Mick Schumacher’s WEC half-time report with Alpine: calling card for Formula 1 return

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the World Endurance Championship has not only experienced its highlight of the year, but also concluded the first half of the 2024 WEC season. After the season opener in Qatar, Imola, Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans, four more races await in Sao Paulo (July 14), Austin (September 1), Fuji (September 15) and Bahrain (November 2).

Time for an interim conclusion to Mick Schumacher’s first and possibly last season on the endurance track. The 25-year-old, who will soon be able to test an Alpine Formula 1 car for the first time and is looking for a way back to F1, celebrated his racing debut in the Hypercar class with the French car manufacturer. Alpine is making its debut this year with the 680 hp LMDh car called the A424, developed according to IMSA regulations.

Mick Schumacher and Co. still without World Championship points

Looking at the pure points yield, Schumacher and his endurance-experienced teammates Nicolas Lapierre and Matthieu Vaxiviere cannot be satisfied: The trio in the Alpine with starting number #36 has not yet scored a single World Championship point. This means they share the ‘red lantern’ with the #15 WRT-BMW (Vanthoor/Marciello/Wittmann), the #94 Peugeot 9X8 (Vandoorne/Di Resta/Duval) and the only entry from Isotta Fraschini.

Experts had predicted a difficult debut season for Alpine with its two brand new LMDh cars. In the circle of eight hypercar manufacturers around the newly crowned Le Mans winners from Ferrari, world championship leaders Porsche, Toyota and Cadillac, the newcomers Alpine, Lamborghini and WEC debutant BMW do not have an easy job. The fact that technology is also an issue was shown by Alpine’s premature retirements at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as a result of engine failure.

Retirement #36 Alpine with Mick Schumacher, Lapierre, Vaxiviere
Complete failure for Alpine at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Photo: Alpine

Alpine best newcomer in the WEC

But things can also go differently, as the crew of the second Alpine A424 with the starting number #35 has shown: Although regular driver Ferdinand Habsburg had to be replaced by Jules Gounon due to injury, the #35 car has so far scored eleven World Championship points. Charles Milesi and Paul-Loup Chatin are in 15th place in the table, 88 points behind the Porsche trio Andre Lotterer/Laurens Vanthoor/Kevin Estre.

In the In the manufacturers’ rankings, Alpine ranks fourth as the best WEC newcomer behind Porsche, Ferrari and Toyota. Schumacher, Lapierre and Vaxiviere narrowly missed out on contributing points themselves on several occasions: In Qatar, the #36 Alpine finished eleventh, and in Spa, P12 was just two positions away from scoring points. Only in Imola (P15 and P17) and most recently in Le Mans (double DNF) did both Alpine crews come away empty-handed.

In qualifying, the #35 Alpine has had the upper hand on average, although Schumacher was only allowed to chase times in Spa and achieved the best result of the #36 trio to date with 11th place on the grid. A stationary wheel and the resulting slight brake flats may have prevented the fastest eight from making it into the Hyperpole qualifying for the first time. The sister car has already managed this feat twice in the field of 19 Hypercars (23 in Le Mans).

Mick Schumacher under special observation

Schumacher is one of the few German hypercar drivers and is under special observation in this country because of his famous surname. This has not changed in team sports on the long distance, although it is more difficult to filter out individual performances than in formula racing. After four of the eight WEC races of the season, the bottom line is that Schumacher is doing remarkably well in his first year on the long distance in a format that was previously unknown to him.

At the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Schumacher drove two stints and completed 33 of the 88 laps in the #36 Alpine. His best time (3:30.577 minutes, top speed 340.19 km/h) was once again the fastest of all six Alpine drivers. On average, he was around half a second faster than his experienced team-mate Lapierre. As the only driver in the sextet, Schumacher only knew the 13.626-kilometer Circuit de la Sarthe from previous training sessions and an official test day.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Schumacher said earlier in Spa in an interview with Motorsport-Magazin.com“I want to be the fastest, that is my goal.” He was particularly looking forward to the 24 Hours of Le Mans during our conversation in Belgium, “because this is the only track that I don’t know yet. I can see how fast my teammates are on a track that they know, and how quickly I can get used to this new situation.”

At the WEC season opener in Qatar at the beginning of March, Schumacher achieved the fastest lap time of the Alpine sextet. And on the Formula 1 circuit in Spa-Francorchamps, the racing driver’s son was among the top 15 fastest drivers in the field of 48 hypercar drivers with his average lap times. Schumacher, who had previously only driven formula cars, had no problems adjusting from the start.

WEC, Spa-Francorchamps, #36, Alpine, Mick Schumacher, Lapierre, Vaxiviere
Mick Schumacher with his teammates Matthieu Vaxiviere and Nicolas Lapierre, Photo: Alpine

“Schumacher came into endurance racing with the necessary humility”

“He came into endurance racing with an open mind and the necessary humility,” said Alpine-Signatech team boss Philippe Sinault when asked by Motorsport-Magazin.com in Le Mans. “Nicolas and Matthieu support him – and Mick is a good student. His level is pretty impressive today.” Similar praise was also given in recent weeks by Bruno Famin, who is responsible for Alpine’s Formula 1 and WEC programs.

Schumacher does not necessarily describe the LMDh racing car with a standardized hybrid system on the rear axle as a driving challenge. “That would probably be going too far,” he said confidently. “I see it as a different challenge in the sense that I have to get used to something new as a driver. So far it has worked well.” His impression of the hypercars after two years in Formula 1 summed up: too little downforce, too much weight.

WEC, Spa-Francorchamps, #36, Alpine, Mick Schumacher, Lapierre, Vaxiviere
Fan magnet in the WEC: Alpine driver Mick Schumacher, Photo: Alpine

Schumacher aims to return to Formula 1

The bigger challenge was dealing with mixed traffic and cars travelling at very different speeds. At the first race in Qatar, things got tight between Schumacher and a Ford Mustang GT3, but after that he was no longer noticeable in this respect. At Le Mans, where the LMP2 returned to the starting field for the first time and it could sometimes get tight with 62 cars on the track, he didn’t let anything happen to him in his stints.

With his performances so far, Schumacher could quickly become one of the stars of endurance racing, but there is one small catch: Mick absolutely wants to return to Formula 1. Schumacher clearly sees the year in the WEC as a transition year in order to maintain his racing sharpness, continue to learn and be able to present himself on the international stage – not least at Alpine. If that doesn’t work out, most hypercar teams would probably welcome him with open arms.

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