Mercedes finished the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix second and third with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell respectively, both crediting the simulator work of reserve driver Mick Schumacher for the result.
The eight-time Formula 1 Constructors’ Champions were using their upgraded W14 for the second time following its debut at the Monaco Grand Prix, and were looking to validate the revised car around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya which is considered as the ultimate test for the performance of an F1 car.
The weekend in Spain started off with difficulty for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton not even featuring is top ten in both practice sessions on Friday, but the team were able to turn the situation around, Hamilton third fastest in the final practice session on Saturday, fifth in Qualifying and ultimately racing to second on Sunday.
According to both Mercedes drivers, the team’s reserve driver Mick Schumacher was crucial for the result achieved over the Spanish weekend, as he was sent back to Brackley on Friday where he worked overnight on the simulator to explore setup changes for the rest of the weekend.
“Friday was a real struggle with the balance, it was way out of the window,” Hamilton admitted. “It was very hard to drive, very unpredictable.
“And then we did some great work overnight. We’ve got a great team, with Mick back in the simulator on Friday night and he did some great work, which helped us get on the right track on Saturday,” he added.
“I think we did pretty decent work in trying to understand the different downforce levels. And in the race today the car felt great.
“But honestly I just couldn’t match the times that Max [Verstappen] was doing. And for George to come from 12th to third is just remarkable. So, really awesome result for us as a team,” the seven-time F1 Champion concluded.
Russell added: “The work that Mick and the simulator team are doing overnight, they were there well past midnight to help us with the setup and get it in a good window for the race today.”
Mick can set an exclamation mark
Schumacher’s uncle Ralf credited his nephew for the work he did for Mercedes over the weekend in Barcelona as their reserve driver in his latest Sky Sports F1-Germany column.
Ralf wrote: “His work in the simulator was explicitly praised by Hamilton in Barcelona. I’m happy for Mick. He makes decisions with the engineers in the simulator for the development and coordination of the car, so Hamilton and Russell have to trust him.
“If that works, it is all the more beautiful because he then becomes an important part of the team and is also considered that way.
“Mick decides in which direction the car is developed and his feedback is enormously important for the team,” Ralf added.
“For him personally, this is very important for two reasons,” he insisted. “On the one hand, he gets a confirmation between the simulator work and reality. For a driver, it is very important that you get a feeling in the car. And then, of course, he can also show that he can be fast in the car.
“People will look and you can certainly draw comparisons to the other drivers and teams. Mick can set an exclamation mark – even in a team.
“He can show that he can also implement what he does in the simulator on the track,” Ralf Schumacher concluded.
Mick Schumacher has joined Mercedes as a reserve driver at the start of this season after he lost his Haas racing seat for compatriot Nico Hulkenberg.
The German hopes to find a full time racing seat for 2024, but rumors around the F1 paddock claim that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is pushing for his reserve driver to take the seat of the underperforming Logan Sargeant at Williams.