Months after every other team on the grid firmed up their driver lineup for next year, American F1 team Haas finally announced who’ll be driving for the squad in 2023. And, despite making improvements over the past year, the team has ousted young German driver Mick Schumacher and will replace him with old German driver Nico Hülkenberg.
Schumacher made his debut in F1 with Haas in 2021 after he won the F2 championship the year before. In his first year in the sport, Schumacher out-qualified his team mate, Nikita Mazepin, in every session he took part in. But, his uncompetitive Haas car meant that his best finish that year was 12th.
With a new car under him in 2021, things were looking up for the young German in his second year. But, over the first half of the 2021 season he appeared to struggle to get to grips with the car and was involved in several dramatic, and expensive, crashes.
But, the young racer was outclassed by his much more experienced team mate, Kevin Magnussen, on Saturday. The Danish racer has so far out-qualified Schumacher on 16 occasions this year, with just one race left on the calendar.
Schumacher could hold his own in the race, though, and in events where both he and Magnussen finished he ended the grand prix higher than the Dane on nine occasions – Magnussen finished ahead of Schumacher on seven.
But, points are what matter to teams like Haas as they fight for positions in the constructors championship. And, sadly, Schumacher wasn’t bringing in enough. Schumacher has amassed just 12 points this year while Magnussen has more than double.
It’s for this reason, and the hefty repair bill the young German has amassed this year, that Haas has opted not to renew his contract. In a statement shared on social media, Schumacher said:
“This is going to be my last race with Haas F1 Team. I don’t want to hide the fact that I am very disappointed about the decision not to renew our contract. Nevertheless, I would like to thank both Haas F1 and Ferrari for giving me this opportunity. Those years together have helped me to mature both technically and personally. And especially when things got difficult, I realized how much I love this sport.
“It was at times bumpy but I steadily improved, learned a lot and now know for sure that I deserve a place in Formula 1. The subject is anything but closed for me. Setbacks only make you stronger.
“My fire burns for Formula 1 and I will fight hard to return to the starting grid.”
With one German driver out, Haas is swapping in another as Niko Hülkenberg will be racing for the team in 2023.
Hülkenberg got his start in F1 way back in 2010 with Williams, where he partnered Rubens Barrichello. In his first year in the sport, the German racer scored his first and only pole position at Brazil.
He went on to drive for Force India and Renault, amassing an impressive number of points finishes over his career. But, he was let go from the Renault F1 team at the end of the 2019 season.
Hülkenberg remained in the paddock as reserve driver for Racing Point and Aston Martin, starting two grands prix for each team when drivers were out with COVID-19.
Now, with 181 F1 starts to his name, Hülkenberg holds the rather unfortunate record for the most race starts without a podium finish. Hopefully his next stint with Haas will put an end to that run.
In a statement shared by the Haas F1 team, Hülkenberg said:
“I’m very happy to move into a full-time race seat with Haas F1 Team in 2023. I feel like I never really left Formula 1.
“I’m excited to have the opportunity to do what I love the most again and want to thank Gene Haas and Günther Steiner for their trust. We have work ahead of us to be able to compete with all the other teams in the midfield, and I cannot wait to join that battle again.”
Hülkenberg will get his first taste of the Haas F1 machinery at the end of season test in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday November 22. He’ll then line up on the grid alongside Kevin Magnussen at the first race of the 2023 season in Bahrain on March 5.