American Formula 1 squad Haas F1 have re-signed Romain Grosjean, continuing a partnership with Kevin Magnussen for the 2020 season.
With seats disappearing fast, it is a move that pushes Renault refugee Nico Hülkenberg to the sidelines.
Romain Grosjean has signed for another year with the Haas Formula One team, despite what has been a trying season to date for the Frenchman.
Grosjean – a former GP2 Series champion – has only scored eight points thus far in a year hammered by a problematic car and several notable run-ins with teammate Kevin Magnussen.
As such the team has dropped from 5th in last year’s Constructor’s Championship and currently languishes in 9th position – ahead of only Williams – with just seven races left this season.
With an option to maintain Magnussen for another year, Haas’ decision to re-sign Grosjean seems to be based on the desire for consistency at a time when the American squad has stumbled somewhat.
According to Team Principal Guenther Steiner, “Experience, and the need for it, has been one of the cornerstones of Haas F1 Team, and with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen racing for the team in 2020, we continue to have a driver line-up that offers us a solid platform to continue our growth.”
Steiner added that, “Their understanding of how we work as a team, and our knowledge of what they can deliver behind the wheel, gives us a valued continuity and a strong foundation to keep building our team around.”
Haas have not been shy about the relative lack of performance an inconsistency of the VF-19 machine, to the point where Magnussen and Grosjean ran two different specifications of the car at several Grand Prix this year in order to gain an understanding of where their performance has fallen away. “It’s been a tough year for us in 2019 with the fluctuation in performance of the VF-19,” continued Steiner. “Our ability to tap into our combined experiences will help us learn, improve, and move forward as a unit in 2020.”
Despite this, there has also been plenty of criticism of Grosjean’s performances this season. While the VF-19 has proven inconsistent, Magnussen has clearly made the best of the situation, whereas Grosjean has repeatedly fallen behind or become involved in several incidents, particularly with his teammate
This opened the door to questions regarding Grosjean’s future and with 2015 Le Mans winner Hülkenberg cast aside by Renault for 2020, there was speculation that the German racer would move to Haas to race alongside Magnussen.
If nothing else, it appears that Steiner may have looked to Hülkenberg’s performances through recent seasons and concluded that there was not enough there to move Grosjean aside. It is a situation not too similar to that faced by Ferrari in recent seasons. For all the calls that Kimi Raikkonen was past his best, there were no available drivers thought to be good enough to do a better job – Grosjean and Hülkenberg included.
Alas, such is the strength of the talent pool in Formula One’s midfield at the moment, few of the veteran’s truly stand-out and those who do are either locked into long term contracts or are linked to manufacturer teams (or both).
As noted here previously, while Hülkenberg is certainly a driver of some quality, he is perhaps guilty performing just well enough to defeat teammate, while his stints at Force India and Sauber earned him a spot in the permanent lower points scoring division. From 170 Grand Prix starts, Hülkenberg has still scored no podiums and has fallen behind 2019 teammate Daniel Ricciardo as the Australian has found his feet.
It is also conceivable that – having borne witness to Haas’ performance this year – Hülkenberg may have opted out of a potential drive with the American team; however, if that is the case, then he may also have shut the door n his Formula One career.
There are possible seats at Alfa Romeo and Williams; however, it is thought that either Robert Kubica or Nicholas Latifi will take the Williams drive, while the list of drivers fighting over the Alfa seat is long.
All that aside, one can’t help but think that 2020 may be Grosjean’s last hurrah. A new generation of drivers is coming through the lower divisions – as seen with the promotions of Lando Norris, George Russell, Alexander Albon and (relative rookie) Antonio Giovinazzi.
Grosjean stated that, “I’ve always stated that it was my desire to remain with Haas F1 Team and keep building on the team’s accomplishments. Having been here since the very beginning and seen the work both Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner put into the team to make it competitive, I’m naturally very happy to continue to be a part of that.”