This morning Haas announced that both Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will continue to drive for the team in 2022. The announcement was supposed to be made public in Monza, but it was delayed because the Formula 2 Champion’s contract was yet to be signed.
“I didn't see any issues, but it wasn't signed. So I would not go out there and say, it's all done until it's done. That is because Mick has got a long-term agreement with Ferrari, which I don't know the details of. They had to figure some things out and that’s what took some time. But all in all, I always knew it was going in the right direction,” explained Steiner in a session with written media including MotorLat.
It was only a matter of time, as the team was set on confirming both drivers, in fact the Team Principal assured they “never spoke with any other driver.”
Meanwhile back at the factory development for the 2022 car is underway.
Hence, for the young drivers “the target for this year is obviously to learn as much as possible, so that next year they are prepared,” he said.
“That is what they have to do for the remaining eight, eight race weekends to do as much running as possible and to learn about all the race tracks and all the processes and to how to set the car up.”
As “for the performance of the car, we just have to wait for next year when we go testing and the first races to see where we are.”
But is Steiner convinced the rookie pairing is fit to give a helping hand in the development process?
“I would say yes. I mean, they both are learning a lot,” he commented.
“When you start and therefore you think, you know everything, but ten races later you actually realize how little you knew when you started. And that will still go on for a while you know, with young drivers like this.”
“There will be a few years of learning, but I think they're now in a good position.”
The aim for Haas is “to have drivers that stay more than one year because it takes a long time to get used to this especially when you are a rookie. So I think we are in a decent place next year with the drivers.”
Evaluating progress appears quite difficult as of now, given that the team has “no reference.”
“The reference is missing and that's just an experienced driver. I don't know exactly how we're going to do it. There is more than one way to do these things, and we talked a little bit about it, but didn't really do anything,” explained Steiner.
“You can see a lot from data, how much they improved and stuff like this. You can get a lot of information.”
“When we get there, they will find a solution also for that, if we need to [measure the progress of the car]. And I'm not sure that we need to,” he concluded.
“I just hope that our car is stable enough, that they can get everything out as much as possible. The back of the car is for them to develop, because it steadies the car and that makes you go quicker because it gives you comfort.”
Asked whether it could be beneficial for them to sign an experienced reserve driver, Steiner seemed very doubtful that it could turn out to be that useful after all.
“Obviously if you take on a reserve or a reference driver that would take them out of the car for testing and testing is not a lot these days,” he said.
“There is pros and cons to everything and I think we have to get to that point at some stage that we discuss, in Germany with the engineers, what is best for the team.”
“There is a lot of these ideas floating around, but we haven't taken a decision and hopefully we don't need to do this because that's also not good. If you put somebody in just to give you a reference and then they lose time to drive it, you know? So it's very difficult a decision to take.”
A decision they have no intention of evaluating before the end of the current season, as at the moment the focus is fully on giving Mazepin and Schumacher the chance to gain “as much experience as possible.”
And to do that Steiner believes they should be left their own space to try, make mistakes and learn.
“Sometimes you need to let them get there themselves. If you try to force or guide them too much, they don't believe you and they want to go their own way. And then you achieve the opposite, because they see it as criticism,” he said.
“So sometimes that is what gaining experiences is: making mistakes, learning out of them and getting better.”
“You can hold their hand, but you cannot push them in that direction, because that doesn't go well with the sport because out there they are on their own, you know, you cannot do anything they have to drive themselves. And if they are not confident with the decision they've made, they will not be fast.”