This morning saw the shock announcement that both of the current drivers for Haas F1 Team will be leaving at the end of the 2020 Formula One season. Many fans around the world wondered how long it would be before Haas moved on from Grosjean and Magnussen being at the team, and today has finally answered those questions.
Haas F1 Team debuted at Australia during the 2016 season, with a lineup of Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez. The American-owned team immediately impressed with a 6th place finish for Grosjean at Australia and a 5th place at Bahrain; and while their performance did drop after this race, the team would score a respectable five points finishes throughout the season.
2017 saw Esteban Gutiérrez be replaced by Danish driver, Kevin Magnussen, after the Mexican scored zero points throughout the 2016 season. Kevin Magnussen developed a reputation while at Haas as being incredibily aggressive with his driving, being complained about by multiple drivers – notably Charles Leclerc – though his skill at overtaking is still impressive.
The last couple of seasons have been tricky for Haas, who are powered by Ferrari engines. The performance of their package hasn’t evolved with that of the rest of the field’s, so they started to drop further back down the grid. 2019 saw seven points finishes between Magnussen and Grosjean, while 2020 has only seen two points finishes so far.
The announcement of Grosjean and Magnussen’s departures were almost at the same time, with Grosjean’s announcement being published on Twitter just four minutes after Magnussen’s. In his statement, the Frenchman said “I’ve been with Haas F1 Team since Day 1. During which we experienced highs and lows, but the journey was worth it. I’ve learned a lot and improved to be a better driver as well as a better man; I hope I have also helped people within the team improve themselves.”
With the departure of both drivers at the end of the season, this leaves fans speculating what’s next for the Haas Team. Kevin Magnussen’s statement claims that he will be announcing the next steps in his F1 career “in due course”, meaning we could see the the 28-year old sign for another team, or retire from the sport. Grosjean did not mention his plans in his announcement, meaning we will have to wait for him to explain his next move.
“I want to extend my thanks to both Romain [Grosjean] and Kevin [Magnussen] for their hard work and commitment to Haas F1 Team over the past few seasons,” explained Haas team principal, Guenther Steiner in a statement. “Romain was a fundamental part of our establishment as we sought to get a driver onboard with both speed and experience. His results in early 2016 were a just reward, not only for his own talent, but also for the sheer amount of effort the team had put in to be on the grid that season. When Kevin joined a season later, we saw an immediate return with both cars scoring points, and of course, our first double points finish in Monaco that year. We have a lot of good memories together – in particular our 2018 season when we finished fifth in the standings in only our third season. Romain and Kevin played a significant part in that success.”
Who could replace Magnussen and Grosjean?
There are many drivers on the market that either don’t have a seat in F1, or are going to lose their seat at the end of the year. Sergio Perez is a fantastic example of this, as he will be replaced at Racing Point by Sebastian Vettel as the team transform into Aston Martin for next year. There have also been many rumours of George Russell being replaced by Perez at Williams next year (not confirmed, purely speculation), meaning the British F2 champion might find himself free to join Haas next year. Nico Hulkenberg is also a driver to consider, as he has put in some fantastic performances this year when replacing the two Racing Point drivers while they recovered from COVID-19.
Formula 2 also has a lot of impressive drivers that are looking to graduate to Formula One, such as Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott and Yuki Tsunoda. Grosjean and Magnussen’s F1 exit provides a huge opportunity for potentially two of these three drivers to put their foot into the door of an F1 drive.
The timing of this announcement is very strange from the Haas team, yet understandable. Many expected Grosjean and Magnussen to continue driving for the American team into 2021 – the last year before the new regulations arrive for the 2022 season. However, Haas’ move may be a good idea, as it means two new drivers can get to know their new team during 2021, while they prepare for the new specifications the following year.