In what has been one of the craziest ‘silly seasons’ in recent memory, the 2022 edition of it looks set to be on the verge of wrapping up, following reports that Haas are “close” to announcing their 2023 driver line-up.
Many had tipped Williams to be the last team to confirm their line-up, which technically they’re still yet to do given that Logan Sargeant needs to finish in the top seven of the Formula 2 Drivers’ Championship.
Should the young American do just that, though, then the Grove-based team have already announced that he’ll be partnering Alex Albon next season.
It means Haas have the last available seat on the grid, which is looking increasingly likely to be taken by a former Williams driver.
Following Aston Martin’s announcement that reigning Formula E World Champion Stoffel Vandoorne would be joining the Silverstone-based side in 2023 as their reserve and test driver, many now believe that Nico Hulkenberg is set to partner Kevin Magnussen at Haas next season.
Given that Hulkenberg held Vandoorne’s new role this season, it seems probable that Vandoorne has been brought in to replace the experienced German, who has been linked to the Haas seat.
For several weeks, the available seat has been between Hulkenberg and current driver Mick Schumacher, whose current contract expires after Abu Dhabi.
It represents a choice of experience or youth for the Americans, with Haas boss Guenther Steiner wanting what is best in the “medium to long term”.
Despite this, experience seems to be the path Haas are going to take following Aston Martin’s announcement of Vandoorne.
Steiner has revealed that the team are close to making an announcement over their second driver for next season, with it believed to be confirmed prior to the Brazilian Grand Prix.
“We’re close now,” Steiner has now told the German broadcaster ntv.
Whilst fans will want Schumacher to remain, the 23-year-old has come under constant fire from Steiner and owner Gene Haas, with the German often criticised for making mistakes.
Steiner has previously said that the son of Michael Schumacher has a “50/50 chance” of retaining his seat; however, the currents odds appear to not be in his favour.
A return to full-time F1 for the first time since leaving Renault in 2019 is looking more and more likely for Hulkenberg, who has admitted himself that he’s “optimistic” about his chances.
Whilst this might be the case, Steiner ultimately wants “what’s best” for the Americans, who will be looking to progress up the order in 2023 with their new title partner MoneyGram.
“For me it’s no longer about one race, one lap,” said Steiner.
“For me, it’s about what’s best for the Haas team in the medium to long term.
“But it’s not like we said ‘if Mick scores points now, he has the place or not’. The decisive factor is ‘who leads the team into the future with stability.”