Typically, what you see is what you get with Mick Schumacher. The smiley German driver is down to earth and humble, there is a steeliness behind his piercing blue-eyes and an unrelenting determination to become, as he puts it, the “complete racing driver.”
It’s that overpowering desire to reach the very upper echelons of motorsport that drives his every waking decision. “if I am not racing, I am thinking about racing. I quite like that slogan because it’s true.” In the age of social media, fans crave detail. They want to know who the man behind the racing driver is, but with Schumacher, the man behind the racer is another racer and that tells you a lot about the German’s sense of purpose.
Of course, there is plenty more to the 21-year-old, he is intelligent and exceedingly competitive. It’s just that there are so many layers of racing driver that you really have to peel them back to get a sense of who the German is away from the track, and that’s all down to his desire to fulfil his dreams – in many ways, everything else is put to one side. It’s the type of drive that the average human can dream of.
Currently leading the Formula 2 Championship with 191 points to Callum Ilott’s 169, Schumacher is on the cusp of making the step up to Formula 1, but what is it that’s gotten him here?
BEING IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Schumacher is calm and relaxed, sat in full Ferrari gear, including the baseball cap and now mandatory mask. He is currently in the best form of his F2 career. The pressures of racing at this level and the pressures that come with his famous surname seem very much hidden. That doesn’t mean they aren’t there, it’s just that he’s gotten so accustomed to dealing with them.
He’s been faced with this attention from the very first time he raced in go-karts to the moment he first set foot into the Formula 2 paddock in Bahrain, where he was greeted by an ocean of reporters and journalists jostling to speak to him at the back of the PREMA garage. It’s the reason why he initially chose to race under the pseudonyms of Betsch - his mother’s maiden name – and Junior, back in karting.
“We tried to keep it on the less noticeable side as long as possible,” he explained. “Trying to have as much freedom for myself as possible, it gave me the opportunity to grow on my own and to understand how to be a normal kid and a normal racing kid.
“Coming to formula racing, we knew that there was going to be more attention. I wanted to race under my full name anyway and I am proud to have it on my car, I am proud to have it on my suits.
“The media have always been around me a bit more than others, but we’ve always been quite respected in that area, in terms of, if I ask for the privacy I need, then they give it to me and I’m very grateful for that.
“I love the sport and that’s why I am here, I’m not here to be a TV journalist or whatever, I am here to race. If media is a part of what I want to do, then obviously I’ll take it into the price, but the main reason I am here is to race.”
STEPPING UP TO FORMULA 2
Schumacher’s rise has been more steady than rapid, and that’s by design, the German’s goal of joining F1 has always been very much long term. There were to be no short-cuts - he wanted to arrive ready. Finishing second in ADAC and Italian Formula 4 in 2016, he went on to clinch the European F3 title in 2018, in his second season at that level.
Then came the step up to F2 and the re-introduction of the Schumacher name to a Grand Prix weekend. This was the biggest challenge of his fledging career and he openly admits that the initial adaptation period “took a bit longer than I thought it would.”
“The Hankook tyres used in European F3 were more durable,” he explained. “I was coming onto a Pirelli tyre in F2 that degrades a lot. You have to change your driving style, there is also the turbo, and the fact the cars are a lot heavier and a lot more powerful.”
The jump between categories was massive, and not purely due to the change in tyre. From the outside, there was a certain expectation placed upon him, partially because of the previous two champions, Charles Leclerc and George Russell, who had both won the category at the first attempt. The distinction being that they had risen from GP3, which used the same Pirelli boots as F2.
2019 was also stacked with experienced talent – the eventual top four was made up of drivers with at least two years’ experience under their belts. For this reason, a title charge was never truly on the cards inside of the Schumacher camp – not because he didn’t think he was capable, but because he was realistic.
“Everything is a learning curve,” he continued. “If you take the time to go into detail, if you take the time to learn things right, in the long term it will work out better than if you try and rush things.
“In the long term, what I want to do is to create the perfect racing driver and become the complete racing driver. That’s why last year was so important, trying to understand every single bit of detail before thinking of the results.
In the long term, what I want to do is to create the perfect racing driver and become the complete racing driver. That’s why last year was so important.
“I don’t want to talk about luck, but in ways, last year was a very unlucky season - we had a few reliability issues and some contacts which were unfortunate, but I think that we always showed good pace, which is what mattered to us. Ultimately, I want to go to F1 being as best prepared as I can be and to do so, I have to also go through tough times, because during those, you learn the most.”
A CAREER DEFINING SEASON
Schumacher finished the 2019 campaign in 12th place, put pen to paper on another deal with PREMA and returned to the F2 paddock. If his first season was about the experience, then he knew that 2020 would need to be a results-based campaign.
Except, it didn’t initially work out this way. He failed to enjoy the start of the season he would have envisaged, watching on as his fellow Ferrari juniors, Ilott and Shwartzman took wins, podiums, and an early lead of the Championship.
Schumacher steadied the ship and has arisen as the most consistent, and arguably the most complete driver on the grid. His management of the new tyres has been exemplary, and it’s helped him to reverse a deficit of around 40 points to now lead by 22.
“I am enjoying every day, just having fun,” he beamed. “I am enjoying the driving, I am enjoying the work behind the scenes and I think that’s really one of the keys which has put me in this position. We have had some difficult races, we have had our ups and downs, but I think that’s brought us to where we are now and I feel very, very comfortable in the car.”
We have had some difficult races, we have had our ups and downs, but I think that’s brought us to where we are now and I feel very, very comfortable in the car.
Having complete trust in his team, PREMA, has also been a significant factor.
“I think this is now our fifth season together, which is more than any other junior driver in this field and that shows that I have a lot of trust in them and that they have a lot of trust in me. I think that’s what is very important in this sport.
“You try and grow together and PREMA have done a fabulous job. I am not saying that I’m ready yet, 100%, but I am saying that we are fairly close.”
COMPETING WITH HIS FELLOW FERRARI JUNIORS
He may well feel like is he fairly close but so do two of his fellow Ferrari juniors, Ilott and Shwartzman. All three drivers have led the F2 table at various points in the season, and all have their eyes fixed on a seat in F1, with HAAS mooted as the most likely destination.
They’re directly competing against one another on two different fronts, a fact that isn’t lost on Schumacher, but one that also doesn’t faze him.
“I would actually say that it’s good because we know each other well,” Schumacher explained. “I think that it’s easier to go into a fight with someone you know because the respect is there.
“I wouldn’t say it puts more pressure on me because my goal is to be at the top and to fight with the top guys. If that wasn’t my FDA teammates, it would be someone else.
“The ultimate goal is F1 and I guess that is the same for everyone who is in F2, but there are very limited seats in F1. Who gets them in the end is something that only the bosses know. We don’t really speak about it and we don’t really get information about it.
There are very limited seats in F1. Who gets them in the end is something that only the bosses know.
“For me, it’s important to talk about Formula 2, to focus on that 100% and to do my job right there. If I do that, then the attention is brought on to me - the guys up there do notice what is happening.”
AWAY FROM THE TRACK
When you do peel back those layers of racing driver, you’ll find a man who is constantly striving to compete in some form. Whether that be in the car, on the PlayStation, or on his push bike. What interests Schumacher more than anything, are activities which he is not already good at, “I try to become better at them, that’s really what pushes me.”
As well as on track, the German is also at home on the water, though unfortunately, “It is a bit difficult to find good waves in Switzerland.”
And of course, there is also his dog Angie, an Australian Shepard.
“Dogs are a very good change,” he explains. “When you are working with a car, there is no mind to work with. With a dog, you have to appreciate their bad days and their good days.”
But ultimately, there is always something in the back of his mind. “My dream is F1, my dream is motorsport, and therefore, I am always thinking about it and always dreaming about it