In a move to clarify his Formula 1 team’s stance on the possibility of signing an American driver in the future, Gene Haas has responded to comments made by team principal Guenther Steiner. 

Steiner recently told Autosport he felt no American driver is currently ready to race in F1, which led to a barrage of criticism from the likes of 1978 world champion Mario Andretti, Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran and former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais.

Haas became the first American team to race in F1 for more than 30 years when it made its bow in 2016, but only has a solitary link to an American driver in Santino Ferrucci, who has acted as the team’s reserve and development driver for the past two years.

“Guenther was asked about having an American driver in Formula 1 and, more specifically, with the Haas F1 Team,” Haas said when addressing Steiner’s comments. “He responded by saying something to the effect that it wasn’t at the top of our priority list, and things kind of took off in a bunch of different directions as people made a bunch of assumptions.

“The fact is that we’re still learning here in Formula 1, and bringing on a driver who needs to learn about Formula 1 probably isn’t the best thing for us or them. I felt like there were times last year where our drivers were better than our cars. So, we need to step up, but we know where we need to improve thanks in large part to the experience of our drivers.”

Haas insists signing an American driver remains an long-term objective for his F1 outfit, but added that his team currently requires experienced drivers in order to succeed in its ambitions to move up the F1 pecking order and establish itself on the grid. 

“We’re not saying no to having an American driver, but the reality is that of the American drivers who have a superlicense and could actually compete in F1, they should really be with a team that can serve as their benchmark rather than the other way around,” he added.

“Now, we fully expect to eventually be in that position – ideally, sooner rather than later – but this is only our third year and we need to improve in a variety of areas, and Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are playing a big part in that improvement because of their experience. 

“They help us, rather quickly, determine if the course we’re taking is a proper one or if we need to re-think our approach. That experience is invaluable as we look to become a team that can eventually challenge for podiums instead of just points.”

The NASCAR team owner said he has no doubts regarding the quality of American drivers and believes Steiner’s comments had simply been misinterpreted. 

“This debate about American drivers really isn’t a debate. I believe in American drivers – my NASCAR team is full of them, and we’ve won a lot of races and championships. Obviously, the discipline is different, but sure, there are competent American drivers who can compete in Formula 1.

“But we’re not ready for that yet, and with the limited amount of testing teams have, getting anyone up to speed who hasn’t already been a part of a development program would be hard. I think that’s the point Guenther was trying to make.”

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