LONDON — Taking the Schumacher surname back into Formula One this season will be more a source of pride than pressure, Michael’s son Mick said on Thursday.
The 21-year-old German, whose Ferrari great father won seven world championships including five with the Italian team, makes his F1 race debut with Haas in Bahrain on March 28.
“I’m very happy to carry that surname, and I’m very happy to carry that name back into Formula One, and I’m very proud of it,” he told reporters on a video call as Haas unveiled their new Ferrari-powered car. The engine is a turbocharged 1.6 liter V6 that can rev to 15,000 rpm.
“It’s like a boost for me and it gives me motivation every single day.”
Haas scored only three points last year and finished ninth of 10 teams.
They are already more focused on 2022, when the rules change, and Schumacher — last year’s Formula Two champion and a Ferrari Academy driver — could be facing a difficult year among the backmarkers.
Schumacher said he would be pushing to improve his performance in every race with the simple target of doing the best he possibly could.
One immediate hurdle he has had to overcome has been the factory seat fitting, with travel restrictions and quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic making that a time-consuming undertaking.
“It hasn’t been easy, traveling to England has been very restricted,” he said.
“We’ve had a plan and then the rules changed and I had to self-quarantine, so I had to find a spot where I could give up 10 days basically to give myself the room to go to the team for one and a half days.”
He said the seat fitting started at 8 a.m. and finished at 11:30 p.m. but was worth it.
“It feels good … a seat is always very special,” he added. “I’m pretty sure I’ve got a good seat.”
Schumacher’s teammate, Russian rookie Nikita Mazepin, said on Thursday he had made a ‘huge mistake’ in an incident last year in which he was filmed groping a female passenger in the back of a car.
The 22-year-old faced a barrage of questions about the matter at the car launch as Haas also announced that Mazepin’s billionaire father’s Uralkali fertilizer company had become the new title sponsor.
The posting of the groping video clip on Instagram attracted widespread condemnation.
He already had something of a bad boy reputation, notably punching British junior series rival Callum Ilott in the face in 2016 in an incident that drew a race suspension.
“It happened that I’ve made a huge mistake,” Mazepin said of the December incident, adding that he was not proud of his behavior.
“I’ve taken responsibility for it, I’ve learned from it and I’m looking forward to a clean year ahead.”
Asked what he had actually learned, he said he recognized he had to set an example as an F1 driver. He added that he was not the one who had posted the video.
Questioned about his on-track record and getting into trouble with stewards, Mazepin said that would not be an issue.
“It’s not something that I fear because I’m confident that’s not going to happen,” he said. “I take a lot of time to go through the regulations, study them, understand where that fine line is.”
On his father’s funding, and accusations that he was only in F1 because of the money, Mazepin said he was not really bothered.
“I’m proud of my family, I’m proud of my father, and I’m not taking this in a negative way,” he added.
“It’s a challenge that I prove myself in Formula One, and I’m going to do it.”
Mazepin said he was still in a discussion about how he would be classified in races, with Russian athletes banned from competing under their national flag at world championship level as a result of World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions.
Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, is a signatory to the WADA code.
The Haas car’s new livery is in the colors of the Russian flag, with the front wing featuring horizontal bars of white, blue and red.