MANAMA, Bahrain -- Mick Schumacher made his Formula One debut during a test in Bahrain on Tuesday, driving for the Ferrari team that took his father Michael to the five of his seven world titles.
Schumacher was the centre of attention as he completed his first 56 laps at the wheel of an F1 car, while Red Bull's Max Verstappen clocked the fastest time of the day. The Ferrari Driver Academy is evaluating Schumacher as an F1 prospect for the future and the 20-year-old is due to drive for Alfa Romeo in the second day of the test on Wednesday.
The morning session got underway with a scrum of photographers outside the Ferrari garage, while Schumacher's mother, Corinna, watched her son's early progress from the pit wall. Some of the Ferrari mechanics had worked on his father's car during the height of Ferrari's dominance in the early-2000s and seeing the family name back on the side of the car was an evocative image.
Unfortunately, for Schumacher the desert circuit was hit by a rare downpour just after midday, resulting in a four-hour delay as dust and rain water combined to make for treacherous track conditions. Cars returned to the circuit with roughly 90 minutes of the session remaining and, with the track drying rapidly, Schumacher started to light up the timing screens.
"Every single time I went out, I learned something new, I learned something new about how to drive the car, about the feeling I had in the car, the feeling I was looking for in the car really," he said. "And I think we managed really well, thanks to the guys that explained it to me in the right way and managed to bring me that information that I needed. I think the harmony in the team was very good, and it worked well."
He was the first driver to dip under the 1:30 mark, with a 1:29.976 as he traded quick laps with Verstappen. The pair, who went on family holidays together in their youth, were closely matched on the timesheets, but Schumacher was using the softest, grippiest tyres in Pirelli's range while Verstappen used a used set of tyres that were two steps harder. On his final run, Verstappen set a 1:29.379, beating Schumacher's best effort by 0.597s despite the slower tyres on his Red Bull.
"Obviously Max has a lot of experience," Schumacher said. "Comparing to him, I think we can be very happy. We did our job, and at the end I was very happy about how I felt in the car and how confident I was. I think it was a very good day."
But comparisons are not really fair in testing and Schumacher's commitment around the lap on his first day in an F1 car still impressed. He finished the session second fastest ahead of McLaren's Lando Norris in third, with Romain Grosjean fourth fastest in the Haas.
Schumacher's presence somewhat eclipsed the return of Fernando Alonso in a second McLaren car being used for Pirelli tyre testing this week. It was Alonso's first time in a contemporary F1 car since his farewell race in Abu Dhabi last November, and he completed 50 laps in total. He will return to the car for another half day of tyre testing on Wednesday.
Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, who famously dislikes testing, set the sixth fastest time as he worked through a series of test programmes over 71 laps in his Mercedes. McLaren, Haas and Williams all split their running between two drivers, while Toro Rosso also ran a second car as part of Pirelli's tyre testing.
Times at close
1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull, 1:29.379, 69 laps (C3)
2. Mick Schumacher, Ferrari, 1:29.976, 56 laps (C5)
3. Lando Norris, McLaren, 1:30.800, 22 laps (C3)
4. Romain Grosjean, Haas, 1:30.982, 42 laps (C3)
5. Alexander Albon, Toro Rosso, 1:31.089, 71 laps (C3)
6. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1:31.156, 77 laps (C3)
7. Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, 1:31.584, 45 laps (C4)
8. Lance Stroll, Racing Point, 1:31.964, 32 laps (C3)
9. Carlos Sainz, McLaren, 1:32.059, 32 laps (C2)
10. Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, 1:32.067, 53 laps (C3)
11. Pietro Fittipaldi, Haas, 1:32.708, 20 laps (C3)
12. Robert Kubica, Williams, 1:33.290, 19 laps (C3)
13. George Russell, Williams, 1:33.682, 27 laps (C3)
(Tyre compound in brackets, C1 to C5 -- hardest to softest)