Despite hopes that Gene Haas would recruit an American to drive for his F1 team, sources within Haas F1 have revealed Romain Grosjean’s partner for 2016 will be Esteban Gutierrez. The plan is to make the big announcement at the Mexican GP in just over two weeks, however the current insider briefing may force Haas to make formal the revelation in Austin instead.
Not everyone within the Haas outfit is happy with this decision, yet it was fairly predictable given the close relationship Haas is developing with Ferrari. After losing his F1 drive with Sauber, Ferrari recruited Gutierrez as a test driver, though this was to the surprise of certain commentators who don’t rate the Mexican driver highly.
Haas F1 will most likely spin this appointment as recruiting a North American driver which will irritate further Alexander Rossi supporters who believe his claim for the seat to be more legitimate.
Jean-Eric Vergne was thought to also be a serious contender to partner Grosjean, and his F1 pace was undeniable when compared to Toro Rosso team mate Daniel Riciardo. Yet once again the luck seems to be against the Frenchman. Though Guiterrez instead of Vergne clearly indicates Haas F1 is trading the opportunity to score points for Mexican dollars in the bank, given they need time and results before they are eligible for F1 prize money.
Guitierrez does bring 38 races worth of F1 experience to the party, with a best ever finish of 7th in the 2013 Japanese GP. More importantly, the Mexican also brings around $15m in sponsorship to Haas F1, though which of the Carlos Slim brands will appear on the car is not yet clear.