Mick Schumacher made his first track appearance as a fully signed-up Formula 1 driver on Friday when the German took part in opening practice at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The newly crowned Formula 2 champion, son of Ferrari great and seven times F1 world champion Michael Schumacher, did 23 laps in the morning FP1 session and ended 18th fastest for the U.S.-owned Haas team he will race for in 2021.
It was the first time a Schumacher had taken part in a session at a grand prix weekend since Michael’s last race with Mercedes in Brazil in 2012.
“I think it’s an exciting moment for the whole of Formula 1, not only for us. We are honoured to be giving him the first (official) outing. It’s a fantastic thing to have a Schumacher back in Formula 1,” declared Haas team principal Guenther Steiner.
Schumacher had been due to make his practice debut at the Nuerburgring in October, ahead of the Eifel Grand Prix, with Alfa Romeo but fog prevented the German from doing any laps on home asphalt.
Steiner said the 21-year-old would have a more meaningful stint when the Yas Marina circuit hosts a young driver test next week.
“FP1 (first practice) is always difficult, you’ve got two sets of tires, everybody is looking at you, the pressure is high, your focus is not doing anything wrong,. The real work starts on Tuesday.”
Schumacher told reporters during a video conference that everything had gone well with no major issues, “It was a hell of a ride, it was really fun and great to be back in a Formula One car.
The German, who has tested in F1 and done demonstration runs in older cars including those raced by his father, added, “Any running is good and great preparation for next year.”
Haas are ninth of 10 teams in the standings and Schumacher can expect to go from an F2 front-runner to an F1 tail-ender next season.
He said it was all about understanding the goals and setting them accordingly, “I would say next year is really going to be to manage our expectation and be open-minded on every aspect.”