In an interview with the media over the weekend, new Formula 1 team boss Gene Haas has five drivers under consideration for race seats next year, with Esteban Gutierrez looking more likely than ever to return to Grand Prix action in his new team.
As fellow Ferrari F1 reserve driver Jean-Eric Vergne has committed to a deal with the recently rebranded DS Virgin squad in Formula E for next year, it has been heavily rumoured in the paddock that Gutierrez is set to join Haas with backing from Mexican telecommunications giant Claro.
As we know already, Gutierrez is part of the Escuderia Telmex system; which is also part of Carlos Slim’s conglomerate businesses which could help them get back into Formula One with some funding that could be brought to the table.
In an interview with the media over the weekend, Haas has stated that there are five drivers he is keeping an eye on to try and make them an offer to drive for his team when they enter the sport next season and believes that Gutierrez could fit the bill for them. Haas stated the following:-
‘We’re down to five now, I think. [Gutierrez] He’s a Ferrari reserve driver, so Ferrari would be interested in seeing how he does and it kind of helps both parties. We get a driver who Ferrari thinks has a lot of potential and we can see how he does too.’
As Haas has stated, Gutierrez within the Haas team would be beneficial for both parties with a) Guiterrez bringing his experience in the sport as a driver already and b) it would just seal the deal with the technical partnership they have with them as well. But it is clear that Haas has to remain open with choice of drivers at the moment until the rest of the grid is decided in the next few weeks.
On the subject of a timeframe for his driver line-up to be decided, Haas replied with the following further on in his interview with the media this weekend:-
‘In the next four weeks or so, this month is when the real thought-proving, intense decision-making occurs. But we’re also actually waiting for the current F1 teams to make their decisions before we will. You never know who’ll become available.
‘It seems like the bigger teams are putting in younger and younger drivers, so some of the more experienced drivers might become available.’
I would have to agree with Haas that he needs to remain open and flexible with choice to the drivers he wants in his team next year until the current driver market is sorted out and he is right to delay making a choice about that until that remains clear.
But he does need to make sure that he approaches the drivers he is interested in now and seeing if they would be available or even interested in what Haas has to offer them. With the driver market still being debated behind the scenes of the sport; question is will Haas get one of the five choices of drivers that he wants or will he be forced to sign someone that they didn’t want or expect? Only time will tell.