The driver market in Formula One usually begins to hot up at the start of the summer break. Known as the “silly season” its the time when F1 drivers who are out of contract begin to negotiate behind the scenes with potential new employers.
Yet last season Haas F1 dragged out their decision on whether to retain Mick Schumacher until the last race of the season by which time a possible move to Williams for the young German driver had been lost following the Grove team announcing their recruitment of rookie Logan Sargeant.
Steiner finally clears out junior drivers
Gunther Steiner the Haas team boss had finally cleared out the inexperienced drivers of Haas he’d never wanted.
Having lost the sponsorship of Rich Energy and heading for back to back second last finishes in the constructors’ championship, Steiner was forced by team boss Gene Haas to recruit new drivers who brought with them big financial backing.
During the 2020 season tempers flared between Steiner and Magnussen such that the Danish driver put his fist. through one of the doors in the team’s ‘motorhome’.
So for 2021, Haas ditched Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen bringing in Mick Schumacher and his sponsors together with the son of Russian billionaire Nikita Mazepin.
Gene Haas forces gunther to recruit rookies
The season was an unmitigated disaster for Haas with both drivers failing to score a dingle point between them. Mazepin looked completely out of his depth in F1 while Mick Schumacher appeared more accomplished finishing in his highest place of P12 at the Hungarian GP.
Then just as the team was preparing for 2022 the invasion by Russia of Ukraine saw the British government sanction Mazepin and his father which handed Steiner the excuse to sack the Russian driver.
Kevin Magnussen was brought back into the team to partner Schumacher who had one year left on his contract.
The Dane had an immediate impact on Haas fortunes finishing the opening round in Bahrain in fifth and following this up with two more points finishes in the next three races.
Schumacher slated by Steiner
Schumacher meanwhile was in the wars destroying his car in Monaco along with numerous other expensive shunts for the team.
“The first time a driver destroys a car because of human error, you have to forget about it. The second time, you think there’s something wrong”, the Italian grumbled in his recently published biography.
“Mick seems incapable of admitting the seriousness of the situation (…) Mick’s excuse is that, in order to go faster, he has to take more risks, and this is an occasion where taking more risks did not work.
That may be a reason, but it’s not an excuse. What does he want? For me to give him permission to keep taking risks in races he doesn’t know how to handle?”
Haas happy with current drivers
With the cost cap in place and the team’s finances in a better state, Steiner could finally let Schumacher go and return to his original strategy employed since the team was formed of engaging drivers with experience.
After three years out of the sport, Nico Hulkenberg was brought back into the sport by Steiner and has immediately impressed. Hulkenberg has scored six of the team’s eight points this season and has beaten his team mate 5-2 in the seven qualifying sessions this year.
Gunther Steiner has clearly decided he doesn’t want to find himself with another junior driver forced upon him and admitted he is about to resign both Magnussen and Hulkenberg for 2024.
“Driver market-wise, I think we are in the moment where we are pretty happy with what we have got,” said the Haas team principal ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.
New contracts announced at next GP
Steiner admits this will be an anti-climax for the Netflix Drive to Survive documentary this year and the impending silly season coming in August.
“Obviously we want to get to announce our drivers as soon as possible so we don’t have to hang around like last year, a long time, telling you guys it’ll be next race and then it gets boring!”
Gunther was also questioned about the team’s relationship with Ferrari who had had a poor start to the 2023 season and who supply their power units.
“On the Ferrari side, I think in the short to medium term there’s no point to change,” said the Italian.
“Just because you’ve got a year like this, it doesn’t mean that you immediately have to jump to someone else.”
Ferrari partner sip with Haas questioned
It could be the drivability of the Ferrari power unit is a problem for Haas. Both Ferrari and the American owned team have struggled with excessive tyre degradation this year.
“Nico was very outspoken about the problem and what I like is that with the problem we speak about it openly,” he said.
“There is no trying to hide, it’s very open. Everybody’s like, ‘Hey, let’s try to find out what we can do to find out more what is happening’.”
The Haas car went well in Canada last year with Magnussen claiming with place and Mick Schumacher one slot further behind.
The team will be hoping for a repeat of last year as the Montreal weekend starts later today.
Prepare yourselves for the first ever team principal special helmet video! 😍
— MoneyGram Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) June 16, 2023