Mick Schumacher appears set to be ousted from the Haas team, and therefore the Formula 1 grid, at the end of the season.
The 23-year-old German was warned by low-profile team owner Gene Haas before Austin that only a string of points finishes would be enough to secure another contract.
Schumacher looked to be on track for points in the US GP until he ultimately tumbled down the order complaining of car damage and perhaps also a bad strategy call by the team.
“I had the feeling that I could have stayed out,” he said of the race strategy.
Team boss Gunther Steiner was asked by Bild newspaper if Haas was to blame for Schumacher’s poor result in Austin and he did “not want to comment”.
Team owner Gene Haas, however, was prepared to comment.
“When Mick and Kevin came in they both got the same tyres,” he told the German newspaper.
“When Mick came out again, he was in a group of cars and stayed there, while Magnussen fell backwards to save his tyres while Mick used them up.
“Magnussen was able to do 37 laps on a medium which nobody else was able to do, which is how he managed to get a few points in the end.”
Former F1 driver Timo Glock said Schumacher’s post-race body language was the clearest sign yet that Haas does not intend to re-sign him for 2023.
“The hurdle is very high for him at the moment,” he said. “Not because he doesn’t perform well, but because Haas has different ideas internally.
“I’m not sure to what extent a decision may have already been made, but if you read between the lines you can maybe see what Haas is going to do.”
Another former driver, Christian Danner, agrees.
“The question is whether the train has already left the station, and if you analyse all the nuances, you realise that they probably want to get rid of him,” he told Sport1.
Ralf Schumacher admits that his brother Michael’s son is facing an uphill struggle at Haas, but he also urges the team’s bosses to think deeply about their decision.
“Mick has done everything he has to do to continue driving for Haas in 2023,” he told Sky Deutschland.
“If Gene Haas and Gunther Steiner think about it properly they will also realise that there is no alternative to Mick.
“Ricciardo won’t be there and Nico Hulkenberg is more likely to be on his way towards retirement than really tearing up the tracks again,” Schumacher added.