A personal take on a fascinating piece of 2021 Formula 1 driver market
Just over a week ago, Haas boss Gunther Steiner revealed that there were up to ten drivers on the team’s shortlist for 2021, including current duo Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
The current pair have been teammates since 2017, and both have had spells of brilliance marred with inconsistencies throughout their time with the American team.
This has led to numerous rumours up and down the paddock however who are the drivers that Haas could be considering, other than their two current drivers. Here I hope to look at each potential replacement as well as a possible outsider, with Haas previously admitting they may look to rookies rather than drivers who have raced previously.
The most obvious driver on the list is Mexican Sergio Perez, who has been dropped by current team Racing Point for 2021, with four time World Champion Sebastian Vettel taking his place at the soon to rebranded Aston Martin.
Perez is an attractive proposition for multiple reasons. Not only is he fast with a proven podium track record, his experience could prove vital in ensuring Haas remain in the fight as time goes by. In addition to this, he has a plethora of sponsors backing him which could sway a money conscious team like Haas.
The second obvious choice which Haas could consider is Nico Hulkenberg, who has sat out 2020 after being dropped at Renault, the French manufacture preferring Esteban Ocon to the popular German.
Prior to his spell on the sidelines, Nico was regarded as one of the fastest drivers on the grid however agonisingly he had never stepped on the podium, despite a hugely successful junior career in which he dominated categories such as GP2.
A brief return to the cockpit in 2020 for Racing Point for the two races at Silverstone was made possible when Sergio Perez tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the weekend, in which the German impressed hugely. It would be fantastic to see a driver with as much talent as he does return to the grid.
The third current F1 driver on the grid Haas could consider is Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi. Giovinazzi is currently out of contract for 2021 and there are strong rumours suggesting his drive could be under threat by one of the three Ferrari junior drivers currently competing in Formula 2.
Antonio has improved dramatically from 2019 into 2020, outperforming his World Champion teammate Kimi Raikkonen on several evasions throughout the season and has scored the team’s only points of the season so far.
Prior to his full time debut last season, Antonio was highly regarded for his junior formula success and has since impressed on the main stage. His experience could be vital but also his potential to improve for a team like Haas. In addition to this, his links to Ferrari make him more appealing which could be a part of a deal with the Scuderia.
Time for the rookies now and the first one I am going to look at is one of their reserve drivers, Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of double World Champion, Emerson. Pietro was due to race in Japan’s Super Formula for 2020 however he was replaced at the last minute by compatriot Sergio Sette Camera due to an injury and a conflict in sponsors, ensuring he has been a development driver for Haas.
Throughout his junior career he has shown speed, winning the Protyre Formula Renault Championship in 2014 before being crowned champion of the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 a year later. His biggest junior formula success however must be his 2017 World Series Formula v8 3.5 triumph, in which he beat the likes of Rene Binder and Roy Nissany to the crown.
In terms of marketing, having a Fittipaldi back in Formula 1 must be a pull for a team like Haas who could do with some positive headlines following the Rich Energy sponsorship fiasco. He is also a Ferrari Junior driver which, link Giovinazzi, could be important in any future deals. However, the only issue may be Pietro’s lack of experience, especially since he is not racing this season.
Haas could also consider their other junior driver Louis Deletraz who is currently competing in Formula 2 for Charouz Racing alongside Pedro Piquet.
In comparison to his junior driver rival, you could say that Deletraz has the advantage as he is currently racing, sitting seventh in the standings in what is his fourth season in the category. As well as racing in F2, Deletraz has also contested for Rebellion Racing in the World Endurance Championship, making his Le Mans 24 Hours debut this year, finishing fourth.
Similar to Fittipaldi however, his lack of experience in F1 machinery may be a stumbling block, although his recent experience across multiple platforms could make him a more appealing prospect.
Time to look at the second Ferrari junior driver who could be considered, Briton Callum Ilott. Allot is currently in his second season in Formula 2 with UNI-Virtuosi Racing and is impressing many with his mature drives and calmness under pressure.
His results have been superb as well as he currently sits second in the standings, only behind fellow Ferrari junior Mick Schumacher. Allot has own three times this year and has taken pole an impressive four times, more than any other driver, such is his pace over one lap.
His pace has not gone unnoticed as he, and Robert Shwartzman, have been rewarded for their strong form in 2020 with a test at Fiorano from Ferrari in a 2017 machine. The 21-year-old would certainly be a popular choice, with many feeling he has done enough to warrant a place on the F1 grid for 2021.
The third Ferrari junior driver Haas could consider is Ilott’s F2 rival Robert Shwartzman, who has made his debut in the series for Prema Racing this season, having won the Formula 3 title in 2019.
Shwartzman is currently teammate to Mick Schumacher and has had a hugely successful debut season, winning three times ensuring he is currently fifth in the standings. As mentioned, he and Ilott were recently rewarded for their strong 2020 seasons with a test at Fiorano and it will be interesting to see who Ferrari considered the stronger driver out of the two.
Like the other two Ferrari junior drivers, Haas have a chance to use this connection in their favour however they will also consider factors such as experience, something Shwartzman may suffer on considering he has a year less in Formula 2 than Ilott.
However, his pace is unquestionable, guaranteeing he is one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport currently. It will be interesting to see if he is given the chance.
You always have to include one wildcard in these things! Josef Newgarden is undoubtedly one of the best American drivers there has been for some time, winning the IndyCar title in 2019 to become a double champion, having won the title for a first time in 2017. Newgarden currently sits second in the 2020 standings only behind New Zealand legend Scott Dixon, who bids to claim his sixth crown.
I would love to see a front running IndyCar driver try out F1, following on from previous drivers who have done the same such as Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. It would be amazing to see how he could fare in machines far different to what he is used to, with much more aero and mechanical grip.
This may work in his favour however as the cars, although faster, will be more consistent.
Although there are plenty of drivers good enough to compete in F1 in IndyCar Newgarden is the most viable due to his age, being 28-years-old you could say he is approaching his prime and has the experience to be able to aid Haas going forward.
However, the stumbling block would be the competitiveness of the team. With all due respect they are not in a position to be fighting for championships, not yet anyway. Why would Newgarden trade Team Penske, one of the most successful teams in America for a team still finding its feat in F1.
Stranger things have happened in F1 however!
That concludes my look at each driver I feel Haas are realistically looking at ahead of the 2021 season. Feel I have missed anyone? Comment in the comments section and share your views here!
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