Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have welcomed Mick Schumacher’s arrival in the F1 field for Friday practice at the Eifel GP and wished the son of Michael well.
Schumacher, 21, is the F2 championship leader and appears to be edging closer to an F1 race seat for next season, most likely at Alfa Romeo – the team he is driving for in Practice One at the Nurburgring.
For Vettel, the return of the Schumacher name to an F1 race weekend for the first time in eight years has particular meaning given Michael is his hero.
And Vettel admitted that his pleasure at seeing Mick handed a chance to impress was tinged with the sadness of the fact that the 21-year-old’s father will not be present at the track to witness it.
Michael Schumacher, the seven-time F1 champion, suffered severe head injuries in a skiing accident in December 2013 and, amid a recovery being conducted in private at home, has not been seen in public since.
“Michael is my hero so obviously we all would like, I think first and foremost that Michael could be here this weekend and see his son taking that step,” Vettel told Sky in Italy on Thursday.
“I think that’s probably the biggest thing we are missing out on, and the saddest thing – because that is what his son would deserve.
“But still I think it’s great for Mick to be here to get the chance, and I hope he gets the chance next year full-time and not only on a Friday. But time will tell.”
Vettel, whose own F1 break came in Friday practice sessions with the same Hinwil team in 2006, added in the press conference: “I think he’s a great kid, I really like him and I’m sure he’s going to go a long way and do well.
“This is probably a kick-off for him.”
The 21-year-old Schumacher’s maiden practice appearance comes on the weekend Lewis Hamilton could equal his father’s record for the most Grands Prix victories of all time.
Speaking to Sky F1, Hamilton said the opportunity for Mick was “amazing for him” and that “I’m sure he’s going to do amazing”.
Schumacher, a Ferrari junior, is taking the P1 place of Antonio Giovinazzi, whose seat he could take full-time next year, next to the veteran Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo.
Raikkonen was an F1 title rival of Schumacher Snr in the 2000s and eventually replaced the German great at Ferrari when Michael retired from the sport first time around at the end of 2006.
“I don’t know him that well, we’ve spoken some years back already and he’s a great guy,” said Raikkonen.
“He’s a copy of his father in many ways and it’s great to see him. It’s nice that he’s in the car tomorrow.”
Britain’s Callum Ilott is Schumacher’s nearest rival in F2 and a fellow promising member of Ferrari’s driver academy. The 21-year-old is making his own P1 debut on Friday, with Haas.
Mark Hughes on Mick…
Schumacher made a generally favourable impression in Bahrain last year when he tested for both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo just days after making his F2 debut there. He did this as reigning European F3 champion and his F2 form over the 2019 and ’20 seasons has followed a remarkably similar path to that in F3: indifferent in his first year and the beginning of his second, but then something seemingly clicks in the second half of the second season and he becomes a regular winner.
He became the dominant force in the latter half of his second season in F3, winning five consecutive races to take the title. Since the breakthrough of F2 victory in Monza this year, he’s become a consistent race winner and currently leads the championship, albeit narrowly – from Callum Ilott.
The focus is naturally more upon Schumacher, as the son of Michael making his first appearance in a grand prix weekend at the Nurburgring. But there’s very little to choose between them in performance to date.
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