Haas F1 team owner Gene Haas says that there are “several candidates” to fill the vacancy which has arisen in the team’s driver line-up for the 2022 Formula 1 season.Nikita Mazepin, whose departure from the team was confirmed over the weekend as a result of complications due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Mazepin was due to continue racing alongside Mick Schumacher this year and appeared for the team at the opening pre-season test in Spain which coincided with the outbreak of war.
Team principal Guenther Steiner previously indicated the team’s test and reserve driver, Pietro Fittipaldi, had “first call” on the seat should Mazepin not race with the team this season. However, team owner Gene Haas says they are considering other drivers as a long-term replacement for Mazepin.
“We’re in the process of looking at several candidates, we’ll see who is available and what we have to deal with, but we’ll have somebody by Wednesday,” Haas told the Associated Press.
He indicated Fittipaldi, who made the only two F1 starts of his career for the team as a substitute at the end of 2020, will test for the team this week. “Pietro will definitely be in it, that’s what he’s for, he’s the test driver,” said Haas.
With Haas fielding two rookie drivers last season, Gene Haas says the vacant race seat offers an opportunity for them to bring in a driver with more experience for this season.
“I think we’d obviously like to get someone with a bit more actual experience,” he said. “We just have to see what’s available.”
Alternatives to Fittipaldi could include Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi, who lost his full-time drive at the manufacturer’s other customer team, Alfa Romeo, at the end of last season. Haas is thought unlikely to recall former drivers Romain Grosjean or Kevin Magnussen, who left the team at the end of 2020 and now race in America.
Despite losing the team’s title sponsor as a result of heavy sanctions placed on Russian businesses by the United States, United Kingdom and European Union, Haas insists that the team are in good shape financially.
“We’re good. We’re fine,” Haas said. “We’d like more money, of course, but we’re fine. This just gives us a bigger negative number.”
The second three-day pre-season test begins on Thursday at the Bahrain International Circuit. The season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix will take place the following weekend.
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