MUNICH – Mick Schumacher was the biggest loser in the qualifiers at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix in Brazil. While his teammate Kevin Magnussen was driving sensationally in first place, he finished 20th and last. There are few who believe this could have been the final nail in his coffin regarding his future with Haas and Formula 1.
But team boss Gunther Steiner, who is rarely shy about publicly criticizing Schumacher, was very calm after the bitter hour on Friday night at Interlagos. Whether this was due to his good mood in the hustle and bustle of Magnussen is an open question. The truth is: in a particularly difficult moment, he appears to be trying to build up Schumacher.
Because Steiner asserts in his analysis: “Both drivers were fast. And the only lap that wasn’t that fast was when Mick drove on dry tires at the end of the first quarter. Otherwise he would have been too fast. I don’t think he had the right feel and didn’t know what speed He could walk it, but he did a great job up to the lap.”
Eight minutes before the end of Q1, Schumacher led sensationally to third with the Intermediaries, at that point just 0.252 seconds off Max Verstappen’s best time and 1.339 seconds ahead of Magnussen, who had set the fast lap a little earlier.
Has Haas waited too long?
Around this time, Pierre Gasly was the first person on AlphaTauri to risk switching from intermediates to stains. It took longer for Haas: with three and a half minutes before the end of the first quarter, Schumacher, Magnussen, Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) and Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) were the last to remain unchanged.
When Schumacher slipped hard at the end of the last corner on the warm-up lap, but was able to catch the drift with skill, he may have had doubts about whether the strategy would be right. But race engineer Gary Gannon reassured him: “It’s okay. The first lap will be slower and the second will be good.”
Because tire temperatures will rise through the first thrust lap and then be optimal on the second thrust lap. At least that’s the theory. Magnussen proved it. Schumacher couldn’t do that, although none of the push-ups really went wrong. Perhaps the bottom line was that he was a bit conservative.
Sad pit radio Schumacher
“So, did we succeed?” he asked, crossing the finish line. Gannon shared in a low voice, “No, we’re not done. It would have taken 15.1 to progress.” A few seconds of silence on the crater radio, then Schumacher wondered: “What?” He couldn’t believe it. Gannon just sighed, “There wasn’t enough time. Sorry, man.”
Schumacher was not even informed over the radio that of all people Magnussen had taken the lead. Back in the pit and the team cheering, it must have felt like the third wheel. “I haven’t spoken to him yet,” Steiner says, “I haven’t had the time yet. But Mick really congratulated us.”
“I think, he knows what would have been possible today,” Steiner said. “But I can’t say in detail what went wrong with him. I’ve been pretty vigilant here.” Because South Tyrol was a famous man after the sexy pole. He was bombarded with interviews, phone calls, and of course partying with Magnussen and the team.
Schumacher: Very low tire temperature
Steiner wasn’t at the debriefing due to the hustle and bustle, “So I don’t know why Mick wasn’t close to Kevin. But I think with these changed circumstances he didn’t want to risk much. I guess – he didn’t give me what I said myself. I only saw him from the outside So I have to be careful with what I analyze here.”
But Steiner’s observation seems to add up nicely. Schumacher had two runs of short slips from the last corner, on the warm-up lap and on the first lap. With that in mind, he rode less aggressively than the others on the crucial lap there. And in the field gave a few meters when choosing a line. The little things that add up.
Not just on the stopwatch, but in conditions like Friday at Interlagos, it all depends on the tire temperature. That was too low for Schumacher. This could have several reasons. First, he had to make way for Esteban Ocon and Sebastian Vettel on the warm-up lap. The rubber adjacent to the dry line was cooled a few degrees.
Hulkenberg 2010: What Tire Temperature Can Do
From that moment on, it was obvious that Haas, who was now approaching the wetter part of the path, was slipping even more aggressively. It is possible that Schumacher is unsettled by the attackers. But this started a vicious cycle, as the lack of aggressiveness caused his tires to overheat – and eventually he didn’t suffer from it.
Very different from Nico Hülkenberg, who put Williams in pole position in 2010 also at Interlagos, in the rain as well. Steiner was asked if he now needed a second driver who could take the car into pole position in difficult conditions. But he waves it away: “Is that a question about who’s going to be in the car next year? I’m not going to answer that.”
When will the decision be made on the “Miko Question”?
A decision on the ‘Miko Question’ will be made before the end of the season in Abu Dhabi at the earliest. Steiner revealed it on Thursday in Sao Paulo and nothing has changed since then. Even if the theory was recently published in Germany, the decision may have already been made but the team has yet to reveal it.
For example, “Sky” expert Timo Glock talks about a “game” that Steiner deliberately played because “we keep talking about it session after session, which of course keeps him and his team in the cameras and the press.” The theory is that new sponsor MoneyGram loves this, too.
On the other hand, Gluck says, he believes that “the decision has already been made somewhere and one might try to avoid embarrassing questions and perhaps even postpone it to Abu Dhabi. Because, in my opinion, he would have to ask himself embarrassing questions, if he decides against Mick Schumacher” .
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