Nov.17 (GMM) A busy weekend lies ahead as Formula 1 rounds out the long and intense 2022 season in Abu Dhabi.
Haas looks set to kick off the intrigue by confirming the departure of Mick Schumacher – to be replaced by the 12-years older fellow German Nico Hulkenberg.
A press announcement has been scheduled for Thursday.
“It’s a great pity that Haas is ending its collaboration, although at least for Germany we will have Nico Hulkenberg,” said former F1 driver Timo Glock.
“The question is why Haas took so long – why was he put under so much pressure and why wasn’t Mick given the chance to look somewhere else,” he told Sky Deutschland.
“The way Haas dealt with this in the past few weeks and months is difficult for me to understand. They didn’t make it easier for Mick.”
According to Sport Bild, Mercedes could be 23-year-old Schumacher’s lifeline, beginning with the official reserve driver seat.
The German magazine said Toto Wolff has also secured Mercedes-Benz’s full support to promote Schumacher in another series, like Formula E, DTM or even Indycar.
Schumacher hinted that there are no hard feelings with Haas.
“Don’t stop believing in yourself and prove them wrong,” he said ahead of the Abu Dhabi GP.
“Other teams have brought upgrades to a lot of races and that’s different to our approach but I’m sure the team has been working hard on the new car for next year and I’m sure they’ll do a great job.
“It’s been a hell of a ride, I’ve enjoyed every single second of it and it’s been great to work with so many great people,” Schumacher added.
There had been speculation Daniel Ricciardo would take the reserve role at Mercedes for 2023, but Auto Motor und Sport thinks he has actually secured his return to Red Bull – as reserve driver and brand ambassador.
Another hot topic in Abu Dhabi will be the rumours about Mattia Binotto’s top job at Ferrari – just as new rumours emerge that Laurent Mekies and Inaki Rueda, who is the team’s strategy director, could also be facing the exit.
Frenchman Mekies, who deputises for Binotto in the team principal’s absence at grands prix, is linked with a move to Alfa Romeo – to replace Binotto’s potential successor Frederic Vasseur.
On the driver front, Dr Helmut Marko is happy with his latest recruit for the Red Bull junior program – Enzo Fittipaldi, the grandson of F1 legend Emerson.
“If he can perform well in Formula 2 next year, then he is the right man for us,” he told ORF.
“Brazil hasn’t had a winning driver for a while. It’s time to take care of that again. Maybe Fittipaldi is the right candidate.”
Finally, Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer put the brakes on Fernando Alonso’s enthusiasm about driving the “green car” in Abu Dhabi after this weekend’s race.
“I read that he wants to try the green car, and that is not far away – he will do it shortly,” he said, referring to Alonso’s move to Aston Martin.
“But he is a professional and the only thing he will try to do is score as many points as he can in Abu Dhabi. We wish him the best in the future, but not too much because he will try to beat us next year.”