Haas is flirting with the idea of bringing in an experienced F1 test and reserve driver to provide a reference point as Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin add their view.

Haas made the brave decision to field an all rookie line-up for F1 2021. Whilst logistically and financially it was a move that had to be made, it does come with some problems. One of which being the fact that there is no reference point or benchmark for the car and drivers who strive to extract the maximum out of their machinery.

Doing this can be hard when there is nothing to compare to. Bringing in an experienced test and reserve driver would, on paper, solve this issue but it’s not as simple as that. “You’re fully right there, we have no reference, the reference is missing and that is an experienced driver,” said Haas team principal Guenther Steiner to media including FormulaRapida.net.

A reference point provides the two Haas rookies, Schumacher and Mazepin, something to aim for and to compare their performances rather than what is currently an unknown quantity to an extent. “I don’t know exactly how we’re going to do it, there is more than one way to do these things,” Steiner. “We talked a little bit about it but didn’t really do anything. I want to see how they get on.

“And you can see a lot from data how much they improved and stuff like this, you know, you can get a lot of information. But I don’t know… when we get there, we’ll find a solution also for that if we need to. If we need to, and I’m not sure that we need to,” summed up Steiner. The Italian alludes here how there is not just one solution, and the team are clearly not fully sold on the idea.

The data can only help you so far, the intuition and experience of the driver compared to other machinery is crucial and Haas don’t have this. Constant improvement from their two drivers is therefore crucial. This is by no means to say Schumacher and Mazepin aren’t up to the job because they more than are and have both proved that this season in by far the worst car on the grid.

There is just of course that reference point that is missing to track their progression. So, would Steiner actually proceed with hiring an experienced test and reserve driver? “It is always difficult if you take on reserve for a reference driver, call it like this, that will take them out of the car in testing,” he said.

“And I think we have to get to that point at some stage. I will discuss it internally with the engineers, what is best for the team. We haven’t made a decision.” It’s up in the air but it is something that is unlikely, but you wouldn’t rule it out. 2022 is very different and this idea probably would have been a bigger help this year instead of next, which is when they’d do it.

The main problem with this idea is the fact that it takes away track time from the current drivers which is very counterproductive against what the idea is trying to solve. Also, from next year onward, they will have to keep certain FP1 sessions for rookies. “But all these ideas, there’s a lot of these ideas floating around,” said Steiner. “But we haven’t taken that decision. Hopefully, we don’t need to do this. That’s also not good if you put somebody in only… to give the team a reference. They lose time to drive it.

“So it’s a very difficult decision to take. I hope that our car is stable enough so that they can extract everything out as much as possible. The better the car is, the easier it will be for them to develop it. Stable car makes you go quicker because it gives you confidence.” Come 2022 it may not even be an issue because Haas is fully expected to take a significant leap forward and with a more stable car, progression of their two drivers can become so much easier and their talent and potential can be utilised further.

It would make more sense for this to be done at the start of 2021 not for 2022 when the issue of experience will be naturally less. Steiner claims, “it will be after the season that we decide this and  if we have to take a decision like this. At the moment we focus fully on giving the drivers as much experience as possible. It will not be during the season.”

So, it’s with a view for 2022 which yes although you could argue might be a year too late, it would still be no doubt hugely valuable to the team which is also a young one let’s remember. At the moment, Pietro Fittipaldi is their reserve but he doesn’t have the vast experience of driving in F1, like the previous two Haas drivers.

On the Haas current drivers side, both were not too sure about the move, but left it on Steiner and the management to decide what’s best for the outfit. “I think that were pretty much getting the best out of the car, I don’t think that there is a need for that, especially as reserve drivers don’t get to drive that much and we don’t know how that would be.

“But again I think we are doing the best we can and I think qualifyings like Sochi show that we are able to extract the maximum out of the car,” said Schumacher. Meanwhile, his Haas teammate Mazepin added: “I have never been asked that question and I don’t think the drivers get to choose it.

“I don’t think its correct but if I was to be asked I think more help in a position where we are now is good help and yeah I would be open to any solution but I think Guenther is team boss who needs to take these decisions not me, I’m too young for it,” summed up Mazepin.

It’s a creative decision to a problem that with time will ease. It’s not a decision the team are taking lightly either and Steiner isn’t fully convinced by it otherwise there would have been far more conviction and knowledge when speaking about it. There are pros and cons to this, but it would be no doubt invaluable to a team with collectively the least experience on the grid.

The story was written by Ollie Pattas

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