Haas F1 Team On Why It Didn’t Hire Nico Hülkenberg: We Need To Fix Our Car First

Romain Grosjean at the Singapore Grand Prix weekend.
Photo: Clive Rose (Getty Images)

Renault Formula One driver Nico Hülkenberg is currently out of a ride next year, since with only 20 cars, F1 silly season is basically a prolonged game of musical chairs. Rest assured, though, Haas F1 was considering him—only to realize they needed to fix their race car before screwing around with anything else.

Given the rest of the drama over there lately, that’s probably for the best.

Haas announced on Thursday that it would keep its current lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen through 2020, despite the team’s struggles this year. The main reason Haas did so, team principal Guenther Steiner said, was because the team’s race car isn’t great. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t, and nobody really knows how to fix it.

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Thus, when it came time to decide whether to replace Grosjean for next season, Haas decided, “Eh, we’re probably better off with the dude who’s been dealing with this all year than putting some new person in the car.”

Steiner said via quotes on the F1 website that he believes Hülkenberg should stay in F1, it just won’t be with Haas. From the story:

“This year [it’s] not performing as we want it to perform,” says Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner. “It is the car – it has nothing to do with the drivers. If we now changed a driver, I don’t know if it would help us to make the car better. It could. But it also could not because the new guy wouldn’t know where we start off.

“Romain was a big part of getting the understanding of where we are going wrong with the car at the moment. He was a big help. We didn’t want to have any more unknowns. The collaboration and how we work – we know what we have got and we can work with that. That’s why we took the decision to stay with Romain for another year.”

Steiner and team owner Gene Haas talked about Grosjean’s seat over the past few weeks, and, according to the F1 website, it was between Hülkenberg and Grosjean—Grosjean’s major plus being that he gives good car feedback, and biggest downfall being his spotty performance over the past couple of years.

Hülkenberg ultimately didn’t get an offer from Haas, with Steiner saying that if the team can’t get the race car to where it can regularly score points, since only the top 10 of 20 finishers each race do, the team won’t lose any based on driver choice. Through 14 of 21 races this season, Magnussen sits 16th of 20 drivers in the standings with 18 points, and Grosjean sits 17th with eight points.

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Here’s more on what Steiner said, via the website:

“These are the discussions we have been having - all of a sudden the car is good again but can we get the car good without him? Maybe not. Then we go back evaluating what we did to have a good car last year and he was part of that one. Yes, we lost points last year because of him but we need to work on that. At least we know to get the car performance back to where it should be, it can be done.

“Our focus was only how can we get back where we were last year. We know what we did last year to be where we were, so we need to get that one going again and I think we know where we went wrong this year.”

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Of the final call, Steiner said, “Only time will tell if it was the right decision.”

Grosjean, in the end, was potentially saved by the car that’s caused him and the rest of his race team a plethora of problems throughout the season. It’s almost poetic, when you think about it.

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Alanis King

Alanis King is a staff writer at Jalopnik.