Mick Schumacher airlifted for precautionary scans after wicked hit; will miss F1 race

Mick Schumacher Saudi crash
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JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — Mick Schumacher has been held out of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix after a wicked head-on crash with a concrete barrier during Formula One qualifying.

Schumacher wrecked Saturday with just over five minutes left in the second round after losing control of his car in Turn 9 and was airlifted to a hospital for further examination before returning to his hotel. Haas F1 ruled Schumacher out of the race Sunday and the American team said it would field just one car.

Schumacher, who turned 23 earlier this week, posted on social media that he was “OK.”

“The car felt great,” the German wrote. “We’ll come back stronger.”

The Haas F1 team and Sky Sports reported that the son of seven-time champion Michael Schumacher was conscious and alert before being extricated from the car to an ambulance. Sky Sports showed Mick Schumacher being airlifted to a nearby hospital for further examination, which Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner said was largely precautionary after Schumacher showed no external injuries in the crash.

The team later confirmed that Schumacher would miss Sunday’s race.

“He has no injuries which you can see,” Steiner told Sky Sports. “They’re just doing some scans to make sure there’s no further impact from the forces” in the wreck.

It marked the second major crash in a Middle East race in the past three seasons for Haas F1. In the December 2020 race at Bahrain, Romain Grosjean survived a fiery accident in what turned out to be the final race in his F1 career before moving to the NTT IndyCar Series.

That crash prompted a massive review by the FIA and F1, resulting in safety upgrades to the cars. Saturday’s vicious wreck virtually broke Schumacher’s car in half in a manner similar to Grosjean, whose tub splintered after going underneath an Armco barrier in Bahrain.

Steiner said it didn’t appear anything broke on the car for Schumacher, who had advanced to the second round of qualifying with teammate Kevin Magnussen.

“Our car is good, and maybe (Schumacher) just tried a little too hard,” Steiner said. “Here if you make an error, there’s no runoff. It’s walls. And that had him.

“It shows how safe the cars are. They increased chassis stiffness after the incident with Romain. You need to be lucky as well, but fortunately the most important thing is the driver is OK.”

Schumacher posted a selfie tweet a few hours after the crash, confirming he was OK and thanking fans for their support.

Track repairs resulted in the session being postponed by nearly an hour. Qualifying ended with Sergio Perez winning his first career F1 pole in his 215th start, beating the Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr.

F1 has been heavily scrutinized for continuing its race weekend following an attack by rebels on a nearby oil depot. The attack during the first practice Friday could be heard at the track and smoke could be seen billowing in the background of the circuit.

Drivers met several times on Friday for more than four hours discussing safety concerns and whether or not they should compete. F1 and the FIA, the ruling body for the series, assured the competitors that safety measures were in place.

So the action went on as scheduled Saturday until Schumacher’s crash in the second segment of qualifying. Pole-sitter Perez of Red Bull said afterward that the Saudi Arabian circuit is “definitely the most dangerous place in the calendar. That’s no secret about it.

“It’s a circuit that really demands a lot from the drivers, from the cars, from the teams. If you get it wrong, it can be a huge accident,” Perez said. “The last thing I want to think is about the track, and I think going forwards it’s again a discussion.”

Sunday will mark the second time in three F1 races that Haas has been down to just one car. Nikita Mazepin missed the season finale last year when he tested positive for COVID-19 the morning of the race. Mazepin has been replaced this year by Kevin Magnussen, who will start 10th on Sunday.

Haas reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi is in Saudi Arabia but, just as was the case in Abu Dhabi last December when Mazepin was ruled out, he was not eligible to get in the car so late in the race weekend.

Jenson Button joins NASCAR Garage 56 at Le Mans with Jimmie Johnson, Rockenfeller

Jenson Button NASCAR Le Mans
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Garage 56 entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be driven by champions of three major-league series — Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The lineup of the Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Next Gen Camaro was announced Saturday before the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NASCAR’s Garage 56 project was announced in March 2022 as a joint effort by NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear. It marks the return of a NASCAR team to Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years with Hendrick fielding a Camaro ZL1 as the “Garage 56” entry in the 100th edition of the sports car classic.

It’s long been expected the car would include Johnson, the seven-time Cup Series champion who is returning to NASCAR’s premier series as a driver-owner in 2023. Rockenfeller, the 2013 DTM champion and 2010 Le Mans overall winner, has attended every NASCAR Garage 56 test since last year while racking up simulator testing hours.

The surprise was Button, the 2009 Formula One champion who has become a popular commentator. Rick Hendrick initially said wanted four-time Cup champion and current Hendrick Motorsports COO Jeff Gordon to drive the car, and Gordon had raced a sports car at Indianapolis last year to test his race shape.

GARAGE 56 ANSWERS, ANALYSISMore on the NASCAR-Hendrick entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a release. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”

Button had one of the most prolific careers in F1 history finishing with 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 World Championship and is widely considered one of the top British drivers of all time.

“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said in a release. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.”

Johnson will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut a year after starting his first Indy 500. He has 83 victories in the Cup Series, where he will return for the Daytona 500 next month with his Legacy Motor Club team.

He also has been involved with testing the Garage 56 Camaro.

“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come – and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup – is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”

Rockenfeller teamed with Johnson on the No. 48 Ally Cadillac in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2021-22. The German driver has been the lead test driver for Garage 56 and has driven during every on-track test.

“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”

The car will continue testing with all three drivers next week at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Rolex 24 and four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who drives for Corvette Racing, will be the team’s backup driver and coach. Taylor also won the GTE Pro class in 2015 at Le Mans, where he has four podium finishes.

The project also is being supported by IMSA GTP team Action Express, whose general manager is former NASCAR executive and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Gary Nelson. Action Express built the first test car for the Garage 56 but since has handed off the project to Hendrick, where it’s being over seen by vice president of competition Chad Knaus (the crew chief for Johnson’s seven championships).

“Action Express got it going and built the mule car, and then Hendrick joined the program, took it from where we had it, and they’re doing a major percentage of the work,” Nelson told NBC Sports. “We just did a test a couple months ago on a wet track. We’ve done a couple of other tests as they were ramping their program up. Now their car is good, tested and running. We’re still involved and here to help. The Hendrick guys have taken the reins, and Rick Hendrick and Chad Knaus are a thrill to work with and doing a much better job. It’s more NASCAR than prototype racing.”