Formula 1 stars in the ejection seat: These drivers fear for their cockpit

New rules, new cars, new races – and still no closed season! Although only seven races of the 2022 Formula 1 season have been completed, some drivers are already fighting for their jobs. For some pilots, the situation is hopeless. Others stagger but are far from knocked out! takes a close look at four drivers who have to worry about their future in the premier class.

  • Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren/contract until the end of 2023)

Ricciardo’s season so far has been a disaster. The Australian is at loggerheads with the MCL36. The car doesn’t do what Ricciardo would like, especially in slow corners. And so the 32-year-old loses time on the competition on every route.

The comparison to your own teammates is particularly devastating. Lando Norris has so far scored 82 percent of all McLaren points and is on average six (!) tenths faster per lap in qualifying. Hardly any other team has a greater performance gap.

At the same time, the Australian is handsomely rewarded for his services. He should collect around 15 million euros per season. Measured by his results, he is currently the “most overpaid” driver in the premier class. The fact that he was nailed to the wall by his own team leadership says a lot about what’s going on behind the scenes. The message from Zak Brown and Co. is clear: Things can’t go on like this.

But how can it go on? The contractual relationship between Ricciardo and McLaren is nebulous. His working paper runs until the end of the 2023 season. Nobody knows exactly which side has the right to terminate the contract prematurely. “The Race” recently reported that the “Honeybadger” has the authority here, not the team. That doesn’t make things any easier for the racing team.

If Ricciardo does not improve significantly in the next few races, McLaren will force the separation after the season. The driver exchange Gasly for Ricciardo has allegedly already been discussed. In order for such a deal to go through, a lot has to fit.

  • Nicholas Latifi (Williams/contract until the end of 2022)

In five of seven qualifying sessions, Latifi was the slowest driver in the field, his best result of the season was 14th place in Miami, which he only got because a quarter of all drivers retired. The interim conclusion is devastating: the Canadian is the personified red lantern of Formula 1.

But Latifi isn’t just slow. The 26-year-old also regularly incurs additional costs because he either drives his FW44 into some walls or into other cars. In Saudi Arabia he managed the feat of crashing twice within 24 hours. In Melbourne he collided with Lance Stroll in qualifying (!) and produced another total write-off.

Without the millions of sponsors, the 26-year-old would no longer be a Formula 1 driver. It’s an open secret in the paddock. The money will not save Latifi after the end of the season. His time in the premier class is running out – and he is largely responsible for that himself.

  • Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo/contract until the end of 2022)

How the first Chinese driver in Formula 1 history will continue is still in the stars. It is known that Alfa did not primarily choose Zhou for sporting reasons, but for economic reasons. The racing team was happy to take this hype with them. But at some point Fred Vasseur and Co. have to think about how to proceed.

Zhou also ended up in the wall

On the track, the rookie leaves a mediocre impression at best. The 23-year-old fails to get the best out of the C42. The comparison with Valtteri Bottas is not fair, but the Chinese have to face it. The main concern is the development: After a very good start to the season with places 10, 11 and 11, things went downhill rapidly in the last few races (15th, retirement, retirement, 16th)

Whether Zhou still gets the curve seems irrelevant, because according to the English media, Alfa has already made its decision and will kick the Chinese out again after just one season. The racing team would thus pave the way for homegrown Theo Pouchaire to enter Formula 1. The 18-year-old is the big promise for the future and should be in the Alfa sooner rather than later.

  • Mick Schumacher (Haas/contract until the end of 2022)

Schumacher himself has complicated his situation in recent weeks. His accidents have puzzled the team leadership and drained the internal account by more than two million US dollars. It wasn’t planned that way. He himself and Günther Steiner are responsible for the fact that the reports about his replacement at the end of the season have increased with their public criticism.

What makes things so special for Mick and Haas: Ferrari has a say. Only those responsible know whether the Scuderia can therefore force the racing team to keep Schumacher against the will of owner Gene Haas and team boss Steiner. The reds are in a quandary here, because they cannot easily offer their own junior another cockpit – as of today there is none. Does it soon mean for Mick: Haas or nothing?

Although this scenario is on the table, a temporary Formula 1 exit from Schumacher is unlikely. At least that’s what uncle Ralf believes, who says: “The team bosses see exactly what potential there is. And there are probably other options too [als Haas].”

The simplest and best solution for Mick Schumacher is obvious: the 23-year-old buries the error devil and finally shows what he can do. Then the rumors will also quickly disappear. Until then, however, it is still a difficult road.

Christian Schenzel

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