The Haas Formula 1 team remains on schedule to announce its driver line-up for the 2019 season by next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Haas team principal Gunther Steiner set a two-week timeframe to announce the American squad’s decision during the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.

While Haas is yet to confirm its driver plans for next year, it is expected to keep an unchanged line-up consisting of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean having enjoyed a strong 2018 that has seen the team engulfed in a tight battle with Renault over fourth place in the constructors’ championship.

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When asked for the latest on Haas’ announcement plans, Steiner told media ahead of this weekend's Russian Grand Prix: “Two weeks is over in Japan and it will be within them. It will be within them.”

Steiner insisted Ferrari’s decision to promote junior Charles Leclerc alongside Sebastian Vettel for 2019 – with Kimi Raikkonen returning to Sauber – had no impact on his team’s plans for next year, despite Haas’ close ties with the Scuderia.

Grosjean looks likely to retain his seat at Haas having recovered from his early-season struggles that had seen his future come into question, but Steiner believes the Frenchman’s recent turnaround shows he has now returned to the level he was at prior to his slump in form.

“Since he found the key as he says and he didn’t lose it again, I think he’s performing pretty well,” he explained. “He’s back to what he was before, before he had that dip in performance at the beginning of the season.”

Ocon, Russell considered but ‘Mercedes’ problem’

According to Steiner, Haas did not completely rule out considering Mercedes juniors Esteban Ocon and George Russell despite the pair’s links to the German manufacturer but added the “problem is for Mercedes to solve” with uncertainty surrounding the future of both drivers.

“You always consider because they are both good drivers,” Steiner said. “But then again we need to look after ourselves and I think the problem is for Mercedes [to solve].

“They [Mercedes] have too much talent and now they need to find a way to solve that problem. Why should that be a problem for the other people? It’s a good problem to have and they need to solve that one themselves.”

Steiner also provided an update on the team’s interest in re-opening F1 test talks with Pietro Fittipaldi, after original plans for the Brazilian to complete some F1 running had to be shelved when he broke both his legs in a sports car accident in May.

Fittipaldi has since returned to racing in IndyCar and Steiner is keen for discussions to continue with the 2017 Formula V8 3.5 champion following the Japanese Grand Prix.

“I spoke with Pietro actually last week,” he added. “He’s doing good now, he feels comfortable with no pain and now we started again to maybe do tests at the end of the year.

“We haven’t come to a conclusion yet. He’s in Europe at the moment and we [re]started the dialogue at the airport actually. We said we will speak again after Japan when we are both back in the States.”

Asked if Haas was considering a reserve driver role for Fittipaldi, Steiner replied: “We haven’t spoken about that yet and we need to go step by step.”

 

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