Schumacher still in frame for Haas; ex-Toro Rosso driver opens up on Red Bull ‘trauma’: F1 Pit Talk

Dan Ric's performance coach spills beans | 02:55
Michael Lamonato from Fox Sports

Mick Schumacher still has the chance to save his Formula 1 career, but he’ll have to act quickly.

The German has been shown up by teammate Kevin Magnussen for much of the year, but an uptick in performance at just the right time has stayed his execution, at least temporarily.

Given the amount of flux Haas has endured in recent years, he finds himself in the unusual situation of having a little time on his side to cement his place for another season.

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But that time is fast running out. Though team boss Guenther Steiner says he hasn’t yet made a call on Schumacher’s future, he’s also signalled one could be coming in the next few weeks.

The ultra-demanding Singapore and Japanese grands prix circuits could be those on which Schumacher saves his career — or sees it end in an unceremonious heap in the barriers.

The next two rounds will also go some way to settling the battle for fourth in the constructors standings, which Fernando Alonso says would be an overachievement for his Alpine team after a rocky start to the year.

Meanwhile, Jaime Alguersuari, the former Red Bull Racing prospect, has spoken out about what he describes as a traumatic experience inside Helmut Marko’s driver program — so traumatic in fact it turned him off racing completely.

NO CALL ON SCHUMACHER YET AS HAAS KEEPS WATCHING BRIEF

Mick Schumacher remains in the frame to retain his drive at Haas into next year, with Guenther Steiner keen to give the German a chance to show what he can do.

Schumacher put himself on the chopping black with a crash-strewn start to the year, but an uptick in form in the middle of the season brought him back into contention, particularly once he scored his long-awaited maiden points at the British Grand Prix.

But the Haas car’s fluctuations in performance have made it difficult to assess the sophomore’s consistency behind the wheel, and the team said it isn’t intending to make a final call until October.

Speaking to Austria’s Laola1, Steiner said he was still weighing up whether keeping or dropping Schumacher was more in line with the team’s overall progression goal.

Photo by Clive Mason/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“It hasn’t been decided yet,” he said. “We are considering what is best for the development of the team.

“Do we only look at the technology or also the driving element?

“To be honest, we don’t know if Mick will stay or not. He has delivered very good races in Canada, England and Austria, but he lacks the consistency. He should often perform well.

“We’re in no hurry on the driver issue, and Mick still has chances to show what he can do.”

Nico Hulkenberg is understood to be high on the list of possible replacements if Schumacher were to be dropped, with ESPN reporting Kevin Magnussen is supportive of his former rival rejoining the sport.

Steiner refused to confirm who he’d spoken to as a second option but hinted that he would opt for an experienced driver over a rookie to ensure Haas continued its rebound from the bottom of the championship table.

“I’ve talked to most of the possible drivers; that’s my job too,” he said. “In any case, we only want to take the smallest risk for the development of the team.

“You can take big risks, which is great when it works but bad when it doesn’t.”

ALONSO SAYS ALPINE IS OVERACHIEVING IN BATTLE FOR FOURTH

Fernando Alonso has lauded Alpine for beating its preseason expectations by holding fourth in the constructors standings with six races to run.

The French team has had McLaren’s measure in the fight for teams title position for most of this year and currently leads the battle for best of the rest by 18 points.

It’s a marked improvement form last season, when it was comprehensively beaten to the place, and it’s been all the more impressive for the car’s consistent performances across a range of tracks.

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It’s also a gain compared to where the team expected to be after an inconclusive preseason testing campaign after which it appeared to be behind what looked like a four-team frontrunning pack.

Asked for his analysis of the team’s performance at the end of the European leg of the season, Alonso said it had been “very impressive”.

“I think we started a little bit worried in Bahrain and winter testing,” he said, per the F1 website. “We had some up and downs there in terms of performance.

“But I think from Australia or Jeddah onwards the team has grown up a lot and the engine also is much better than last year — we had some reliability issues but we have more power than last year, so we accept that.

“We are now fighting McLaren [in] the constructors championship, and maybe that was a little bit of a dream at the beginning of the year, so I think we are overachieving compared to what we thought.”

While Daniel Ricciardo’s paltry return in the second McLaren might suggest Alpine is getting away easily from a harder fight, Alonso has been at pains to point out frequently this year that he’s seen as many as 70 points go begging through bad luck and unreliability.

“I think we had a few races where we were not super lucky,” he said. “Even in this run of points, Barcelona we started last, Austria the car did not start in the sprint and we started last on Sunday, and we still even scored points in those races.

“But we need to have clean weekends, not have any problems Saturday and Sunday, and probably those will be better weekends in terms of points.”

Alonso’s assessment of Alpine’s season stands in stark contract to that of Lando Norris, who said the French squad was doing “a pretty bad job” to hold fourth by only 18 points.

'Wow' - Alonso sumps up Alpine's woes | 00:32

EX-TORO ROSSO DRIVER RECOUNTS ‘TRAUMA’ OF MARK RELATIONSHIP

Former Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari has opened up on the “trauma” of his tenure under the thumb of Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko, saying he still has nightmares about the Austrian taskmaster.

Alguersauri was sacked from Toro Rosso in 2011 along with teammate Sebastien Buemi after two and a half years in the sport, but whereas Buemi has gone on to have a highly decorated racing career, Alguersuari’s career petered out, and he has since switched full-time to being a DJ.

But he hasn’t been able to clear his head completely of his time in F1, and speaking to Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, he revealed he still has nightmares about the premature conclusion of his racing career.

“I tell you something: when I sleep, I still have very strange dreams of that time,” he said. “Especially about the impotence and the frustration of never making it, of seeing Mr Marko always angry, telling us off, as if we were children.

“This has created a trauma, and I am convinced that Buemi and many others are also experiencing it too.

“I have not been able to erase this. I have done therapy; when I retired several psychologists helped me to try to make a new life. I wanted to try this to cleanse everything I had lived through before.

“Now, even so, strange things come to my head. And sometimes wake up crying, having dreamt of having done a great lap only to see the angry face of Mr Marko.”

Alguersuari said his entire racing experience had left him bitter, and though he admitted he was “lucky” to get an F1 shot with Red Bull, he singled out the brand for particular criticism for its treatment of its juniors.

“At Red Bull, in Formula 1, you didn’t live in peace, even with great results,” he said. “You did a great job and you never left feeling like the job was done and everyone was happy.

“Your rivals congratulated you more than the people in your team. And you’ve lived that feeling since you were 15. Nothing was ever enough.”

Photo by Peter Fox/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

LANCE STROLL ‘UNDERESTIMATED’, SAYS ASTON MARTIN

Lance Stroll is set of the biggest challenge of his Formula 1 career when he goes up against new teammate Fernando Alonso next year, but his Aston Martin teams has warned that the Canadian shouldn’t be underestimated.

Despite having turned 41 and being set to break the record for most race starts in Formula 1 next weekend in Singapore, Alonso remains one of the grid’s most intelligent and ferocious racers and is adamant he’s in Formula 1 to add to his tally of wins.

Stroll, son of billionaire team owner Lawrence Stroll, is in the sixth season of a largely unremarkable career in Formula 1 barring his three podiums and a noteworthy pole position in the wet at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix.

But team principal Mika Krack said Stroll’s critics don’t consider the fact he’s never had access to a regular podium-getting car, never mind one capable of regular wins or titles, meaning he’s been chronically undervalued.

“People underestimate how good Lance is,” Krack said, according to the F1 website. “They think he’s only here because his father owns the team and put him in the car.

“It’s important to remember that Lance has never really had a winning car in Formula 1, a car in which he can show what he’s capable of – to really deliver on his talent.”

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Krack also praised Stroll’s results compared to current teammate Sebastian Vettel — he was beaten by nine points last year and trails by 15 this season — and said noted that he was a champion in ever year of his junior racing career before arriving in F1.

“You don’t do as well as he has against a four-time world champion by accident, and you don’t win as many junior single-seater championships as he has by accident either.

“When Sebastian joined the team people were saying Lance had no chance, but Lance has performed incredibly well against a four-time world champion. They’ve been closely matched.

“People are saying the same thing now that Fernando is joining the team, but let’s wait and see. Lance might just surprise a few people.”

DOMENICALI FORECASTS RED BULL DOMINANCE TO END — EVENTUALLY

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali says Red Bull Racing’s growing domination over the season won’t be representative of this regulatory era, which he’s confident will close up the grid.

Despite the early months of the season promising a tight battle between Ferrari and Red Bull Racing, the Milton Keynes squad has taken substantial strides forward in recent months from around the time of the Hungarian Grand Prix and now holds a comfortable advantage over the rest of the field at most circuits.

Ferrari has also slipped backwards thanks in part to a string of mistakes early in the season and some possibly wayward car development more recently.

The all-new regulations that came into effect this year targeted a better spectacle on multiple fronts. One was to deliver cars that could race more closely thanks to improved aerodynamic designs, an objective generally agreed by drivers and teams to have been satisfied.

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The cost cap is the second component, which is designed to prevent big teams from outspending rivals and ensure all teams are profitable, and the third element is a sliding scale for aerodynamic development, which gives the lowest ranked teams in the championship more time in the wind tunnel.

Speaking to the Italian media, Domenicali admitted that this year’s title conclusion was destined to be a fizzed but remained optimistic that the coming years would be better.

“It is clear that a championship with these gaps between first and the second will not deliver the finale we saw last year,” he said.

“But despite this … I believe that from a technical point of view it is important to understand how quickly certain performance gaps can be closed, and this is one of the points on which the regulations were based.

“We also need to see how much the performance of the cars was influenced by the regulations and how much was down to reliability or management. It needs a good analysis to understand what caused a big gap between the leaders and the rest.

“Because if we look at the ranking as a whole, we see that behind the leader there are tighter fights than in the past. I want to give a positive interpretation.

“I believe that in the next few years the regulations will lead to an even tighter reduction of the gap that currently exists between the leader and the rest.”

The technical regulations are forecast to remain largely stable at least until the new power unit rules are introduced in 2026.

TSUNODA MUST KEEP EMOTIONS IN CHECK

Franz Tost says Yuki Tsunoda must learn to better control his emotions if he wants to succeed in Formula 1.

Tsunoda started his sophomore campaign strongly but has lost momentum in the second part of the year, when a series of crashes and mistakes have marred his generally improved form.

Red Bull motorsport adviser Helmut Marko described him as a “problem child” earlier in the year and revealed he had hired a psychologist for the Japanese driver.

But the mistakes have continued, and in Monza Tsunoda became the first driver to serve a 10-place grid penalty for accruing five reprimands in a season, his last being driving with loose belts in the Dutch Grand Prix.

He subsequently added a three-place penalty to his punishment for ignoring yellow flags during Friday practice in Italy, which also earnt him two penalty points on his licence, putting him just four away from a race ban.

Photo by Peter Fox/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

Speaking in Italy, AlphaTauri principal Franz Tost said the barrier to Tsunoda fully establishing himself was emotional control.

“He has just to get under control his emotions and he must be more disciplined, because to ignore a yellow flag in FP2 is not clever.

“I understand that it‘s difficult in qualifying, maybe sometimes in the race, but in a free practice session you in any way have to accept yellow flags and have to react in the correct way, which means you have to slow down.”

Tsunoda’s pace has generally improved this year. Despite being 11 points down on teammate Pierre Gasly, the car has been good enough to finish in the top 10 at only half the races to date, making points comparisons difficult.

“His performance is increasing,” Tost said. “Look to the qualifying: in Zandvoort (P9), look to FP1 here in Monza (P8) — in the car he is doing a really good job.”

Tsunoda re-signed with the team for another year on Thursday, with the extension shaping as his last chance to make a mark on the sport. Gasly is increasingly tipped to leave the team next season, in which case Nyck de Vries would most likely partner the Japanese driver in 2023.