The 2016 Formula one season will see the grid increase from ten to eleven teams as Haas F1 joins the ranks.
The team based in the United States or ‘Murica‘ land have however yet to finalise their driver lineup. Speculation had been rife that current American GP2 driver Alex Rossi and NASCAR darling Danica Patrick could be inline to fill one of the vacant seats. From a marketing perspective this would be an ideal situation for Gene Haas’ team. An American team with American drivers and bonus points if one of those drivers is a female.
However Haas has maintained that signing an experienced driver an utmost priority.
“We have a list of 10 drivers we are watching. We’ll talk to them in particular and we will see what works for us. We definitely want to have drivers who are currently competing on the starting grid, people with experience.”
The American has now revealed a shortlist of drivers who he believes would be suitable candidates; Jean-Eric Vergne, Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg currently tops his shopping list. (Coincidence they are all linked to Ferrari in some way?)
Admittedly he believes that securing the services of his number one target, 2015 Le Mans winner Nico Hulkenberg may not be a possibility:
“I honestly don’t know if he’s available or not. He’s doing pretty well there with Force India, obviously he didn’t have a great raceday [in Hungary], but there seems to be a lot of interest in him.
“Whether we’d even have a shot at him or not, I don’t really honestly know. What does he want, what are his expectations? Drivers have a lot of hesitancy when it comes to working for a new team.
“We’re still looking for an existing, current F1 driver. But that’s going to depend on who’s in what seats next year, but there should be more evidence in August of who’s going where.”
This may come as good news to current Ferrari reserve and test driver Esteban Gutiérrez. The Mexican who was dropped by Sauber at the end of the 2014 season, views his role within the Scuderia as shop window to securing a seat on the grid.
Maurizio Arrivabene has hinted that this could be a possibility, but currently they are assessing all possibilities.
When asked as to what it would mean to him to return to the grid, Gutiérrez replied:
“It would mean a lot [obviously]. I came to Ferrari as a third driver with a purpose and with a vision. Obviously I took quite a big risk, because stepping down from a race seat is always a risk to take.
“First of all, it’s not easy to get into Formula One. Secondly it’s not easy to be out and then in again.
“This is a risk that was taken with a vision and with a project in front. Thankfully, things have been going very well with my relationship with Scuderia Ferrari, and I’m very happy with how things have been going.
“I’ve been trying to contribute a lot to them, and it’s opening new opportunities for me in the future. I’m working very hard to consolidate that for next season.”
Gutiérrez had a rather miserable time during his first foray in F1. The Mexican only managed to score six points in his two seasons with Sauber.
Of course signing Gutiérrez could bring with it significant benefits, if Ferrari cares to share. It is well known that the young Mexican is ‘smiled apon’ by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Since Gutiérrez joined Ferrari as a a test and reserve driver we have seen Telcel adorn the rear wing end plates of the SF15-T. (Interestingly only Claro is officially listed as a sponsor on Ferarri’s website).
However if Haas’s words are to be believed and he is indeed looking for someone with significant F1 experience, and Hulkenberg is sort of ‘out of reach’, then surely the better option would be Jean Eric Vergne or would it?