Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are fine with the call from Haas regarding losing their F1 seats for financial reasons as they now ponder on their future.
Haas’ abandonment of their 2020 F1 driver line-up did not come as a surprise necessarily, but nonetheless it instilled a level of intrigue in the paddock, with new questions arising related to the team’s future, as well as those of Magnussen and Grosjean.
Some details about the timeline of events leading up to the announcement, however, did emerge on Thursday, one such detail being that the decision was financially motivated, as they potentially seek a line-up consisting of drivers with backing.
“I knew probably one of us would be out at the end of the year, just because of the situation around the world, and how COVID has made it very hard financially for a lot of companies,” started Grojean, when speaking in press conference to media including Motorsport Network, The Race, Motorsport Week, Racefans.net, BBC, Reuters, AMuS and more.
“I knew one of us would go out – that’s why I said to Guenther on the call when he called me that I was expecting only one of us to be dropped, and he said, ‘No, for financial reasons, I need both of you out. I know it’s been a tough year with COVID in a lot of industries or companies that suffer from it. The team is going a different path, and I wish them luck and the best for the future.”
Grosjean then confessed that he does not have the money to finance a drive for himself, nor would he want to secure a seat on anything but merit: “I’ve had some partners in my career following me through different teams, but I’ve never been a pay driver as such, and I don’t want to become one.”
Regardless, the confirmation of the decision comes at a time when many teams have already decided on a driver line-up, and therefore the announcement leaves Grosjean with few opportunities to find a new seat. While not ideal, the timing doesn’t bother the father of three, who explained that he has had to contend with tighter situations before in his F1 career, most notably in the early 2010s when he was notified by his team that he would be dropped into the December following the season’s conclusion.
“It wasn’t our call to make the decision of when to announce,” said Grosjean. “Obviously earlier, it’s always a bit better, it gives us a bit more time to find anything. But in 2012 – or was it ’11 – I was told on December 8th that I was going to be in F1 the year after. I’ve known later than this. I think I could tell yet the decision was made some some time ago. But I guess Guenther felt good enough to tell us last week, and that’s fine by me.”
Options for Grosjean exist on the grid, but more likely than not – by the 34-year-old’s own admission – he will have to explore options outside of F1. He explained that as he does so, he is most interested in options that afford him the opportunity to fight for victories. “I think in F1 there aren’t many seats left, and it looks complicated,” he said. “But I was talking to my seven-year-old son the other day, and I told him something is impossible. And he looked at me and he said ‘Daddy, in impossible, there is ‘possible’.
“So there’s always a way.’ Coming from a seven year-old boy, I found that really cool. So let’s see. Outside F1, there are many challenges that are appealing. There are a few discussions and few options that I would love to race. I miss the winning feeling as well, I miss coming into a race weekend thinking I can fight for the win this weekend, I can fight for a podium, I need the best of myself to get there.
“Rather than just maybe hoping to get out of Q1, and if things happen, score a point or two. It doesn’t mean you don’t give your best when it’s like this, but you miss something as a racer, and hopefully I can figure out good options for me and let you know, ASAP,” summed up Grosjean, who has spoken about WEC (Peugeot) and Formula E (Mahindra) a lot in the lead-up to the announcement.
This was a common thread, in fact, across both of the Haas driver pairing, as Magnussen also stated that he is most interested in options that allow him to pursue victories. Rumors had circulated that an IndyCar career could be in his future as the series gains more international acclaim, and the Dane did not deny the possibility. He did, however, mention that orchestrating an IndyCar program with the American championship’s silly season well underway, and COVID-19 limiting opportunities, could be “slightly difficult”.
“IndyCar has been something that I’ve been interested in always,” said Magnussen. “My dad was an IndyCar driver back in the nineties. And I’ve been to IndyCar races with him as a small child, and I just always thought it was super cool, and I would love to have a go in that some time. But at the moment I think even outside F1 the whole motorsport world is hit by these times that we have this year.
“And it doesn’t look easy to get good deals over there. So we’ll see. I’m not saying no to it at all, and not saying it’s impossible, but it looks slightly difficult. I would say I’m very open at the moment to anything really. I’m only just 28 years old, and I still feel that I have more to give in F1, but we’ll see. There’s not a lot of seats left. And also I really miss winning, I miss the feeling of winning races, and that’s kind of really something that I’ve started to think about quite a lot recently, how much I miss that.
“We’ll see where that opportunity is, and what comes my way,” he continued, prior to explaining that he had been exploring his options long before he was formally informed of his employers’ decision. “I’ve been kind of thinking about options for a while. So it didn’t change a lot, I would say, once Gunther told me that they were going to look for other drivers.
“I would have considered it very seriously if I had been offered something from Haas, but I have been looking elsewhere for a while,” Magnussen said, the 28-year-old also clarifying that he’d consider committing to other racing series’ before he would seriously contemplate a year away from F1 with the intent of returning for 2022.
“I had a sabbatical in 2015. “And that wasn’t very enjoyable. And I think I was pretty lucky to get a chance to come back after that. So I don’t think a sabbatical is preferred in any way. I want to be racing, I’m a racer. And as I said, I really miss going racing to win. And I couldn’t see myself on the sidelines for a whole year at this point.
“I’m keeping my options open, I’m speaking to all sorts of different teams and people. Who knows what can happen in F1? I’ve learned over the years that you should never say never, and should always keep your doors open,” summed up Magnussen.
Similarly to Grosjean, Magnussen denied that his financial support from various sponsors was enough to help him meaningfully in a bid for a remaining F1 seat: “I can’t bring the kind of backing that you need. I have sponsors and I have partners, but it’s not at all big in this world, it’s not enough to make a difference, really, for me.”
Also speaking on Thursday, Steiner explained of the divorce. “We decided we wanted some change going forward because as you know, this year was an exceptional year for all of us,” he said. “We just need to see how we how we go forward with the budget cap, where we can best invest our money and what we do.
“That was the reason behind it. We wanted to say, ‘Hey, we want to make a change’ and we need to get prepared for the new regulations in 2022 when it is a new world for everybody,” the Italian continued, also clarifying that their intent was to leave Grosjean and Magnussen in the most comfortable positions as possible. “We wanted to be fair to them. We could have kept it for us for a while, and then just do it.
“But I think the guys were good with us in the last years. We said we’re not going that way, we’re going to do some changes, and therefore we want to tell them so they’ve got a chance to find something else. If we tell them only whenever we decide who is going to drive the car, it could be the end of the year, and they would have a lesser chance to find something for next year. I would say we made a decision about two, three weeks ago. I called them last week. It is very difficult to drop them.
“As much as we’ve had ups and downs in our relationships, in the end you don’t stay with people for this long time, four and five years, if you don’t like them. So it’s always difficult to do these things. But in the end, I need to look after the team in general. And they both were very understanding. I mean, for sure, they were not happy. Who would be? But they had a good understanding, and they know that we gave them a good run at it, as well.
“In the end I think there is no bad blood running between us, and we want to get to the end of the season. I need to look out for the whole team. And that is why I have to make these decisions. That’s part of my job, even if it’s a difficult thing to do,” Steiner added.
2021 remains an unwritten chapter in the ‘History Book of Haas’, with an as-of-yet unspecified driver line-up. Prevailing theories include the likes of Mick Schumacher, and the potential involvement of Nikita Mazepin, whose father has been tied to an acquisition of the team.
However, a foreseeable Haas line-up could just as well include an experienced talent like Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez, or perhaps even the two as a pairing. Steiner acknowledged the benefits of both ideas, stating that the popular idea of pairing an experienced driver with a rookie can at times be illogical in its own right. He pointed to frequent issues with Red Bull’s lopsided driver line-ups, often including Max Verstappen and a less decorated rookie, as evidence of this.
Steiner explained that, irrespective of experience as a factor, they seek both backing and talent from a possible driver. “We could be as well, money and talent,” said Steiner. “I mean, talent always needs to be there, not only money. So talent is very important, or more important, but some people have got sponsorship they bring with them. So we are looking at all the options out there as well.
“There are quite a few opportunities out there. And they’re not going away, because the market is pretty small this year. And I think we are lucked into that one this year. So that is the reason why we are not in a hurry to make the announcements.”
Here’s news about Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean leaving
Here’s Guenther Steiner on Ferrari slump, Renault option
Here’s what Steiner last said on the 2021 line-up for Haas
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