F1's next stars? Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott and an Eifel GP audition
As Schumacher and Ilott get set to make their F1 practice debuts for Alfa Romeo and Haas this weekend, Sky F1's Mark Hughes analyses their junior careers so far and if they could make the 2021 step-up
Last Updated: 07/10/20 11:43am
Fresh from their battle for the F2 title, Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott get their Friday F1 opportunities at the Nurburgring this weekend with Alfa Romeo and Haas respectively.
The two Ferrari junior drivers, both 21 years old, can be considered as potential F1 candidates for those teams next year and it will be fascinating to monitor their performances on Friday in FP1 when Schumacher will drive Antonio Giovinazzi's C39 and Ilott the VF20 normally piloted by Romain Grosjean.
Schumacher made a generally favourable impression in Bahrain last year when he tested for both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo just days after making his F2 debut there. He did this as reigning European F3 champion and his F2 form over the 2019 and '20 seasons has followed a remarkably similar path to that in F3: indifferent in his first year and the beginning of his second, but then something seemingly clicks in the second half of the second season and he becomes a regular winner.
He became the dominant force in the latter half of his second season in F3, winning five consecutive races to take the title. Since the breakthrough of F2 victory in Monza this year, he's become a consistent race winner and currently leads the championship, albeit narrowly - from Ilott.
The focus is naturally more upon Schumacher, as the son of Michael making his first appearance in a grand prix weekend at the Nurburgring. But there's very little to choose between them in performance to date.
Ilott has won two feature races and a sprint race. Schumacher has won two feature races and is the current man in form, having won the main race at Sochi. It's taken time for his race craft to have matched his qualifying pace, but he's recently been much more composed wheel-to-wheel than in his early-season races. He is one of those drivers who just keeps improving, without making the sort of instant impact upon the scene that his father did.
Ilott marked himself out as a driver of big potential right from his karting days but has had a chequered career on the junior car racing slopes. He was dropped - like many others - from the Red Bull junior driver scheme, but was picked up by Ferrari a year later, since which time he has been a championship contender in both the F3 and GP3 championships but without ever quite winning a title.
Like Schumacher, he's in his second season of F2 and has tested an Alfa Romeo F1 car - at Barcelona last year. He can be super-quick and is personable and confident and although his consistency is a little lacking he has the sort of approach and confidence that just might flower spectacularly in F1.
Regardless of the outcome of the F2 championship, Schumacher is understood to already be in strong contention for a seat at Alfa for next year. But for Ilott, things seem less clear cut. A strong showing in the Haas combined with a title win in F2 might just swing it though, and convince Ferrari to also find a 2021 F1 seat for him.