F1 Roundtable: Who should Haas sign for 2023?

Formula 1 2022: Italian GP
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As Haas looks to move up the F1 order, who should they sign for the second seat alongside Kevin Magnussen? The LWOS weighs in on the options.

Reports indicate that Mick Schumacher will not be returning to Haas for their 2023 campaign. The American-based franchise has opted to let its contract with the German expire. Not only does this development currently leave Kevin Magnussen without a teammate for next season, but it also leaves the 23-year-old Schumacher’s overall career plans up in the air. Where will be land on the F1 grid for 2023? So if he does leave, what is Haas looking for in their second driver?

A Haas History Lesson

69-year-old Eugene Francis Haas is the founder, President, and sole stockholder of Haas Automation Incorporated. The company designs and manufactures cost-efficient machinery with a specialization in computer numerically controlled equipment. Today, Haas Automation serves as the largest tool manufacturer in the United States.

In 2002 the entrepreneur, originally from Youngstown, Ohio, made his foray into the world of motorsports. Upon purchasing the Concord, North Carolina facility that Hendrick Motorsports utilized for their NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams, HAAS CNC Racing was born. Despite technical support from Hendrick Motorsports, the team only managed an average finish of 31.5 in six seasons.   

Enter Tony Stewart as both a driver and co-owner in 2009, transforming Haas overnight. Since 2009, Stewart-Haas Racing has expanded to four full-time teams and continues to set the bar for Ford franchises across the motorsport landscape. In the twelve years since Stewart’s signing, the franchise has won two NASCAR Cup Series Championships and 91 victories across the various NASCAR series.

Haas Enters F1

It was during the onset of Kevin Harvick’s 2014 NASCAR Cup Series Championship winning campaign that Haas announced his foray into F1. With its main base in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Hass F1 made its debut at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. Romain Grosjean finished 6th, followed by the team’s first top-five finish the next weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Over the course of seven seasons, five drivers have raced behind the wheel of a Haas Ferrari. Despite frequent shifts in the team’s success rate over those ten seasons, Haas has established itself into a respected name throughout the world of motorsports. Even with their flaws, they have showcased to the world they are fully capable of being a mid-pack F1 team, despite the financial gap to the top teams.

The Current Haas Reserve Driver Pool

Before we dive into the roundtable’s picks, let’s look at the current reserve drivers at Haas.

Pietro Fittipaldi (#51)

At 26 years young, the grandson of former two-time World Driver’s Champion Emerson Fittipaldi (1972 and 1974) has competed all over the world across different racing disciplines. His karting beginnings paved the way for early success in capturing three different championships in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the MRF Challenge Formula 2000, and the World Series Formula V8 3.5 campaigns of 2011, 2015-16, and 2017.

He was invited to join the Ferrari Driver Academy in 2014. After competing part-time for Dale Coyne Racing in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Fittipaldi was elevated to Haas’ F1 test driver in 2019. While considered for full-time competition in Haas’ 2022 campaign, the team ultimately opted for veteran experience and re-signed Kevin Magnussen. 

Antonio Giovinazzi (#99)

He started karting at age 7 capturing the Il Trofeo Nazionale Italiano 60cc and the Euro Trophy 60 series championships by the time he was 13. In the KF2 class of the WSK Master Series, Giovinazzi would claim both the 2010 and 2011 championships.

Over the next five seasons, Giovinazzi would capture 18 victories across 12 different competitions before making his Formula One debut for Sauber in 2017. After three lackluster campaigns for Alfa Romeo where he placed no higher than 17th, Giovinazzi was not retained. In 2022 he competed in Formula E and became the second test driver for Haas.

Who should Haas sign for 2023?

Would it be more cost-effective for the franchise to elevate one of their test drivers to replace the outgoing Schumacher? We’ve gathered a panel of writers from the team here at Last Word on Sports to give their opinion on who would be the best option to fill the expected open seat at Haas.

Jack Oliver Smith

  • Pick: Antonio Giovinazzi

If Mick Schumacher will not be driving with Haas next year, the most logical choice for them, and for Ferrari, would surely be Antonio Giovinazzi. After some difficult years with Alfa Romeo, Giovinazzi was not able to retain his race seat for this year. Instead, he partook in the Formula E Championship while juggling his role as Ferrari Reserve Driver. Giovinazzi is apparently highly regarded in Maranello, and his work in the simulator has been praised by the Scuderia.

Due to being contracted to Ferrari, it would be probable that Giovinazzi’s wages would be paid by them, rather than Haas, which would relieve financial pressure with their modest budget. Also, a race seat would surely keep Giovinazzi happy, with many praising him for his improvement throughout the 2021 season which would surely buoy him to show everyone his worth as a Formula 1 race driver.

Gabe Perrin

  • Pick: Antonio Giovinazzi

While some arguably bigger names from F1’s past, such as Nico Hulkenberg, have been thrown out there among others, I believe that the most likely option for Haas in 2023 is Antonio Giovinazzi. At just 28 years old and with 62 Formula 1 races under his belt, the Italian driver is one of the most experienced drivers in contention for this seat. Although he had a rough 2022 in Formula E, has racked up 21 career points throughout his time in F1. Giovinazzi has showcased his skills with several good qualifying and race results over the years. In addition to that, he has a strong relationship with Ferrari, which is surely a partnership that Haas would like to maintain for years to come.

Evan Chrise

  • Pick: Robert Schwartzman

Robert Schwartzman is the best option for the open seat in the Haas for the 2023 season. He is currently in the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) and has been for a few years now. He is set to drive in a Practice Season at a Grand Prix later in the season for Ferrari. As Ferrari is the power unit supplier for Hass F1, it only makes sense for Haas to continue to pull from the FDA for future drivers. Current Haas driver, Mick Schumacher is also a part of the FDA but reports indicate he will be leaving that program.

This opens up the seat, and Haas has traditionally been in the middle to low-end of the grid. So, an unproven, young driver with a lot of potential would be a perfect fit for them. Currently, Schwartzman is a test driver for the Scuderia Ferrari F1 team, meaning he has spent the season practicing and learning with the most historic team in F1. Plus he finished second in Formula 2 last season behind Oscar Piastri. Just waiting for his chance to compete in F1.

Thomas Hughes

  • Pick: Daniel Ricciardo

After an embarrassing campaign for Haas in 2021, the team has seen moderate success with the new VF-22. Currently, 7th in the World Constructor’s Championship, if this momentum continues heading into the off-season, combined with another veteran driver, the preparation for their VF-23 could elevate Haas to capable mid-pack contention. Enter Daniel Riccardo.

While a majority of teams typically look to the fountain of youth over veteran experience in similar scenarios, at 33, the Honey Badger could still be considered semi-youthful, with a veteran’s edge.

Ricciardo has averaged a 7.9 position in the Championship during his time in F1. The potential team dynamic between Haas, Riccardo, Magnussen, and Team Principal Guenther Steiner could provide a formula for success to help lift the team further. It would be seen as a victory for both parties. With a love for racing stemming from a childhood interest in both NASCAR and Hollywood, maybe this is what the Australian needs to reignite his career. It’s a chance worth taking.

Nathan Reynolds

  • Pick: Schumacher or a new path

The official F1 website seems to think Nico Hulkenberg is the frontrunner. That would be a desperate and short-sighting move. Hulkenberg has had his time in F1 and there is no reason to believe he will return to the series and be markedly better than before. Ricciardo seems like the media/fan pick. And while considering the American/marketing side of the business it makes sense. I’m not sure how much it helps them on the track long-term. Daniel has struggled to get to terms with new cars in year one. If Haas and Ferrari can retain Mick Schumacher he is the best option. Young, talented, funded by Ferrari (if that relationship is retained), and could commit to the team for another two seasons.

Antonio Giovinazzi? Already had plenty of time and Haas needs to look before driver wage budget benefits. So while Schumacher would be my pick, he may be off the table. If so, rather than go with Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, or Giovinazzi, Haas should opt for youth. Evan’s pick of Schwartzman is spot on. He is talented and knows the Ferrari program. Or they could talk with Sauber and pick up Theo Pourchaire for a season. If Williams can’t place Logan Sargent perhaps Haas can, and there is your American connection. And it’s unlikely Nyck de Vries falls to Haas, but if the driver market goes that way even he would be a better pick. Go forward, not backward.

For Gene Haas, with the right driver, car, and team leadership combination, the 2023 campaign could potentially usher in a new era of elevation for his franchise. With time running out but plenty of options on the table who will the team select?

Featured Image Credit: Andy Hone / LAT Images