Haas narrows down driver choice

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?

21 responses to “Haas narrows down driver choice

  1. Actually thing Vergne/Gutierrez would be good 1st year pairing for Haas. Be good to see Rossi given a few FP1 outings and test days to open way for 2017 if he shows well versus a known entity.
    Can’t see the sense for Hulk to go, if Ferrari turn him down for 2016 again then surely that door will be closed for good, rather Williams over Haas if Bottas gets the nod, if Kimi survives and Williams closed off think Hulk should abandon ship and go WEC full time.
    Is there any chance for Checo to end up with Haas alongside Vergne with FI taking young Pascal?

    • I imagine in the situation you describe (Hulk/Bottas/Kimi musical chairs) that Mercedes would ask the FIA to put ‘DTM champion’ Wehrlein in alongside Perez at Force India.

      • If not.. what about a year of FP1s alongside Hulk/Perez? Although Vergne/Perez sounds interesting, in that situation I imagine Gutierrez stays as Ferrari reserve. Or even Perez/Gutierrez with big Slim sponsorship, Vergne as reserve.

  2. The only reason you would take Gutierrez over Vergne would be money wouldn’t it?

    Is there something we are missing with Vergne? I thought he did a reasonable job against Ricciardo, and after seeing how Dan performed against Seb, I would have thought people would be jumping at JEV.

    Although I think Hulkenburg is the perfect replacement for Kimi so what would I know…..

  3. Vergne-Gutierrez-Rossi makes the most sense for Haas.. Ferrari parachuting in both race drivers (one for results, one for cash), with Rossi getting FP1s, especially at Austin.

  4. Danica would be an interesting choice. With her IndyCar experience, getting into a car half the weight of NASCAR livery and being a “proven” quantity with Haas, I believe she would be a good fit in F1. Ricky might not be too happy, though.

  5. While I think that Danica would be awesome to see racing in formula 1, I don’t believe she is at the level of F1 yet. She does well in Indy, but is not dominant and I think would benefit more from some outings to see how she handles the car. I could see her as a test or reserve driver and maybe as she refines hers skills she could do good. Same situation as Rossi, though I don’t watch GP2 really so I can’t say much there.

    I just will stay hopeful to see Hulk on the side of the Muricans!

    • Danica has been out of indy for a few years now, and afaik was better on the ovals than the road courses.

      I wonder if Simona is on Hass’ list? She seems to have a good reputation in America and she still races indycars occasionally

      • Sorry, I am a bit out of date with NASCAR and Indy myself. I stopped following it like I used to. I just know what I know through friends and fam.

  6. I think JEV could do well with Haas, look what he did in Formula E with no previous experience of the cars, I really think JEV was stifled by RedBull, he wasn’t the favoured child by Dr Marko and a knock on he became a bit brow beaten and let his head drop a bit. Just he jumped in the Andretti Formula E car and looked like a true ace on his 1st outing. Old Gutierrez is not the same level as JEV in my view, Gutierrez is just a pure pay driver, at least JEV got to F1 on merit.

    • To be fair to Esteban (somebody has to), he got to F1 on the back of GP3 title (same as Bottas, Kvyat), and winning races in GP2. He may bring cash, but he also got the results to merit progressing to F1 (where admittedly he has not shone).

      Token silly exercise in driver comparison to follow: to address Guti Vs Vergne in junior categories we could argue, on a head to head Wickens beaten by Guti to GP3 crown in 2010, then beat Vergne to FR3.5 crown in 2011 etc etc.

      My point being simply Guti deserved his first F1 chance (…but will have to buy another one after failing to impress).
      I do feel Esteban has not managed the step up to F1, but maybe, just maybe, the year out will stand to him.
      Time will tell, but true indeed to say only someone with substantial backing would get another chance after his disappointing years with Sauber.

      As for JEV, it’ll be great to see him get another shot, I always liked JEV but he was frustratingly inconsistent. His turn up and grab pole start into formula E was indeed impressive, but maybe shall we say indicative of the strength of the formula E field not being quite up to F1 standard.

  7. To be brutally honest, Patrick is not a good enough driver for F1… (BTW. Whatever happened to me Bruno Senna?! I mean, he even looked low-level in Formula Nerf!).

  8. I forgot this as well. Though it might be a big ask financially, I wonder if Haas can round up enough sponsorship $$$$ to start an “F1 Futures” program for young U.S. drivers… though it seems more and more young ‘Muricans have less and less interest in living overseas.

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