As was the case with Nyck de Vries, Schumacher will also be on reserve duty for Mercedes, McLaren and possibly Williams.
Wolff is already trying to use his connections with James Vowles to get Schumacher through the door at Williams in 2024 should Logan Sargeant fail to improve on his difficult start to the season.
Unfortunately for Schumacher, as the weeks pass and the season progresses, another force is emerging that could put an end to his hopes of an F1 return.
That force is Frederik Vesti.
Who is Frederik Vesti?
Frederik Vesti is the talk of the F2 paddock at the moment after establishing himself as a surprise title contender in 2023, but the Danish driver hasn't been a household name for long.
The 21-year-old Dane is a product of the Mercedes Junior Team and has been financially backed by the Silver Arrows since 2021.
Vesti made waves in the early stages of his career, winning the Formula Regional European Championship title in his rookie season before recording back-to-back P4 finishes in the F3 standings.
Vesti made the step up to F2 last season and established himself as a noteworthy talent capable of taking wins on his day. The Dane ended his rookie F2 campaign in ninth place in the standings.
Heading into his sophomore year in F2 though, few had Vesti down as a likely title contender.
Much of the focus leading into the year was on the likes of Theo Pourchaire, Jack Doohan and Ayumu Iwasa, but after six rounds of the season, Vesti is the name on everyone's lips.
Vesti's season to date has notable parallels with the championship-winning season of the 2022 F2 title winner, Felipe Drugovich.
The 21-year-old is currently displaying the same perfect balance of pace, discipline and consistency that allowed Drugovich to romp to the title last time around.
After leaving the season opener in Bahrain with no points to his name, Vesti clicked into a rhythm.
In the following five weekends, he claimed two feature race wins, one sprint race victory, and at least 14 points at every round. The Dane now leads Pourchaire by 11 points as we head to Spielberg.
The threat to Mick
Unfortunately for Schumacher, with seats on the grid at a premium, his chances of an F1 return were already looking slim, but with Vesti in the mix, his chances get even slimmer.
With Mercedes' backing, it was likely that Schumacher would have been at the top of Williams' list for 2024 or 2025, should Sargeant fail to improve.
However, with so few seats on offer and competition for places on the grid stiffer than ever, it will be impossible for Toto Wolff and Mercedes to push more than one driver over the next season or two.
That leaves Schumacher in direct competition with Vesti, and given the Dane's history as a Mercedes junior driver, and his much younger age profile, there is a strong chance that Mercedes will back Vesti should he deliver the F2 title.
It is also fair to question the desire of any of F1's backmarker teams to take Schumacher on board beyond the 2023 season.
The German driver was a realistic option and a serious contender for the Williams seat in 2023, but the team opted to bring Logan Sargeant through the door instead, while other teams also passed up the opportunity to sign the 24-year-old.
Vesti's arrival on the scene may just blow out the final link Schumacher has to the current crop of F1 teams.
2026 - Last chance saloon
That is not to say that there is no hope for Schumacher's F1 career moving forward, though.
German manufacturer Audi will step onto the F1 grid in 2026 in a works partnership with Sauber, and given Schumacher's domestic connections, he will be in the conversation for that seat.
Even more helpful for Schumacher's cause is the fact that neither Valtteri Bottas nor Zhou Guanyu is in a position to command a long-term deal with the team, and their renewals for the Audi project in 2026 will go down to the wire.
Sauber's junior program is also quite thin in terms of F1-level talent, with one big exception in Theo Pourchaire.
The Frenchman is still only 19 years of age but is currently enduring his third season in F3 and questions will be asked if he fails to pip Vesti and Iwasa to the title, especially following last year's unconvincing title bid.
Given the uncertainty regarding the Audi Sauber line-up for 2026, this now looks to be Schumacher's best chance of returning to the F1 grid.
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