As the age-old silly season drama sets off in full swing, it is once again time for Haas F1 to tease that it might just sign some new drivers for the upcoming season. Team principal Guenther Steiner has been saying it for years, and he’s saying it again, but there’s a difference in 2020: We have a solid free agent waiting to be signed.
Sergio Perez was unceremoniously dumped by his Racing Point team earlier this week in favor of Sebastian Vettel. As per the Mexican driver, “Nobody told me anything.” He found out that the team was going in “another direction” via a phone call after receiving earlier assurances that he would be with the team in 2021.
It’s a fairly disappointing way for the driver to end his term at Racing Point. He’s been with the group for seven years, dating back to its Force India days.
There aren’t a ton of seats available for Perez to consider at this point, but the Haas team has acknowledged that it has a roster of about 10 drivers that it’s considering ahead of 2021. Steiner was evasive in an interview with Motorsport, saying, “We are speaking with everybody, and we need to see what we want to do and then decide what we are going to do.”
But it’s no secret that both of Haas’s current drivers have grated on Steiner’s nerves for a while. Anyone who has watched Drive to Survive has seen the team principal’s fiery temper and the way it’s exacerbated by drivers itching to fight back against something. It’s a frustrating atmosphere, and no one is working at their best.
While Haas wouldn’t necessarily be a great choice for Perez—he would be dropping significantly down the ranks of performance—the team should definitely be seeking him out as a possible driver. It’s the team that would benefit most from his presence.
Perez stuck with Force India through thick and thin. While he was there, the team struggled, went bankrupt, and lost its wild team owner to a series of serious legal problems before it was finally bought out by Lawrence Stroll, Canadian billionaire and father of Perez’s teammate Lance.
While Perez hadn’t been a star, he’s been consistent enough to wrap up each season a firm member of the competitive midfield, bringing home countless top-10 finishes and even a handful of podiums along the way. For several years, he was often the fastest driver outside of the Big Three: Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari.
It’s tough to compare a driver on one F1 team to a driver on another. Things are fairly stratified in the series, so trying to compare Perez to Grosjean or Magnussen is a little like trying to compare apples to oranges: they’re both fruit, yes, but they’re both wildly different.
That said, Grosjean has struggled since his best-ever 2013 season. He had several podium finishes that year, but he had quite a few retirements and out-of-points finishes. Magnussen has been involved in F1 since 2014, and his results have been fairly mediocre. With the exception of a ninth place overall finish in the championship in 2018, the Danish driver has been more likely to finish outside of the points.
Both Magnussen and Grosjean, too, are aggressive, which makes for some inconsistencies in their performances. Right now, Haas doesn’t need a driver to be the kind of hero that’s willing to take another driver—and himself—out of contention. It doesn’t need a driver to fight with the car. It needs a driver that is proven to bring his machines home in one piece, who can have a conversation with it about what needs to change. Perez is that driver.
At this point, something in the Haas lineup needs to change, and a driver swap might be one factor that could contribute to an improvement in performance. It would certainly alleviate some of the built-up frustrations lingering at Haas, and Perez would offer the team more than enough support to rediscover its previously promising form.