The F1 team that’s no longer a 2025 last resort

Just a few months ago, there was a very strong argument that Haas had the least desirable vacancy in Formula 1. In fact, there was no reason for it to be any other team than Haas – and not Sauber. With Audi reinforcements. Not RB, with its dangling carrot that is Red Bull's promotional dream; Not Williams, with his clear upward movement under James Fowles.

Haas had none of those things, but instead just a string of five straight years of eighth-place finishes in the constructors' standings, a 2023 car that was making its drivers look bad on Sundays, and serious question marks over whether the owner was investing what he wanted. Enough for the team to get things done in Formula One.

It was telling, after all, that the team's last two takeovers were veteran Formula 1 drivers who were completely out of the championship. It was in line with Haas driver policy, yes, but it was also evidence that the team was not really able to attract the talent already on the grid – as it did by bringing in Romain Grosjean from Lotus/Renault/Enstone at the start of its season. F1 journey.

Now, a few races into the new Formula One season, there are still clear limits to Haas' appeal – but it's also clearly broader. However, with much of the credit for the much-improved 2024 car split between the previous Günter Steiner system and the current Iao Komatsu system, the improvement in performance coinciding with Komatsu's revitalized influence will help drivers buy into Haas as a tangible option.

Kevin Magnussen's current attitude under pressure is indirect evidence of this. As things stood last year, Nico Hulkenberg's departure seemed like something that would see Magnussen's seat off limits – but as of the Miami Grand Prix, that is clearly not the case.

The Hulkenberg-shaped hole created by his imminent Audi/Sauber switch is widely expected to be filled by Ferrari protégé Uli Biermann, meaning Haas would be wise to seek experience on the other side of the garage – and it would certainly impose that.

But the team that failed in its bid to sign the unemployed Daniel Ricciardo for 2023 may now have more to offer drivers in his position (or even more credible in his recent form).

In fact, the issue was handled well by Hulkenberg, despite his decision to leave. When asked by The Race in Miami whether Haas had a real chance of vying for his services against Sauber given the weight of Audi's support, Hülkenberg gave a detailed answer: “As you say, maybe it's not the best direct comparison – but it's one of the 10 teams on the Network, I was definitely thinking about that too.

“I was talking to Ayaw, weeks and weeks ago, and I said to him: ‘Look, there is a lot of movement in the driver market, but one scenario is that I can also imagine staying.’ There were also talks here in parallel, for sure.

“For me, it's been a year here, and in this quarter of the season, I feel very happy here. And they are [Haas] They were also the team that gave me the chance to come back, so obviously that also carries some significance. [There’s] Appreciation from my side towards the team.

“Like in the Force India days here too, you are in a small team, the underdog, but it is very nice to identify those highlights, to achieve good results. It is a different feeling compared to the works teams, like Renault. Here they celebrate these small moments more than So much, and it's kind of a nice, nice environment, a happy, good environment.

“We always ask for more – but it's a bit different. But here's why. It was parallel discussions but in the end we decided to turn left instead of right.”

You might be skeptical about what Hulkenberg says, but it is borne out by what the race has heard from elsewhere in the paddock – despite Audi's strength, and despite what is believed to be a financial gap between the bids, Hulkenberg believes truly I greatly enjoyed the idea of ​​staying.

Even with his departure, he is now a shining example of the opportunity Haas gives a driver whose Formula 1 career seemed over, dusting off not just another step, but a stepping stone to a gig that many in the paddock will be jealous of.

Haas never had that before. If you look at the history of drivers, there is no example of a driver finding much of a Formula 1 life after Haas. Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez, Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher were left without real alternatives in Formula 1 when their spells at Haas came to an end. That's how Magnussen was the first time.

Instead, what is on offer now is the chance for an established F1 driver to effectively direct the whole thing, potentially combined with a development project in Biermann, who is bound to be fast and a real fork but will, above all else, be on loan.

It all combines into an option that can make sense for many drivers. Valtteri Bottas, whose time at Sauber appears to be coming to a rather angry end, could clearly be a logical fit here, as could his well-supported teammate Zhou Guanyu.

But should any of the Alpine drivers be tempted too, given that the dysfunction in their team has suddenly overtaken Haas? And who will be missing at right-back if Helmut Marko and co go ahead with their plan to ensure Liam Lawson is in one of the cars by 2025?

All of these drivers must have considered a Haas car anyway, even if it is at ground zero at the moment – ​​because options on the Formula 1 grid are so scarce. And it's still a hard sell as a first-choice destination for anyone unless they're a beginner.

But Haas is now giving drivers a much bigger reason to see it as more than just a last resort. So don't be surprised if the team suddenly announces its presence in the ridiculously hectic Formula 1 season.


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