If Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner knows which two drivers will be in the Haas Formula 1 cars in 2021, he’s not saying.
At least he wasn’t in much of a giving mood with the media on Friday, one day after it was announced Portugal that Haas was releasing both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen at the end of the 202o season.
Speculation is that the team is going to run with a pair of well-funded Formula 1 rookies next year: Ferrari Junior Academy driver Mick Schumacher (seven-time champion Michael’s son) and Nikita Mazepin (dad is Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin). Schumacher, 21, is the current Formula 2 points leader, while Mazepin, 21, is sixth with one race weekend left in the season.
“We will try to announce as soon as possible who our drivers are so we stop this guessing,” Steiner said on Friday in Portugal. “But we are not at that point because we haven’t got signed contracts yet, so it would be no point to say something. If it doesn’t happen, then you have to again explain it.
“People just need to be a little bit patient. Hopefully it isn’t long, maybe a month or so away, and then everybody gets to know but it’s just one of the things, if you do contracts, you are obliged not speak about it.”
Steiner did at least admit that one of the rumored Haas-bound drivers—Schumacher—is on his team’s radar for 2021.
“I think Mick, now leading the F2 championship, says it all,” Steiner said. “I don’t think we need to say any more than that. He’s in his second season in F2, he’s leading the championship—I wouldn’t say by a good margin—by a nice margin, so I think he’s doing a good job and I think for sure he’s ready for Formula 1.”
One driver not ready for Formula 1, according to Steiner, is rising IndyCar star Colton Herta. Herta, 20, is currently third in the NTT IndyCar Series points and with revised downward points requirement for a Super License, could actually qualify for a Formula 1 seat in 2021. Herta would also give the American team an American driver that many U.S. fans would embrace.
Herta’s dad Bryan has some experience with Formula 1, as he participated in an F1 test session with Minardi back in 2002.
“I think Colton Herta is doing very well,” Steiner said. “He’s one of the drivers I watch when I watch IndyCar and I’m back in the States, actually. I think he’s doing a great job there. I haven’t spoken to him so we stop this speculation. We have had to stop speculation lately. But I respect a lot what he does.
“He’s very young, I think he’s got a great future but I think he’s pretty happy where he is at the moment, and therefore we didn’t talk to him. I know that he was based in Europe before and all that stuff but he’s in his second season in IndyCar and he’s with a good team there and the investors, I think they want to see him there but I haven’t spoken with him, but I have the utmost respect for him and what he’s doing there, but he will not be in our car next year.”
Steiner also addressed the reasons for and and the timing of the ousting of both Grosjean and Magnussen. Drivers are not where the team is looking to spend money next year, and apparently Grosjean and Magnussen didn’t bring enough dollars to the team. At least, they didn’t bring enough dollars to justify bringing back after a season in which the team is one step up from the F1 basement in the standings.
“I mean, it is driven by the financial,” Steiner said. “If you can find a driver that brings sponsors, it’s fantastic or a driver that costs less. For me, in the moment, we need to invest our finances into the car. Next year’s car will be very similar to this year’s because some of the parts are homologated and frozen and we need to focus on ’22 and we need to make an investment in the car and we need to use the money as best as we can for the money.”
And finally, Steiner was showed surprise when he saw that Grosjean, for one, was surprised that the team was cleaning house and bringing in not just one, but two, new drivers for 2021.
“I’m surprised that he’s still surprised with my decision,” Steiner said. “I’m always surprised, but he should be used to that. No, I think we just wanted to make a change and we thought it was the right time now because next year it will more difficult because with the new car coming in ’22, we don’t want new drivers in ’22, when a complete new regulation comes in place, with a new car and different tyres and things like this.
“You want to start (the new regulations era) with somebody you know. If you had committed to either of (Grosjean or Magnussen) longer than this it would be at least for the next two or three years and at some stage we need change as well, and we need to put our focus where we want to be in the mid-term.
“We are not looking only at the short term. In the short term obviously it would maybe have been best to keep them but now that we signed the Concorde Agreement going forward we need to look a little bit further ahead and see what maybe in three, four years is coming towards us.”
Is Steiner making the right call by bringing in two new drivers for 2021? Do we honestly thing he doesn’t have at least a verbal agreement with his 2021 drivers? Join in the Haas F1 talk in the comments section below.
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