Mick Schumacher
AP

Mick Schumacher ‘totally confident’ he can handle pressure

1 Comment

SAKHIR, Bahrain — Mick Schumacher is feeling comfortable under the spotlight in the desert heat of Bahrain.

It will be an intense few days for the 20-year-old son of Formula One great Michael Schumacher as he makes his F2 debut for the Prema team on Saturday and then drives in his first Formula One test for Ferrari on Tuesday.

The prospect of seeing a Schumacher driving again in Ferrari’s famed red car has generated excitement and focused attention onto him.

“For sure there are going to be emotions,” he said.

Five of his famed father’s record seven F1 titles were won with Ferrari from 2000-04. His 50-year-old father also holds the record for F1 wins with 91.

The young Schumacher said he is “totally confident” he can handle the pressure and said he feels “really prepared, 100 percent ready.”

One of his father’s trademarks as a driver was an unshakeable inner confidence. The strong-jawed, physical resemblance between them is also apparent.

They were skiing together in December 2013 when his father fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock, splitting open the helmet.

Doctors worked to remove blood clots from his brain, but some were left because they were too deeply embedded. Schumacher’s condition stabilized after he was placed in a drug-induced coma, from which he later emerged. But updates on his health have been scarce since he left the hospital in September 2014 to be cared for privately at his Swiss home by Lake Geneva.

Understandably, talking about his father is a deeply sensitive issue. Although he spoke calmly and in measured tones, the emotion was clear in his voice when addressing how much of an influence his father had on him as a young racer.

“I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it wasn’t for him,” Schumacher said, addressing reporters in the F2 paddock. “It’s a difficult question. Obviously it’s a part of me, I’m his son. He’s my dad and I’m happy. He’s the best ever in F1, (which is) something I look up to. I’m happy to have him as a dad.”

Two years ago, the younger Schumacher drove demonstration laps in an F1 model of the Benetton B194 his father drove to the first of his seven championships in 1994.

Schumacher knew early on he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps.

“Obviously we chatted about quite a few points in karting. It helped me a lot along the way,” Schumacher said. “Driving Go-Karts, I said that’s really what I wanted to do. That’s the thing I want to do professionally, as a career and as a job. So it started pretty soon that we took it quite seriously and worked that out. It went pretty quick to the international step in karting.”

If he does well this season, it is feasible he could be in F1 next year.

Charles Leclerc went straight into F1 after winning the F2 title in 2017 and, after only one season in F1 with Alfa Romeo Sauber, the 21-year-old driver from Monaco got the coveted Ferrari seatthis year.

Father and sons in F1 are not uncommon, but successful ones are rare.

Nico Rosberg’s F1 title with Mercedes in 2016 made him only the second son of an F1 champion to become one himself. He followed in the footsteps of Keke Rosberg, the 1982 F1 champion. The others were Graham Hill (’62 and ’68) and Damon Hill (‘96). The Villeneuves came close to doing it: Gilles finished runner-up in ‘79 and his son Jacques won it in ’97.

When Schumacher won the F3 European Championship title last year, it fast-tracked him into F2 and prompted speculation he could be in F1 by 2020.

But seeing himself as an F1 driver with Ferrari still feels far away.

“We’ll have to wait until it’s time for that,” Schumacher said. “It was obviously very exciting getting the news (about the test). But for now my focus is really on F2.”

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

Leave a comment

Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).