, no matter what he does, will always be compared to Formula One’s greatest ever driver.

For many years, it was believed that Mick had a long-standing agreement with Ferrari, a ‘pre-agreement’ that would have seen him sign for the Italian marque. But when I first sat down with him – in the autumn of last year – to talk about his future, he assured me that no such deal existed.

That was before Mick had put in a string of winning results in European Formula 3 which saw him secure the title in convincing style. Prior to that, there was a muting around his plans for the future. The line of thought was that he wouldn’t be rushing up the ladder and, instead, would be playing a longer game – waiting and learning before making his next career step.

FIA Formula 3 European Championship 2018, round 4, race 1, Zandvoort (NED)

But by the time January came about, things had changed. And Mick was officially confirmed as a Ferrari Academy Driver.

The 19-year-old will undertake his duties whilst racing with Prema Racing in Formula 2. And you can be sure that all eyes will be on him and his results this coming year.

Still a teenager, Mick is but a young boy. He has been protected from the limelight by those around him, and rightly so. He was there to witness his father’s accident in 2013. And the Schumacher family have maintained their stance to decline to update the public and media about his state of health.

It remains a brave step from all involved to expose Mick not only to the pressures of high profile racing, but also the spotlight which will of course now be cast on the boy who has, at least up until now, lived a quiet life in Switzerland.

So, how does Mick feel about joining the Ferrari stable?

“I’m for sure very happy and honoured to be part of this incredible history, and it is just great to be in red now”, he told me. We are speaking at this year’s Race of Champions event, where Mick is competing alongside compatriot and long-time friend, Sebastian Vettel.

FIA Formula 3 European Championship 2018, round 4, Zandvoort (NED)

It’s his first time competing at ROC, and seeing him side by side with Vettel is an emotional moment. Michael and Sebastian were long-time teammates in the competition and, together, they won the title a record six times.

Now, Mick is picking up the mantle.

Vettel has of course known Mick since he was a little boy. And, since arriving in Mexico for the competition, it is clear the pair have spoken at length about Mick’s move to F2 and Ferrari.

“It’s great [that] I have been able to speak to Sebastian about it,” he says. “He has a lot of experience in F1. It is always great to catch up with him and to just speak about a lot of things, not just F1 but also F2 and how to manage a race weekend.”

Mick is noticeably coy and unassuming in nature. Guarded, but always polite.

I ask him about Ferrari, and whether he was tempted to join the Silver Arrows of Mercedes, given the links Michael developed with the German team in his later F1 years.

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But Mick was categorical in his response.

“Our heart was always red, and it always will be,” he explains. “It is something I felt more comfortable with and that’s why we decided and took the decision.”

As for what comes next, we will have to wait and see. No definite test plans have yet been released, but many will look forward to the special moment that will be when Mick steps into a red car for the first time. He has driven an F1 car before – his father’s iconic 1994 Benetton, at Spa – but that remains the limit of his experience so far.

“For sure, I’m hoping to get some knowledge about how F1 really works. I have driven the ’94 car and it’s very similar to an F2 car… It’s going to be very interesting for me to test it and feel the speed and G-Forces, and to see how the car really behaves. But, more so, it is going to be important for me to know how to work with so many people behind me, and to understand the whole system. That is going to be very special and interesting, because it will be new. I am really looking forward to that.”

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium

And what about his plans in the longer term? With the likes of Charles Leclerc having moved rapidly from F2 to F1, I wonder if there is pressure on Mick’s shoulders to make that step sooner rather than later? As always, Mick is diplomatic and grounded in his response.

“No,” he affirms. “We are going to keep going like we always did. To keep learning is the main point of the junior categories. And even though we are now in F2, which is the step below F1, it is most important to take the information you can, learn and then – once you are in a position to – use it.”

It seems a very mature response to the opportunity that lies ahead.

Now, the world waits to see what Mick Schumacher can do.

The year ahead will give us an insight into where his future lies but, for now, this brave young man is about to take a massive step into the unknown. I personally wish him all the very best.

Images courtesy of Getty Images and FIA Formula 3 Europe.

FIA Formula 3 European Championship 2017, round 10, Hockenheimring (DEU)