SCHUMACHER, SHWARTZMAN OR ILOTT: WHO MOVES FIRST?
F2 is full of amazing talent, but Formula 1 seats require the best - and there’s only 20 of them.
According to Mattia Binotto (Ferrari Team Principal) Formula 1 is “the next logical step” for Mick Schumacher, son of the legend with the same surname. Speaking to Bild Am Sonntag, the Italian said that “We'll soon discuss what we're going to do with him next year."
Schumacher is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, one of many junior driver programmes operated by Formula 1 teams to coach and fund young talent. Whilst Ferrari themselves have no seats currently available - Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are both contracted until at least 2022 - Ferrari have a relationship with Alfa Romeo ORLEN, whom it supplies engines to. Alfa Romeo, formerly Sauber, serve as an un=official sister team, meaning it’s likely a Formula 2 driver in the Ferrari Academy will be promoted to this seat first. Such was the way that Charles Leclerc, the 22-year-old F1 superstar, got his first F1 seat.
With Kimi Raikkonen expected to retire at the end of this season (or next at the latest), an Alfa Romeo seat will soon be available. Plenty of people also believe that Antonio Giovinazzi, who currently occupies the team’s other seat, will soon be replaced if he continues to provide disappointing performances - Giovinazzi finished 17th in 2019, equal to Marcus Ericsson’s performance a year prior. Considering Ericsson wasn’t retained for the 2019 season due to his results, it’s fair to say that there’s plenty of opportunity for young Ferrari academy drivers.
Schumacher isn’t the only junior driver that Ferrari is looking to promote to Formula 1, though. The Ferrari Driver Academy includes four current Formula 2 drivers: Marcus Armstrong, Callum Ilott, Robert Shwartzman, and Schumacher. All of them are impressing this season, and the F2 title fight itself seems to be between Ilott, Shwartzman and Schumacher; Ferrari is spoilt for choice in who to promote. Mattia Binotto’s comments suggest that Schumacher is the lead contender, and the Prema driver is certainly impressive. However, his teammate Shwartzman seems to be performing much better in the 2020 F2 Championship than the German: Shwartzman is 2nd in the driver standings to Schumacher’s 5th, and the Russian has 2 feature race wins - Schumacher has none. If this Formula 2 season is a test, Shwartzman’s winning.
The Prema drivers aren’t the only F2 drivers in contention for an Alfa Romeo seat, though. Callum Ilott is also a Ferrari Driver Academy member, and is currently championship leader - and without some awful safety car-related luck, he’d be dominating even more. Somehow, the Brit was perhaps an underdog at the start of the season, perhaps because he hasn’t won a Formula 3 championship, unlike the Prema drivers. His talent is certainly showing this year, though. His win record equals that of Shwartzman, but he’s dominated plenty more. Schumacher and Shwartzman might be top contenders but don’t rule Ilott out.
The most logical solution seems to be to promote the championship winner to the hypothetical Alfa Romeo seat, and therefore we should be expecting to see Shwartzman or Ilott as an F1 rookie next year. If there’s anything we know about Ferrari this year, though, it’s that they don’t always choose the logical option - see, the SF100. Mattia Binotto doesn’t technically choose Alfa Romeo drivers, so his comments about Schumacher aren’t definite. You also have to consider other drivers, such as Hulkenburg and Perez, who’ll both probably be fighting for a Formula 1 seat next year.
It’s obvious that Schumacher, Shwartzman and Ilott are all amazing talents, and we can expect to see them all in the top league in the near future. Opportunities aren’t infinite, though, and all three will be desperate to get into an F1 seat. I suppose it’s down to this Formula 2 season to prove who deserves it most.
One driver is definitely ruled out though - Jack Aitken. I asked him who he thought would get the seat, and his reply?