Carrying the surname of one of the greatest Formula One drivers ever understandably brings huge pressure and expectation, but Mick Schumacher feels only pride.
The 21-year-old, son of seven-time world champion Michael, is gearing up for his first season in F1, exactly 30 years after his father made his debut at Spa in 1991.
Schumacher’s first race will be with the American Haas team at the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 28 and he understands the eyes of the motorsport world will be on him.
“I guess it’s mostly the expectation I have for myself,” Schumacher tells CNN’s Amanda Davies. “I’m wanting to obviously do well, but also it’s a big privilege for me to carry the surname Schumacher into Formula One again and obviously have it on my my car and be able to do my laps on track with it.”
Schumacher has been preparing for this moment almost all of his life.
From the age of two, he would race around his garden in go-karts and by the time he was 11, Schumacher knew he wanted to race professionally.
To allow his talents to flourish and avoid any unwanted media pressure, Schumacher initially raced under his mother’s maiden name – Betsch – as he rose through the ranks of the junior circuits in Europe.
“It gave me the possibility to basically race under the radar, if that makes sense,” he says. “So I was able to grow and do the steps that I needed with the time that I needed.
“So I could take my time, I didn’t have any rush, I didn’t have any media attention at the time, which obviously was very positive because I could just be a child and enjoy racing.”
It wasn’t until Schumacher reached Formula 4 that he decided to race under his father’s surname.
By that time, the media was well aware there was another Schumacher making waves on the junior circuits so he decided it was time to embrace the name and everything that came with it.
“It was the right time for me to get used to it,” he says. “We were getting into Formula cars and it’s not that long until I was making the steps up in the junior categories – and obviously with every junior category that I go up, the media attention was getting more.”
The same, but different
When Michael Schumacher was at the peak of his powers with Ferrari, Mick was too young to fully grasp exactly what his father meant to so many people around the world. To him, the F1 great was just his dad.
As he grew older, however, he began to see the value in all the lessons his dad gave him. Today, Schumacher sees many of his father’s traits in his own driving style and doesn’t shy away from the comparisons.
“I guess we’re probably different in a few ways, but we’re very similar in other ways,” he explains. “It’s very interesting to see how we how we do things on track. For me, when I compare myself [to him], it is very much in his prime, the peak of his career when he was racing with Ferrari and having all those world championships.
“But it’s also very good for me to compare myself to him when he started in Formula One … we just have to be able to compare in both phases I’d say – compare myself to the beginning, but also compared to the end of his career.
“You always have to measure yourself to the best today, but also to the best in the past and obviously my dad is the best and he’s always going to be the best. I feel privileged to be able to compare myself to him and see what steps he took over the years, but [also] what different choices he took and I learned from them.”
Despite his upbringing as the son of one of the greatest drivers of all time, it wasn’t always a given that Schumacher would reach motorsport’s elite level.
In 2019, he finished his first season in Formula Two in 12th place, 213 points behind the eventual champion despite driving for the best team in the championship.
Following a frank discussion with his PREMA Racing team principle Rene Rosin, his fortunes transformed and in 2020 he was crowned F2 champion, winning the title by 14 points.
Ferrari, the team with which Michael Schumacher became synonymous, has been crucial in aiding Mick’s development as a driver. The German is part of the Italian team’s prestigious Ferrari Driver Academy, signing up in 2019, and joins a list of alumni that includes Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi and the late Jules Bianchi.
Although his position in the sport may have looked somewhat precarious from the outside, Schumacher’s drive and work ethic meant he was always likely to succeed.
“Obviously you always have to have a basis of talent on any anything you do and I feel like through karting and through racing, you just learn to adapt to things very quickly,” he explains. “So I’m generally very easily learning new things, especially when it’s something about sports.
“I guess in our sport, if you love what you do and you have a bit of talent and you are willing to work for your dream, that’s all it takes in a way to be able to then put a lot of time on track. If you are willing to to work every day, every minute on yourself and dedicate life, basically, to the sport, then most likely [you] will do well – and that’s what I’m doing.”
Such was his love of driving growing up, Schumacher admits there was “never a plan B.” While the other kids at school dreamed of becoming astronauts or the president, his singular focus was on racing around a track.
In Bahrain later this month, his dream of becoming a Formula One driver like his father will be realized.
“I guess I will be a bit nervous, but nevertheless I think I’m very much prepared,” he says. “It’s going to be very fun. I think it’s going to be a hell of a ride.”