Motor racing: Mick Schumacher to take on Ferrari F1 reserve role


FILE PHOTO: Formula One F1 - Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - December 9, 2021 Haas' Mick Schumacher arrives ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

(Reuters) - Mick Schumacher, the son of seven-times Formula One world champion Michael, will double up as a Ferrari reserve driver next season while also having a regular race seat at U.S.-owned Haas.

Team boss Mattia Binotto told reporters that the 22-year-old German would be available to stand in at 11 of the record 23 scheduled races should Charles Leclerc or Carlos Sainz be unavailable.

Italian Antonio Giovinazzi, who lost his place at Swiss-based Alfa Romeo this year but has secured a drive in Formula E, will be reserve for the 12 races that do not clash with the electric series.

"Whenever he (Giovinazzi) will be at the race track he will be our reserve driver. And as well he will be available to our customer teams, so both Haas and Alfa Romeo," said Binotto.

"For the remaining 11 races... Mick Schumacher will be reserve driver for Ferrari."

Haas have their own official reserve in Brazilian Pietro Fittipaldi, who stepped in twice in 2020 after Romain Grosjean's fiery accident. Alfa Romeo also have Poland's Robert Kubica in the role.

Ferrari-backed Schumacher made his Formula One debut this season, outperforming fellow-rookie Nikita Mazepin but neither scoring a point for a tail-end team devoting all their resources to the 2022 car.

Binotto said Mick had improved through the season, in consistency and speed, and Ferrari's support would continue with the simulator available at Maranello and Ferrari engineers working with him.

"If I look at the last races he was a lot closer to the cars ahead while Haas didn’t really develop the car at all," said the Ferrari boss.

Binotto said Giovinazzi would have a full programme of simulator work and suggested the Italian had a chance of returning to the starting grid full time in 2023.

"There are I think 11 seats which will be free in 2023... 11 have contracts finishing at the end of 2022. So it is important for him as a driver to still be part of our F1 programme," he said.

Binotto said talks would start soon on a contract extension with Spaniard Sainz, who had a strong season with Ferrari after moving from McLaren, and he expected the discussion to be uncomplicated. Leclerc has a long-term contract.

The as-yet unnamed 2022 Ferrari car was going to plan and due to be launched between Feb 16-18.

Ferrari finished third overall in 2021, a big jump from sixth the previous season, and Binotto said the team were stronger than before.

They are currently without a title sponsor but Binotto said talks were continuing with long-time partner Philip Morris International (PMI).

"I think there are many opportunities on which we may cooperate with them, keeping them as partners. We have various options on the table at the moment and we are still talking with them," he said.

Binotto hoped to see Ferrari winning races again next year after a blank in 2021, and moving closer to Mercedes and Red Bull.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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