Haas has ditched both of its current drivers for the 2021 season, with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen now both likely to leave Formula 1.
With just six races to go of the current season, the driver market is ramping up, with Haas’ decision to open up two more seats on the grid means there could be up to eight seats still up for grabs for next season.
Grosjean and Magnussen have been teammates for four years, which is the joint longest partnership on the grid along with Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, but have struggled the last two seasons after a promising 2018 where the team punched well above its weight.
Now Haas has fallen towards the back of the grid and is making big changes to halt the slide, and while it is not the biggest surprise – well, not to Grosjean, anyway – it does open up a plethora of options for next season.
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“Most likely Formula 1 is closing its doors [to me],” Grosjean, who has 10 podiums, told Sky Sports. “There aren’t many seats left available. It’s never impossible, so never say never, but also there are other challenges that I’m ready to tackle. Different challenges, different categories.”
Magnussen was a bit more surprised by Haas’ decision to get rid of both he and Grosjean in one swing of the axe.
“I’m still only 28 years old and I’ve been in Formula 1 for some years,” he said. “I’ve been with McLaren, I’ve been with Renault, I’ve been with Haas as a new team for four years. I feel like I’ve got a lot of experience and I feel that I’m in a place where I still feel young, but still experienced, and way more rounded as a driver than I was in the past.
“It’s funny because in a way I feel ready to take that next step, yet I find myself in this situation. It is what it is… Formula 1 is still a place where I feel I have more to achieve and more to give, but we’ll see what happens.”
Haas is the team with one of, if not the, smallest budgets on the grid and the decision is believed to be a financial and marketable one primarily.
The team has a close relationship with Ferrari and you will not find a more marketable or financially backed young driver from F2 than series leader Mick Schumacher, son of the legendary Michael.
Fellow F2 driver Nikita Mazepin is another option who has been heavily linked to the seat, with experienced drivers Nico Hulkenberg, who has impressed when deputising for Racing Point this season, and Sergio Perez, who has big financial backing from Mexico, also in the mix.
“I said to Guenther when he called me that I was expecting one of us, and he said, ‘no, for financial reasons, I need both of you out,” stated Grosjean.
Magnussen added: “It’s pretty clear that I can’t bring what some of the drivers can bring out there. I can bring me as a driver and try and do a good job, but in this day and age, and particularly this year with the current situation of the world, it isn’t easy if you can’t bring any more than just your driving.”
Aside from the two seats at Haas, the Red Bull seat currently held by Alex Albon alongside Max Verstappen is free for now, while both Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi are out of contract at Alfa Romeo at the end of the season.
Williams is under new ownership and while both George Russell, who is part of Mercedes’ stable of drivers, and Nicholas Latifi are under contract for 2021, there is speculation that Perez is on the team’s radar. There have also been no confirmations on AlphaTauri’s two drivers for next year.
It’s sure to be an exciting final six races with nearly half of the field battling for their F1 futures.