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DRIVER MARKET: The F1 race winners vying for a seat with Haas for 2025

F1 Correspondent & Presenter

Lawrence Barretto
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It’s a measure of how far Haas have come since they debuted in the sport in 2016 that they have a plethora of drivers fighting to get a seat at the team for 2025 – three of which have at least one race win under their belt...

Haas have never run a Grand Prix winner. They have never had much of a choice in who they recruit, the American team usually one of the last – if not the last – to announce their plans once their rivals have had their say in the driver market.

READ MORE > THE GUENTHER STEINER COLUMN: Why the driver market is a big dance – and why I’m always open to a good project

But this is a new era for Haas. Under the leadership of new boss Ayao Komatsu – and a rejuvenated owner in Gene Haas – the Banbury/Kannapolis/Maranello-based team are punching above their weight in the midfield – to the extent they are currently seventh in the constructors’ championship with seven points.

They’ve scored four times and made Q3 on three occasions this year, courtesy of Nico Hulkenberg. But more importantly, they look like a team that is going places.

They’ve retained their qualifying pace from last year and improved their tyre management on Sunday, which means no more dropping like a stone come race day, as they mostly did in 2023.

Developments on the car are more regular and, critically, deliver lap time at track. They have retained a strong relationship with long-time partner Ferrari and are improving the communication between chassis builders Dallara, Haas and Ferrari.

SUZUKA, JAPAN - APRIL 05:  Haas F1 Team Principal Ayao Komatsu attends the Team Principals Press

Ayao Komatsu is running things at Haas since Guenther Steiner's departure over the winter

They are also starting to gain the respect of their rivals – to the point where the American team is becoming a sought-after destination for racers who want a car that can score regularly.

This has left Komatsu and Gene Haas in a strong position as they mull their driver line-up for next season. Two seats are available as it stands, with Nico Hulkenberg leaving for Sauber/Audi and Kevin Magnussen’s contract expiring at the end of the year. So who’s in the frame?

READ MORE > ANALYSIS: Why the Audi factor was too tempting for Hulkenberg to turn down as he seals move to Kick Sauber

Bearman overwhelming favourite to get a deal

Ollie Bearman delivered an accomplished performance as a stand-in for the unwell Carlos Sainz at Ferrari in Saudi Arabia, scoring points on his Formula 1 debut with little preparation.

The Briton has impressed Haas when he’s spent time at the team, including in two FP1 appearances last year and the first of six planned runs this year.

Inside Story: Bearman's stellar F1 debut

His ability to get up to speed quickly, complete testing programmes to a high level, deliver expected lap times, offer concise feedback and gel with the team has all hit the mark.

It's why sources say Komatsu and Ferrari Team Principal Fred Vasseur have talked regularly over recent months regarding putting the Ferrari junior in one of the Haas race seats next year and that it is, as I’ve written for months, near enough a done deal.

READ MORE: Bearman wants to be back in F1 ‘as quickly as possible’

Magnussen under pressure to prove he should stay

So with Bearman all set to sign up, that leaves one seat up for grabs – and Magnussen faces a fight to keep hold of it.

The Dane has been comfortably outperformed by Hulkenberg so far this year and has built up so many penalty points on his super licence he’s on the brink of a race ban.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 25: 15th placed qualifier Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and Haas F1 walks in

Kevin Magnussen isn't having his best season – and is out of contract at the end of the year...

Whereas once Haas were eyeing stability and planning to keep Magnussen, it is believed his poor form and interest in the team from race-winning drivers has dropped the Dane down the shortlist.

Bottas a leading contender to make the move

Valtteri Bottas is on the lookout for a seat in 2025, with Sauber/Audi pursuing external candidates for a team mate for Nico Hulkenberg.

READ MORE > PADDOCK INSIDER: Audi's first move, Mercedes’ options and Verstappen's future – the state of play across the F1 driver market

The Finn is of interest to several teams, believed to be Williams, Haas and Alpine.

Bottas’s experience is sought after. He’s a proven race winner – with 10 victories in F1 – and is quick in qualifying, with 20 career pole positions on his CV.

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 03: Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Stake F1 Team Kick Sauber walks in the

Ten-time Grand Prix winner Valtteri Bottas is a potential option for Haas

While he’s had the odd off-weekend at Sauber since signing for them in 2022, he’s largely been on the pace and driven the team forward, both on and off-track.

Haas are keen for some experience to dovetail with rookie Bearman and thus Bottas – who is keen for a long-term deal and project – represents a very strong option.

READ MORE > EXCLUSIVE: ‘There can only be one goal’ – Andreas Seidl on Audi’s ‘all-in’ targets and their driver market strategy

Ocon in contention to swap Alpine for Haas

Esteban Ocon, who is managed by Mercedes, has had a successful stint so far at Alpine – the highlight coming in Hungary 2021 when he clinched his maiden victory.

However, a disappointing start to the 2024 campaign led his management to assess options elsewhere – with Haas and Sauber/Audi the leading contenders.

Dream day for Alpine as Esteban Ocon wins in Hungary

While Ocon admitted his mistake in colliding with team mate Pierre Gasly last week in Monaco – and raised the blood pressure of senior management in Miami when he went wheel-to-wheel with Gasly for the whole of the opening lap – the 27-year-old has been the stronger of the two Alpine drivers on balance so far this year.

He drove a strong race to finish 11th in China and scored the team’s first point of the season in Miami in a car that is among the slowest in the field.

READ MORE > EXPLAINED: Could Alpine really bench Ocon for the Canadian Grand Prix?

Now in his eighth season in F1, Ocon would bring significant experience from three teams, though his fractious relationship with Gasly and previously with Sergio Perez will likely be a factor in Haas’s thinking.

Gasly also in the fight to join the American team

Like Ocon and Bottas, Gasly is a Grand Prix winner who would consider a new challenge, having had a decent but unspectacular time at Alpine since joining last season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 23: Esteban Ocon of France and Alpine F1 and Pierre Gasly of France

Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly are both race winners who could find themselves in a Haas next year

It is believed Alpine are keen to keep him – however, his management are understood to have explored their options with at least three teams in the mix.

Gasly rebuilt himself at Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri after being dropped by Red Bull in 2019, and has since scored four podiums, including victory in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.

READ MORE > PALMER: It’s approaching crunch time for Red Bull – is Perez doing enough to keep his seat, or should they look elsewhere?

He beat Ocon in the drivers’ championship last year, delivering two particularly strong drives that delivered third in the Sprint in Belgium and third in the Grand Prix in the Netherlands.

Haas would benefit from a driver of his calibre, even if he has lacked consistency in recent times.

So for once it’s Haas in the driving seat when it comes to finalising their driver line-up for next year – and we could well see a bona fide Grand Prix winner at the wheel of their 2025 car. Which driver that is, however, remains to be seen…

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