Former Haas F1 driver Mick Schumacher begins a new chapter with Renault-owned Alpine in the FIA World Endurance Championship (WEC) this month but a return to Formula 1 remains his main target.
The 24-year-old is reserve for Mercedes, ready to step in if seven-times champion Lewis Hamilton or George Russell are unable to race. And with several inexplicable but real F1 and WEC date clashes, he has set his priority.
Mick, son of F1 great Michael Schumacher, told Reuters: “If there is a necessity for me to be in a Formula 1 car and there’s a (WEC) race weekend at the same time then obviously Formula 1 has priority.
“Mercedes has always been very supportive of me going into this position … to stay sharp and, if the opportunity arises, that I am 100 percent in the right mood and position mentally as well as physically to take on the challenge thrown at me,” he reckoned.
Schumacher spent two seasons with Haas before losing his seat. He sat out last year while doing simulator work for Mercedes and his “great work” was pointed out by Hamilton and Russell as Mercedes battled to second overall in the 2023 F1 World Championship behind dominant Red Bull.
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Schumacher said he would take anything available and sensed a general shift that “could be a very positive position for me.”
He added: “I think (WEC) helps my campaign in presenting myself for Formula One. That’s one of the big things. I left Formula 1 on maybe not the highest note and obviously some people saw the potential that I had in it and some people didn’t.
“But hopefully me going to racing again, and showing that I’m able to do whatever it takes in any category, will invite people to think again I have the potential for Formula 1,” insisted Schumi III.
Schumacher: I’m just excited to be back behind the wheel
Alpine will be his first time racing a closed-cockpit car but the memories of being driven in a GT3 car by his father, who has not appeared in public since a ski accident in December 2013, were “still very much alive”.
2020 Formula 2 champion Schumacher admitted: “I’m just excited being back in a racing environment, because that’s what I’ve missed and that’s what I’ve loved since I was a kid and not having had it last year was very awkward, very different.
“So being in a position where you have to again go into yourself, analyse what is it that I need to be faster, what do I need to do to be faster? … I’m just excited to be back behind the wheel.”
The visit to Alpine’s Enstone factory closed another circle, with Michael starting out in sports cars and winning the first two of his seven F1 titles with the Benetton team that became Renault and is now Alpine.
“I’m sure that somewhere here there are some footprints of my dad,” said Mick.
The WEC season starts in Qatar with a prologue on 24-25 February. Then on the same weekend of the 2024 F1 World Championship opener in Bahrain not far away Round 1 of WEC will take place with the Qatar 1812 race on March 2. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)