Mick Schumacher: The Ferrari academy graduates who made it to F1
We take a look at the drivers who made it from the Ferrari Driver Academy to the F1 grid after Mick Schumacher joined Haas.
When the lights go out at Albert Park on 21 March next year, Mick Schumacher's Formula One career will begin in earnest. The first race of 2021 will take place nine years after his legendary father Michael retired and 21 years and 364 days on from the seven-time champion debuting in the sport. But it is not just because of his name that Schumacher has got his break in F1 with Haas.
The 21-year-old won the Formula Three title in 2018, joined the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2019 and is on course to win the drivers' championship in Formula Two – he sits 14 points clear at the top of the standings with one round remaining. He will hope to emulate his father's success at the Australian Grand Prix - a race he won a record four times - and outperform Romain Grosjean, who produced the best debut for Haas when he placed sixth in Melbourne in 2017.
Ahead of Schumacher's graduation to F1, we look at how other drivers from the Scuderia's academy fared in the series.
Bianchi was the first recruit to the programme in 2009, signing up to a long-term deal with the Italian giants after impressing during a young drivers test in Jerez. The Frenchman was made Ferrari test driver in 2010, replacing a trio of veterans in the position with Giancarlo Fisichella, Luca Badoer and Marc Gené having previously fulfilled that function.
After driving in practice sessions for Force India in 2012, Bianchi landed his first F1 seat in 2013, driving for Marussia, and steered the struggling team to a top-10 finish at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix. Bianchi was tragically killed at the Japanese Grand Prix later that year when his car collided with a recovery vehicle.
Pérez was part of the academy at the same time as Bianchi and is now one of the most experienced drivers on the F1 grid, though his chances of securing a drive in 2021 appear minimal. The Mexican was given a seat with Sauber only a year into his time with Ferrari and was released from the programme in 2012 after being snapped up by McLaren for the 2013 campaign. He is in his seventh consecutive season with Racing Point, formerly known as Force India, and boasts nine podium finishes from his 189 starts. No one on the 2020 grid has started more races without picking up a victory.
Pérez's team-mate at Racing Point is another academy graduate in the form of Stroll. Stroll was only 11 years old when he joined the programme in 2010 - the same year as Pérez - and Williams spotted his potential when they took him on board as a test driver for 2016. The Canadian won the F3 European Championship that year and was promoted to a race seat with Williams for the following campaign. Stroll was unable to take a great chance to claim his first F1 win in Turkey after securing a maiden pole, but he will hope for more opportunities when Racing Point become the Aston Martin works team and he is joined by Sebastian Vettel in 2021.
Giovinazzi contested the first two races of 2017 for Sauber in the absence of the injured Pascal Wehrlein, but the seat the seat became his in 2019 and he could not have asked for better mentor to drive alongside, with Kimi Raikkonen - drivers' champion with Ferrari in 2007 - having returned to the team. However, Giovinazzi struggled to 17th in the drivers' standings with Alfa Romeo and failed to build on a fifth-placed finish in the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, collecting just four points in a 2020 campaign that failed to convince Ferrari he was a suitable candidate to replace Vettel in 2021.
Leclerc is the example all young drivers in Ferrari's academy can aspire to, and proof that the system works. The Monegasque driver tested for Haas and Sauber in his first two years on the programme and, after an impressive 10 top-10 finishes for the latter in his first full season on the grid, he was chosen by Ferrari to succeed Raikkonen. That put Leclerc in a competitive car for 2019 despite only having a year of senior F1 experience under his belt and he delivered emphatically. He finished above team-mate Vettel in the drivers' championship as he won two races and racked up seven pole positions, more than any other driver. He was rewarded with a new five-year contract and, despite a disappointing 2020 campaign for the Scuderia, will be their number one driver next season. It is a path that Schumacher will no doubt be eager to follow.
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