Gunther Steiner isn’t expecting too much awkwardness when he bumps into Mick Schumacher in the F1 paddock this year.
After months of tension and internal criticism of the young German driver in 2022, the Haas boss ultimately decided to oust Schumacher in favour of returning veteran Nico Hulkenberg.
“There’s a reason why we took Nico,” Steiner told Auto Motor und Sport. “It’s not because we love him. There’s a performance reason.”
However, Steiner admits Schumacher, 23, “improved a lot” in his second season in Formula 1 last year.
The bigger factor, he says, was experience – as Steiner insisted that Haas needs Hulkenberg’s “seven, eight, ten years” in F1 to “take the team forward”.
But the tension with Schumacher also became overwhelming, especially as the German’s uncle Ralf Schumacher constantly weighed into the situation with criticism of how Steiner was handling it.
Steiner admits he got “frustrated” with Schumacher over two especially expensive crashes in Saudi Arabia and Monaco.
“With two write-offs, you get frustrated. And sometimes you make statements that you don’t really think about,” said Steiner. “I know myself.
“The name Schumacher is both a curse and a blessing. And everyone believes they have the right to a say. But I say that if you don’t contribute financially or otherwise, but you just have an opinion, then you don’t have any risk.
“I always have an opinion when I watch football about who should go where,” he added. “But my opinion doesn’t count.”
However, he said he will feel “completely relaxed” when he bumps into Schumacher in 2023, as the German now serves as Mercedes and McLaren’s official reserve.
Steiner describes it as a “failed marriage”.
“My relationship with Mick was better in the second half of the season than the year and a half before that,” he said. “I think we can look each other in the eye without any problems.”
Steiner also thinks the young German made a good move by signing up with Mercedes.
“I don’t know the contract, how much he drives in the simulator, how much he tests,” he said. “But it’s not a bad decision.
“I think it gives him the opportunity to be present in Formula 1. You know how F1 is: if you aren’t here, you are quickly forgotten and it stays that way.”