Haas Formula 1 team boss Gunther Steiner says that no decision has been made on next year’s drivers, despite today’s confirmation that Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are leaving.
Steiner says that the commitment to make a change was made “two or three weeks ago” and communicated to the drivers by him last week in order to give them a chance to find alternative employment.
Rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, both of whom are associated with a commercial package, are believed to be the top candidates for the drives, unless there’s a change of plan and the team opts for one experienced driver like Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez.
“I think we wanted to be fair to them,” said Steiner of today’s announcement about Magnussen and Grosjean.
“We could have kept it for us for a while, and then just do it. But I think the guys were good with us in the last years.
“We said we’re not going that way, we’re going to do some changes, and therefore we want to tell them so they’ve got a chance to find something else.
“If we tell them only whenever we decide who is going to drive the car, it could be the end of the year, and they would have a lesser chance to find something for next year.”
Asked to clarify the timing he said: “I would say we made a decision about two, three weeks ago,” adding “I called them last week.”
Steiner acknowledged that it wasn’t easy to drop two drivers who had been with the team for so long.
“It is very difficult,” he said. “As much as we’ve had ups and downs in our relationships, in the end you don’t stay with people for this long time, four and five years, if you don’t like them. So it’s always difficult to do these things.
“But in the end, I need to look after the team in general. And they both were very understanding. I mean, for sure, they were not happy. Who would be? But they had a good understanding, and they know that we gave them a good run at it, as well.
“In the end I think there is no bad blood running between us, and we want to get to the end of the season.
“I need to look out for the whole team. And that is why I have to make these decisions. That’s part of my job, even if it’s a difficult thing to do.”
Steiner declined to comment on who was still on the short list. Asked if the team was looking for drivers with money, he conceded that there could be a commercial element to any deal.
“We could be as well, money and talent. I mean, talent always needs to be there, not only money. So talent is very important, or more important, but some people have got sponsorship they bring with them. So we are looking at all the options out there as well.
“There are quite a few opportunities out there. And they’re not going away, because the market is pretty small this year. And I think we are lucked into that one this year. So that is the reason why we are not in a hurry to make the announcements.”
Steiner admitted that two rookies, rather than a balance of youth and experience, is a possibility.
“If you have got a very good experienced one, and a rookie who finds it difficult to find his way, he loses his confidence. Is that good? No. Look at what happened to a lot of people who were in the same team as Max [Verstappen].
“They all struggle, because he is so good, and then a rookie comes in and it’s not good for him. Maybe two rookies is a good thing, I don’t know that yet.
“That is one of the things we are evaluating as well, do we need one experienced one or not, or can we do it with two rookies?
“Sometimes, just trying something different, it helps as well to learn about it, and sometimes learns that you shouldn’t have done it as well. I’m fully aware of that one.”
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