• Chris Kato

Mick Schumacher's Stellar Performance Stands out at 2021 Portuguese GP

Not often a 17th place gets people talking but this one deserves some credit...

Courtesy - URALKALI Haas F1 Team

Portimao, Portugal - Although not as thrilling as the first two races of this season, the 2021 Portuguese GP still gave us plenty of excitement and things to talk about after 66 laps around the Algarve. Lewis Hamilton extended his championship lead with his 97th Grand Prix victory, Lando Norris maintained third in the championship with his fourth straight top five finish, and Alpine finally showed some great pace to secure a double points finish with Ocon getting the better of Alonso all weekend. There was plenty more to talk about but there was one driver who especially stood out in Portugal even though he was further down the grid. On paper it might not look like much but Mick Schumacher's 17th place finish for Haas sealed his best weekend in Formula 1 to date. After making some rookie errors in his opening two races, Schumacher was able to have a relatively smooth weekend and was able to extract more from the Haas VF-21 in terms of performance than he did in Bahrain or Imola. We know 2021 won't be a headline making year for Haas (at least for the right reasons) but Schumacher's Portuguese GP performance stood out for a driver who has been so highly touted even before entering Formula 1.

Schumacher Dominating His Teammate

Courtesy - URALKALI Haas F1 Team

In a year in which they'll be lucky to even score points, your main emphasis as a driver has to be to defeat your teammate over the course of the season. So far in 2021, Mick is doing just that as he's 3-0 against Mazepin in both qualifying and the race. Through three sessions so far, Schumacher is out-qualifying Mazepin by an average of 6 tenths of a second. Now although Schumacher's highest starting position has only been 18th, when we look at his gap to the Q2 cut off in the first three races, he's progressively getting closer to the likes of Williams and even Alfa Romeo at times. We know the struggles of the Haas car in 2021 so for a rookie those numbers are not half bad and certainly are promising for the rest of the season. In the races, Mick has out-classed his teammate and the disparity between the two was most obvious at the Portuguese Grand Prix. Schumacher finished almost a minute ahead of Mazepin after the young Russian had an eventful race once again. It seems like Mazepin couldn't even get lapped properly after he nearly collided with race leader Sergio Perez which he ultimately got a 5 second penalty for. On the other hand, Schumacher respectably gave way to the faster cars even in the midst of his battles for position which I'm sure his fellow drivers appreciated.

Battling for Position in Portimao

Courtesy - RACEFANS.net

Schumacher's highest finish to date is 16th place which he got in both Bahrain and Imola but that was in large part due to the DNF's behind him. It's why his 17th place finish in Portugal stood out to many and you could've easily given him driver of the day because of his stellar drive. It might seem odd to praise a driver for finishing in 17th place but considering all of the circumstances surrounding Haas' season, it's something that is worth highlighting. After pulling away from his teammate in the second stint of the race, the battle toward the end between Haas and the Williams of Nicholas Latifi caught the eye of the broadcast crew and fans watching at home. It's not often Haas gets airtime for on-track action so you can forgive us for being quite excited about seeing this battle. After numerous laps of continuous pressure on Latifi, Schumacher's consistency and pace forced the Canadian into a lockup in Turn 3 which allowed Schumacher to take 17th place. It wasn't an easy move either as the repeated blue flags made it difficult for both drivers but eventually Schumacher's persistence paid off. Re-watching his on-boards post race, Schumacher drove extremely well and handled himself much better than in the first two races. It's great to see that he's getting more and more comfortable with the tricky VF-21 in what is a massive learning curve for the two Haas rookies.

Schumacher Providing Haas with Optimism in 2021

Courtesy - URALKALI Haas F1 Team

It must be hard to compete race in and race out knowing you'll be fighting at the back of the grid but Mick is making the most out of his first season in F1 at Haas. As their car won't be heavily developed throughout 2021, Haas most likely won't be fighting for more than a Q2 appearance here and there and the off chance for a points finish. Add in two rookie drivers and it makes it all the more challenging but the young German star is giving Haas plenty of reasons to be optimistic for this year and beyond. Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner pointed out their step forward in Portugal saying post race; "When you sit there and can't get by Latifi, frustration sets in - and that's a good thing as it means we could have more". Schumacher echoed similar thoughts post race as well and he suspects they could've had another position as well had he been able to get by Latifi earlier. "If we could have cleared Latifi earlier, I think we could maybe even had the pace to catch up to and fight with George Russell.," Schumacher said.

It's a small win for a team who is struggling and who is a team at a crossroads in their future in the sport. Schumacher's work ethic and enthusiasm has been inspiring to Haas and the team deserves a lot of credit for providing their young drivers with a healthy environment to learn. If you listen to the calm coaching voice of Schumacher's race engineer Gary Gannon during the race, he does an excellent job of uplifting his young driver and keeping him focused on the task at hand. It might not look like much on paper, but Mick Schumacher's 17th place in Portugal was actually quite impressive. Even if it is a small step forward, it's at least trending in the right direction and it means we'll get to see more wheel to wheel action from the young Schumacher.

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