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Who will drive for Haas in 2016?

13 Aug 2015

A new team will join the Formula One racing in 2016, in the shape of Gene Haas's eponymous outfit. The factory is in place, key personnel have been secured - but the burning question of who will be driving is yet to be answered. We run down a list of the most likely candidates...

Jean-Eric Vergne

The former Toro Rosso ace is a frontrunner for a seat at Haas thanks to his test driver role at Ferrari, who will be providing the American team's power units. With two top-six finishes across 58 starts, as well as an enviable record when team mate to Daniel Ricciardo, Vergne would certainly bring pedigree to the fledgling squad, as well as the kind of experience no ‘homegrown' driver - let alone another 25-year-old - could currently offer. The Frenchman won't lack motivation either - having lost his Toro Rosso seat (somewhat harshly in the eyes of many) to Russian teen Daniil Kvyat at the end of 2013, he'll no doubt be keen to show the Red Bull hierarchy they were wrong to let him go. The only thing working against Vergne is his lack of experience of the current breed of hybrid power units, though his test work for Ferrari - which has involved simulator sessions at Maranello - negates this to a certain extent. Vergne has also stayed race sharp by competing in Formula E, finishing the inaugural season in seventh place with two podium finishes. He's has already put pen to paper on a deal to continue in the series, but his plans might change if F1 racing were to become a realistic option again…  

Esteban Gutierrez

Like Vergne, Gutierrez's role as Ferrari reserve driver has, according to team owner Gene Haas, placed him on a shortlist of candidates for a drive with the American squad. The Mexican's F1 CV might not look as impressive as Vergne's on paper (just six points over 38 race starts), but Gutierrez does have first-hand race experience of Ferrari's V6 hybrid power unit, having raced for Sauber in 2014. His popularity in his homeland also means he's well placed to bring sponsorship to the team, which makes him an even more attractive proposition. The information Gutierrez has picked up by spending 2015 race weekends with Ferrari could also prove valuable from an operations standpoint, though his lack of actual on-track action isn't - his stints behind the wheel for the Prancing Horse have been limited to demonstration runs and simulator sessions.

Nico Hulkenberg

In many ways, Hulkenberg would be the ‘dream' signing for Haas. Still only 27, the German has experience in spades, with four full F1 seasons already under his belt. In that time he has only been out-scored by his team mate once - his debut season, when he was up against Rubens Barrichello - and while podiums have thus far eluded him, he is firmly established among the F1 elite. But would the man himself take the risk of leaving Force India to switch to a new and unproven team? The close links with Ferrari are the obvious lure, but even so there are some serious question marks about how much of a backward step it would constitute. Hulkenberg has already competed against - and comfortably outshone - then-rookie Gutierrez at a Ferrari-engined team in 2013. Would he want to try for a repeat and the outside chance of landing a works drive with the Scuderia?

Alexander Rossi

Haas have made it clear that nationality will not guarantee anyone a race seat, and that securing someone with F1 experience remains the priority. American Alexander Rossi potentially ticks both boxes. Still only 23, he has competed in Grand Prix practice sessions for both Caterham and Marussia, and driven in four further official tests. Now back in GP2, where he can boast one victory and eight podiums from one full- and two half-season campaigns, Rossi is perhaps the best-placed American to make the step up to a permanent F1 seat should Haas come calling.

Other potential names in the frame

IndyCar racewinner Josef Newgarden, 24, is one of the brightest young talents in American motorsport and has both the ability and age to potentially make the switch to F1 racing. Compatriot Danica Patrick has cooled the early excitement that she might be in the frame, although Haas himself has said that "anything is possible" in relation to the 33-year-old making the switch from Nascar. Adrian Sutil, a veteran of 128 Grand Prix starts, was another name connected to the US squad, although he now appears to be out of the running. Haas, however, remains flexible, stating that he would be interested in any driver competing in F1 this year, should they become available.