Gene Haas has moved to clarify the comments made by Guenther Steiner about the possibility of the Haas F1 Team hiring an American driver, and feels the team at the present time are too much in their infancy to provide a good enough platform for them.
Steiner was quoted of saying that placing an American driver within the team was ‘not at the top of the priority list’, while he also said that he did not feel any American driver was ready to step into the team, which drew criticism from the likes of Mario Andretti, Gil de Ferran and others.
Haas, the owner of the Haas F1 Team, has responded to what his team principal and the critics have said, and he feels that the team that are about to embark on only their third season in Formula 1 are too young to bring in any kind of rookie driver, which most American racers would be.
“Guenther was asked about having an American driver in Formula 1 and, more specifically, with the Haas F1 team,” Haas is quoted as saying by Motorsport.com.
“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.”
Haas would like to sign an American driver down the line for the team, but it would not be in the best interests to bring in a rookie whilst the team are establishing themselves in the sport, with the experience of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen being needed for the time being.
“We’re not saying no to having an American driver, but the reality is that of the American drivers who have a superlicence 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,” said Haas.
“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.”
Haas insists Steiner’s comments had been misinterpreted, and the team do believe in American drivers, and has done so for a number of years in his NASCAR outfit Stewart-Haas Racing.
“I believe in American drivers – my NASCAR team is full of them, and we’ve won a lot of races and championships,” said Haas. “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.”