3 August 2015
Haas hints at driver options
Gene Haas refuses to rule out three names put to him as potential drivers for his nascent F1 effort, but could America's best hope of getting into a cockpit be out of the reckoning?
Gene Haas has admitted to having a shortlist of potential drivers lined up for his eponymous F1 team's maiden campaign, but admits that the 'silly season' may determine his choice.
Speaking at the inauguration of a Haas Automotive factory in Portugal, the American was asked whether Ferrari reserves Esteban Gutierrez and Jean-Eric Vergne were on his radar, given his team's technical tie-in with Maranello, while Force India's Nico Hulkenberg – a rumoured Ferrari target in the past – was also put forward as a potential contender.
"We have a list of drivers in which we are interested in," Haas confirmed, "Two of them are reserve drivers from Ferrari, so they are certainly a possibility while, as far as the other name that you mention, he is a driver from another team, so the possibility of him driving for us depends of his position with his team. Anybody who is driving in F1 right now, certainly, is someone that we would be interested in - if he becomes available. The next few months will see many moves in the teams' line-ups and we will wait to see who is interested in the project we are developing.”
Gutierrez admitted over the weekend that stepping back from his race seat at Sauber and accepting a testing role with Ferrari role could open a door back onto the grid, having long been linked to the Haas project.
"It would mean a lot [to get back to a full-time drive]," he told ESPN, "I came to Ferrari as a third driver with a purpose and with a vision. Obviously, I took quite a big risk, because stepping down from a race seat is always a risk to take, but this is a risk that was taken with a vision and with a project in front. Thankfully, things have been going very well with my relationship with Scuderia Ferrari, and I'm very happy with how things have been going.
"I've been trying to contribute a lot to them, and it's opening new opportunities for me in the future. I'm working very hard to consolidate that for next season."
Among the names not<.i> put to Haas, however, was that of Alexander Rossi, who had been seen as the most logical option for an American team trying to establish itself at motorsport's top table.
Having come close to racing with both Caterham and Marussia in recent seasons, Rossi finds himself back in GP2 this year and is determined to make sure that he is not forgotten in the Haas discussions.
Although his campaign with Racing Engineering has yielded more points that his previous two seasons combined, he is already facing an uphill battle to overhaul runaway leader – and McLaren protégé – Stoffel Vandoorne and he may yet find himself overtaken in the race to make the F1 grid next year, having confirmed that talks with Haas have tailed off recently.
“My goal has always been to drive in F1,” Rossi told NBC Sports, “It hasn't been a dream with a specific team, but [one] to get on the race grid and prove that I deserve to be in the championship. Obviously any opportunity that comes my way that allows me that opportunity is one that I'll welcome with open arms.
“Haas, as most F1 teams are concerned, will look at their driver line-up towards the end of the year, so we're not quite there yet. Until then, I'm trying to do what I can in GP2 for the second half of the season.”
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