The Haas Formula One team have released a statement that their current drivers who have their contracts expire at the end of 2020 will not be renewed for the 2021 F1 season. Romain Grosjean who joined the Haas F1 team at its inception in the championship in 2016 will be leaving the team at the end of the 2020 season. Kevin Magnussen who is the current teammate to Grosjean in the Haas contingent will also see his departure at the end of the 2020 F1 season. Magnussen joined the Haas team in 2018 after departing from McLaren. Both the team and the two drivers have confirmed the departures and this leaves the driver market and line up wide open for the 2021 season. The two drivers have yet decided their future either in Fomula One or outside the sport although retirement may also be an option to consider especially for the 34 years old Grosjean.
Why Haas axed Grosjean and Magnussen?
The unilateral decision to end the partnership between Haas and ite drivers at the end of this season is something that the other teams should learn from. The Covid-19 pandemic could have played a major role in terms of financial resources, but the fact that Haas left this so late this was inevitable and should have been avoidable. The Haas team are stating the release of their drivers at the end of the 2020 season is purely due to financial constraints, they cannot carry on with their hefty salaries as the team is not performing well financially. There could be a number of contributors to this under performance especially their performance on the track has been a serious concern. The team has just managed a solitary point so far in the constructors’ championship and there is no light at the tunnel with the remaining handful races. With Haas having signed the Concorde Agreement which will keep the team in the sport for the next five years, a different strategy is surely required for the team to move forward.
What this will mean to F1 driver movements
The situation at Haas F1 team will leave the driver movement for the 2021 campaign wide open for the young and current aspiring drivers that wish to take their F1 career to the next level. This has surely shaken the driver market and most teams and drivers alike are on alert to make use of the opportunity. It remains unclear with Haas who will drive for them next season, but it is believed that atleast one of the seats will be occupied by a Ferrari junior driver. The Ferrari academy drivers of Micky Schumacher, Callum llot and Robert Shwartzman are billed to test Formula One machinery at the season ender at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As to the likes of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnessun their futures lies most likely outside Formula One. Red Bull Racing are considering heavily a replacement for Alex Albon for the 2021 season with the likes of Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez to drive alongside Max Verstappen. Yuki Tsunoda, the Formula 2 rookie is increasingly being linked with Alpha Tauri as a replacement for the out of favour Daniil Kvyat.
What went wrong with Alex Albon at Red Bull?
The Thai driver, Alex Albon, is fighting for a seat come the 2021 season to drive along Max Verstappen who’s almost on his own at Red Bull. Alex Albon replaced Pierre Gasly who was demoted to then Toro Rosso team in the 2019 season. Naturally this was devastating for the French driver and things have ever turned around and the opposite is inevitable. Albon has since shown few glimpses of success at Red Bull with only one podium finish at the Tuscan GP in 2020. In comparison to his teammate Verstappen, who has enjoyed consistent results at the top of the grid spots, the Thailander has been under performing with the same type of machinery, several times being outside the points. This has led Red Bull to consider replacing Albon with either Hulkenberg or Perez should his performance not improve in the last five races. Red Bull has been patient with their driver but the results are not coming by and time is not on their side for driver line up in 2021, a decision has to made sooner than later.
George Russell’s position hangs on the balance at Williams
The academy driver for Mercedes who’s plying his trade at Williams team is having a serious threat for his existence in Formula One at the current team. Williams team have new owners and their driver line up appetite for the 2021 is focused elsewhere beyond George Russell. Mercedes management have acknowledged Russell’s capabilities even driving such an under performing machinery but they have stated that they’ve got no control on what Williams would decide on the future of the British driver. The ball is now in Williams court to finalize whether they are interested in Russell’s services in the 2021 season. Sergio Perez’s name is often mentioned behind closed doors in the Williams discussions in anticipation for the final decisions in terms of driver line up for the 2021 season.
The likely scenarios
The Red Bull team will likely retain their current driver pairing for the 2021 season while Haas will surely be having a completely new driver line up. The expectations are that the new drivers will be promoted from the junior teams to join the likes of Haas and tried and tested veterans will also be in the mix. Renault are bringing in two times Spanish driver Fernando Alonso and the chances are very high for Nico Hulkenberg to join either Red Bull or any of the established teams. Sergio Perez is another established candidate likely to be swapping seats between the teams, with the unlikely destination being Williams. It will be very sad to see any one of the young drivers currently in Formula One being shown the exit door, with the likely culprits being George Russell and Alex Albon. Such talent should not leave the F1 championship for other sporting codes, they need to be nurtured and groomed to continue in the series.