Steiner's warning shows how high stakes are for Schumacher - The Race
Formula 1

Steiner’s warning shows how high stakes are for Schumacher

Jun 2 2022
By Scott Mitchell-Malm

Mick Schumacher still hasn’t scored a point in Formula 1. After the Monaco Grand Prix, that’s the least of Haas’s concerns.

Another heavy crash, his second big individual accident of the season, means another big rebuild job for his team and another chunky repair bill.

This will be hundreds of thousands of dollars out of Haas’s budget and, added to his big Saudi Arabia shunt, means Schumacher has almost certainly cost Haas over $1million this season.

The severity of the situation was made very clear by team principal Guenther Steiner’s comments in Haas’s own post-race press release: “It’s not very satisfactory having a big crash again.

“We need to see how we move forward from here.”

Steiner says a lot there in very few words. There are three big takeaways from his statement.

First, even for a straight shooter like Steiner, it’s significant for a team boss to state such blunt dissatisfaction in a controlled communication.

Second, “a big crash again” makes it clear where Haas’s patience is running out. A heavy shunt is one thing. As is carelessly crashing when there’s nothing on the line. But the repetition is really problematic – as this list shows.

 


Schumacher’s big F1 crashes

Monaco 2021: Missed qualifying after crashing into the wall at Casino in FP3
France 2021: Spun and hit the wall in Q1, couldn’t take part in Q2
Hungary 2021: Missed qualifying after losing the rear and crashing in FP3
Saudi Arabia 2021: Crashed out of the race losing the rear into a high-speed sweep
Saudi Arabia 2022: Missed the race after heavy qualifying crash
Monaco 2022: Crashed out of the race losing control through the Swimming Pool chicane


Third, that final line: “We need to see how we move forward from here.” This could be interpreted a couple of ways. It’s either a warning that this is not sustainable if Schumacher wants to keep driving for the team, or it’s a hint that Steiner’s just not at all sure how to cut this problem out.

One’s worse than the other, of course, but neither is good. The fact is Schumacher’s latest big crash has added quite a lot of pressure – probably more than his point-less run was.

He now has six big accidents in 29 grand prix weekends, a rate of one-in-five. That’s way too many for an F1 driver. Especially when it doesn’t even include other accidents, like the clash with Sebastian Vettel that probably cost Schumacher a maiden points finish in Miami.

This is a horrible position for Schumacher to be in because, quite obviously, he isn’t doing this on purpose. He’s the last person who wants this trend to continue.

And it’s awkward for Haas, which would dearly love Schumacher to cut this out and deliver on his potential. He’s a good, intelligent driver, a popular person in the team and paddock, with a great work ethic.

He is a good deal better than he’s making himself look but Haas, and other teams, can only judge him on reality rather than theoretical potential. So the stakes are high.

Schumacher has a car capable of scoring points, and he’s crashing it more than he’s converting its potential.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Sunday Monte Carlo, Monaco

This matters for Schumacher’s current form but also his F1 prospects. If Haas runs out of patience, which will be justified if this continues, then Schumacher’s reputation might have suffered too much damage for another team to pick him up.

You could sympathise with Schumacher’s biggest shunts this year and say he paid a very, very high price for tiny misjudgements: a fraction too far over the kerb in Saudi, “probably about 10 centimetres” off the dry line in Monaco.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Sunday Monte Carlo, Monaco

Fine margins define F1, though. No driver is immune to mistakes but they’ve been too frequent now to put it just down to bad luck.

These are costly misjudgements, not quirks of fate, and perhaps a sign of Steiner’s greatest concern for Schumacher being realised.

Steiner had said before the Monaco GP weekend that Schumacher’s points drought hadn’t reached the point where he thought it risked hurting his performances but his worry was “desperation setting in, and over-driving”.

There have been signs of that already – the move on Vettel in Miami, for example, or the unseen near-miss Schumacher had in Monaco a few laps before his crash where he was hugely over-optimistic and tried to pass Alex Albon around the outside at Mirabeau and nearly sent himself into the barriers for his trouble.

The big crashes may be part of this, or just a symptom of Schumacher just struggling to have a clear enough understanding of where the limit is, which makes it all too easy to stray over it.

“How we move forward from here”, to take Steiner’s words, is hard to judge. Ultimately, only Schumacher can rise to the occasion. If he can’t, he may not get many more chances.

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