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Formula 1

Steiner column: What I’m thinking about Haas’s driver choice

by Matt Beer
5 min read

Hello readers. Today, I’m going to talk about the driver market. At the moment we are in quite a good position. There are so many options you can pick from this year: you have very experienced good drivers, you have medium-experienced drivers, you have young drivers, there’s a full menu out there.

What we want to make sure is that we are doing the right thing for the team. Short-term thinking would be to get in the best drivers possible for next year and then look after 2022 when we get there.

If we put in somebody next year just for a year then we are just wasting our time

But we have to rebuild the team a little bit after this difficult year, so what is the best to do for the team? Build it up and be ready for ’22, and use ’21 as a transition year.

We are still having talks with people; we are not just sitting here and thinking. I think the decision will come in the next few weeks hopefully, because we need to tell people. I don’t like to keep people on standby.

Some of the drivers have been in Formula 1 already a long time. Will they be the best drivers in a few years? Maybe not. Maybe there’s young talent we need to develop for then.

That’s where there is a fine line. We all have a sell-by date performance-wise, especially an athlete, and we need to be careful that we don’t invest in something that when we really need it, they’ve surpassed their peak.

For me what’s important is that we have drivers who will be here in 2022. If we put in somebody next year just for a year then we are just wasting our time. There are a lot of drivers who are used to the current spec of car, but if we have a new car and a new driver, it could get difficult, so I would like to have for ‘22 the drivers we have in ‘21.

Logan Sargeant

Of course we always get asked about American drivers and Logan Sargeant did very well this year in F3, so obviously we keep an eye on these things.

I think he has another step to go, which is F2, before we can talk about it. We are not directly in touch, but I know the people around him.

He’s doing very well, he won a lot of races this year and I think he’s a talent.

If he can go to F2 and within two years prove himself, I think that’s the next step he needs to do, but at the moment it’s too early to talk about hiring an American driver.

Kevin Magnussen Haas Russian Grand Prix 2020 Sochi

Turning the focus back to this year, I am very positively surprised how we have kept our heads high. I think the team knows, because we came from nothing – we had no credit at the beginning (and there are still some people there from the beginning) – that we will get back again.

As simple as it sounds, they know we are not there to be where we are, but at the moment we have one hand behind our backs and we are just trying to make the best out of it.

We always try to do the best, and there is a big belief. We are not here just to take part. We will be back: how long will it take? It could take another year, but I am sure in 2022 we should be where we want to be.

I have no idea about the 2021 calendar, I think Australia in March is a long-shot

In the meantime, it’s important that we are ready to take the opportunities when they come, but also it’s important we don’t let those opportunities go to somebody else.

If we go out there and just go around, that doesn’t work. We always need to do our best and the harder you work, the luckier you get…

The tracks where we haven’t been for a long time or places where we have never been give more opportunities than the tracks we go to regularly. At Nurburgring, it looks like it will be 12C on a warm day and it’s raining, so you never know what comes out of there.

Guenther Steiner

Another factor that you can see now is that people are starting to get tired. At the beginning, the first triple headers were OK because there was a lot of energy because everyone had had a lot of time off and they were just happy to get back, but now it’s pretty tiring. I feel it myself. Physically you sometimes need some time off, but also mentally, they are very demanding these races.

Finally, I want to say some words about Stefano Domenicali. Stefano is a friend and Haas wouldn’t exist without him, he was the first one to believe in the plan.

His coming in as CEO is great, not only for us, but for F1 in general. Chase [Carey] did a fantastic job over the past five years to take it forward, and to get all 10 teams to sign the new commercial agreement is a big achievement.

Job number one for Stefano is to make sure that after the pandemic we have a good calendar with good incomes, so the teams can work at a good level. The pandemic is not over anytime soon, we are not resetting the clock at New Year.

I have no idea about the 2021 calendar, I think Australia in March is a long-shot. I don’t know, but I don’t think there will be a calendar soon – so Stefano has to manage this and make sure we have as many events as possible and also financially get as much income as possible from the events and that’s a big challenge at the moment.

From there, strategically, how can he make all 10 teams competitive? A level playing field is what we are working towards and with the budget cap the groundwork is laid, we just need to make sure we go in the right direction.

I think the combination of Stefano and Chase will take it to the next level. I think it’s a good acquisition for Formula 1.

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