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Haas F1 Team

How Haas has avoided 'madness' with confirmed driver line-up

Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg will do a fine job for Haas in their second season in 2024, but it is a sign of a team treading water.

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Analysis
To news overview © XPBimages

Haas has acted swiftly and locked in its F1 driver line-up for next season nice and early with the news that Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg will enjoy a seventh and second year, respectively with the team.

The noise around the team's choice of pairing has been loud in previous years with Nikita Mazepin being sacked on the eve of the 2022 season following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and his links to President Vladimir Putin, with his teammate Mick Schumacher departing at the end of the year to be replaced by Hulkenberg.

Team Principal Guenther Steiner was at pains to point out that Hulkenberg alongside Magnussen would provide the team the stability it craved to find solutions to problems and move forward, given the German is a dependable midfield option and points-scorer.

With the tendency of the VF-23 to overheat its tyres and the solutions the team is working on to try and eradicate the issues, changing the driver line-up for an unknown quantity would have been madness, especially as there is no shining young hotshot snipping at the incumbent's heels.

Magnussen and Hulkenberg the right choice

In order to understand and work on the problems it is currently facing, the one thing Haas's technical team requires from the two race drivers is consistency - both in terms of feedback and creating a stable reference from which they can build.

It would also help massively if those two drivers did not throw the car needlessly at the barrier, racking up millions of dollars worth of crash damage in totally avoidable shunts - as Schumacher did during his two-year spell.

In Magnussen and Hulkenberg, you have two drivers who are the epitome of 'they will get the job done without too much fuss.'

Both are perfectly capable Grand Prix drivers with over 170 starts apiece - they both know their way around a car.

The duo will be vital to unlocking the secrets of why the VF-23 prefers a huge Pirelli diet and to simply discard one, or indeed both of them, would have been a move that sent the team straight back to square one as any new driver would have spent the first half of the new season just getting up to speed.

That being said, there are no other driver options at a decent level with reasonable experience on the market.

The two potential options here would have been Daniel Ricciardo [before his AlphaTauri comeback] - who rejected the chance to talk with Steiner last last term after leaving McLaren - and Schumacher, whose chances of a return to Haas are near zero.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

What about a youngster?

Let us not forget that Charles Leclerc was once a Haas junior driver, but he was overlooked for a seat as the dependable Magnussen and Romain Grosjean stayed on at the team. Having been left with his nose somewhat out of joint after the Mazepin and Schumacher partnership, this is not a route Steiner wants to go down.

Not that there is an absolute superstar driver coming up through the ranks who absolutely must be given a Grand Prix seat.

The current crop of F2 racers will forever, perhaps harshly, be judged against the class of 2018 which included the likes of George Russell, Lando Norris and Alex Albon, but the Class of 2023 have hardly set any tongues wagging.

The likes of Frederik Vesti, Théo Pourchaire, Ayumu Iwasa and Jack Doohan have not taken the championship by the scruff of the neck, even if Pourchaire is leading the standings thanks to a consistent run throughout the year.

But let us not forget that after the second round of the season in Jeddah, sixth-year veteran Ralph Boschung was leading the standings.

Vesti, Pourchaire, Iwasa and Doohan are all linked to other junior driver programmes, with Haas/Ferrari's options limited.

The boat appears to have sailed on Robert Shwartzman, with former FDA member Callum Ilott now firmly placed in IndyCar with Juncos Hollinger Racing.

Oliver Bearman is currently sixth in F2, having swept the Azerbaijan weekend with two wins and feature race pole but the Ferrari junior is a fair way off graduating to F1 yet.

Faced with a lack of juniors, and the need for consistency in 2024, keeping both Magnussen and Hulkenberg was the only realistic and feasible option open to Haas and Steiner.

2025 - when all hell could break loose in the driver market - is a different story...

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