Steiner admits Grosjean/ Hulk call isn’t clear-cut

Debating whether to re-sign Romain Grosjean for 2020 or bring in Nico Hulkenberg isn’t a “clear decision” for Haas, so says Guenther Steiner.

While Kevin Magnussen is set to remain at Haas next season, his team-mate has yet to be decided.

Haas have two options on the table: Grosjean or Hulkneberg.

While the former has been with the team since the beginning, his troubles on track, which include several run ins with his own team-mate, have put his race-seat on the line.

As for Hulkenberg, he’s a free agent after losing his Renault seat to Esteban Ocon.

Haas, though, concede it is not an easy decision.

“If it was a clear decision it would be easy to make, we would agree immediately,” team boss Steiner explained to Autosport.

“We’re not sure what is the best, he is not, and I’m not.

“He can always tell me what to do, he’s got that privilege because he finances the team.

“He values my opinion, so we discuss it just to make the best decision for the team, not for us.

“What we’ve got now is not bad, but can we make it better?

“How big is the risk that we want to make it better and it doesn’t go in the right direction?

“It’s a lot back and forward, but at some stage we need to come to a conclusion.”

Steiner added that Haas are not in a rush to confirm their second driver given that Grosjean and Hulkenberg’s options are both limited.

“There is no desperation setting in,” he said.

“The market wasn’t moving a lot this year, there are not big movements going on.

“It is very difficult to decide what to do, therefore it takes a little bit longer.

“It’s not like is ‘he good, is he not good?’

“We know Romain pretty well, and I can see what Hulkenberg has done, so it’s more like what is fitting better in the bigger scheme of the team going forward than the race-by-race result.”

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Hulk or Grosjean: Who do Haas pick for 2020?

Haas seem to have narrowed down the options for Kevin Magnussen’s 2020 partner to Nico Hulkenberg or Romain Grosjean, but who do they pick?

This campaign has been a total write-off for Haas. The VF-19 has been a dreadful race car, sending Grosjean and Magnussen on a slippery slope down the order on Sundays.

2020 must be better for the American outfit, a raceable car would be a solid start, but also very important will be the two drivers in them.

They have held off thus far on announcing Magnussen’s partner for next season, though Haas have stated their reluctance to hire a rookie and instead will either retain Grosjean for a fifth season or reach out to Hulkenberg, who departs Renault at the end of 2019.

Both represent an intriguing option for the struggling team, but who would be the better fit? Let’s analyse some of the key factors behind the decision ahead…

Grosjean knows the team, Hulkenberg can be rather negative


As previously mentioned, Grosjean would be going into his fifth season with the team and having been with them since their debut in 2016, he knows Haas like the back of his hand.

Now, we have seen and heard the Frenchman get rather emotional on several occasions this season, but it’s not surprising because the race woes that Haas have provided no firm answers for would tick off any driver.

Grosjean has been here throughout the highs for Haas – he kicked off their Formula 1 days with P6 and P5 at the 2016 Australian and Bahrain GPs, while he led the way with P4 at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix with Magnussen crossing the line P5 to score Haas’ best result in the series.

So theory would dictate that Grosjean would be the option more likely to drag Haas back up the order – if they went with Hulkenberg, they risk his negativity following.

The German hasn’t been shy when it comes to calling out Renault for their shortcomings this season – do Haas really want someone like that coming into the team when they are at such a low point? If their 2020 challenger remains a tricky customer, surely Hulkenberg would be more of a destructive force.

Hulkenberg isn’t perfect, but Grosjean is error prone

In keeping with Haas’ difficult season, Grosjean has also made some rather ridiculous errors like his pit-lane crash during practice for the British GP.

We also can’t forget about the habit that he and Magnussen have developed for hitting each other throughout 2019.

It all started in Spain, hit a new level of stupid in Britain where both were forced to retire as a result of the contact, and even in Germany, where all they had to do to score points was finish, they still managed to hit each other but luckily escaped disaster and got the job done.

So signing Hulkenberg may well stamp out these moments of madness, but remember he hasn’t been without error in 2019 either.

Nico Hulkenberg

Take the German GP as the biggest example. Hulkenberg holds that ever-increasing record of most starts in Formula 1 without a podium – 170 to be exact at the time of writing. But, at his home race, the opportunity was glaring at him to end that run and maybe even take his first victory, such was the chaos.

But, Hulkenberg sent his Renault into the barriers as the rain fell, he certainly wasn’t the only one to do it that day, but it was a golden opportunity lost.

Of course when all goes smoothly the Hulk is a force to be reckoned with and arguably he is less likely to drop a clanger at any given moment than Grosjean.

Grosjean and K-Mag’s relationship is strained, but Hulkenberg would bring a new level of tension

He did it, no he did it – that has been the motto for both Grosjean and Magnussen throughout this season as they tried to throw each other under the bus for their various clashes.

It isn’t really the dynamic that you want between team-mates, but Hulkenberg’s arrival would have the potential for disaster.

Hulkenberg and Magnussen aren’t the best of friends. Magnussen’s ‘suck my b****’ comment aimed at Hulkenberg back at Hungary 2017 certainly stung, and even though both drivers have said they are capable of being civil should they be partners for 2020, putting them together is still a risk considering the stress a Formula 1 season can put on team-mates.

Principal Guenther Steiner has grown tired of managing the squabbles of Grosjean and Magnussen this season, so could signing Hulkenberg just be a way of inviting something even worse? Remember though Steiner has said that he has no problems with a potential Hulkeberg/Magnussen line-up.

Grosjean is open to other series, Hulkenberg isn’t

He did say that IndyCar isn’t an option due to a fear of racing on ovals, but Grosjean isn’t against taking his craft elsewhere.

The Formula E series has been one that has caught his eye, whereas Hulkenberg has made Formula 1 his exclusive focus.

For Haas that is significant, do they really want a driver who is having their head turned when the other option is set on staying in Formula 1?

The verdict…

The decision which awaits Haas is arguably bigger than just 2020 – they must look to build for 2021 when Formula 1 is expected to undergo a total overhaul.

And when it comes to a stronger long term option, you have to say that is Hulkenberg.

There isn’t much between them when it comes to age – at 33 Grosjean is just under a year older than Hulkenberg, but the German racer appears more focused on Formula 1.

Grosjean is growing increasingly frustrated with life in the series and, at a struggling Haas team, his outbursts over team radio have painted a clear picture, and it’s probably time for a change for both parties.

Hulkenberg is a risk should Haas’ woes continue into 2020 but, let’s be honest, after this season can it really get any worse?

Jamie Woodhouse

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Renault had to ditch ‘negative’ Hulkenberg

Renault advisor Alain Prost believes it was important that the team dropped the “negative” Nico Hulkenberg.

The French manufacturer have announced that Esteban Ocon will partner Daniel Ricciardo for 2020, while Hulkenberg remains without a drive for 2020.

Hulkenberg hasn’t been shy in the past of airing his frustrations about Renault’s performances and Prost argues that the team need a “motivated driver for next season.”

“We’ll have a hard enough time at Renault next year, so it was important to appoint a motivated driver for next season,” the four-time World Champion is quoted by

“We don’t want to have any pessimistic drivers in our team and that’s why we chose Ocon, who is very motivated after a year on the side of the road.

“Nico is pretty negative, but he’s also right on certain points. However, we have to look ahead and then we can’t use the negativity of a driver. Especially since next year will be a very difficult season for us.”

Prost revealed that Renault are already looking ahead to 2021 when Formula 1 is set to completely reinvent itself, meaning next season is expected to involve further struggles.

“I can be honest, we’re going to focus on 2021,” Prost stated. “As a result, next season will be a mediocre to perhaps even bad season for us.

“Because of the new rules coming up for 2021, it makes no sense for us to develop much more for 2020. We are going to make a lot of changes and hope to perform at a high level in 2021.”

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Hulkenberg: We were all going slow for the tow

Reprimanded for his antics in qualifying for the Italian GP, Nico Hulkenberg admits the drivers were “all going slow” given that the tow is worth “half a second” at Monza.

The drivers were warned against slow out-laps ahead of qualifying at the Monza circuit, a track where gaining a tow can make all the difference.

The FIA issued the drivers with a minimum time of 1:45, however, that was ignored.

Hulkenberg, one of the first to leave the pits, was investigate for a deliberate off at Turn 1 but was cleared.

He was, however, later reprimanded for driving too slow on his out-lap.

The Renault driver says the drivers had to do what they could to get a tow.

“I think it’s up to half a second [gain with a tow],” he told Autosport. “It’s a significant lap time [benefit].

“We were all going slow at that point until everybody realised there’s no time to go slow, and it was all a bit tricky, a bit critical.

“It’s just that the tow effect here is massive with the wake of the cars and nobody wants to be the first guy cutting through the air and that’s the result of that – the side effect.

“I think Monza is probably the worst place for it, but now, going forward, I don’t expect it to be that extreme any more.”

The farcical end to qualifying meant only two drivers crossed the line in time to start a final flying lap.

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Reprimands for Stroll, Hulkenberg and Sainz

Lance Stroll, Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz have all been reprimanded by the stewards after the Q3 debacle at Monza.

The tow as we know is very important around Monza, but in Q3 it was taken to a whole new level as drivers prepared for their final flying laps in Q3 by faking lock-ups, purposely going off the track and forcing rivals to slow down among other daft schemes to gain optimal track position.

Sainz and Charles Leclerc were the only two drivers to make it over the line in time to complete their final flying laps – the session was down to nine drivers at that point following Kimi Raikkonen’s crash at the Parabolica, for which he will receive a five-place grid penalty after a new gearbox was fitted to his Alfa Romeo for the race.

Nico Hulkenberg was summoned by the stewards after leaving the track at Turns 1 and 2, but was later cleared.

However, the German was then placed under investigation again for driving too slowly during the final qualifying session along with Sainz and Stroll.

The trio admitted to driving “unnecessarily slowly”, while the stewards ruled that all three “played a significant role in the banking up of cars at a critical stage of the final out lap for Q3”.

The stewards also cleared Sebastian Vettel after they failed to prove that he had disobeyed track limits at the Parabolica during his only flying lap in Q3.

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Hulkenberg: 2020 talks are are on-going

Nico Hulkenberg says talks with teams about a 2020 driver are still “going on” despite rumours saying Haas would announce him at Monza.

Last week it was confirmed that the Renault driver would no longer be a Renault driver as of the end of this season.

The team announced that Esteban Ocon would be taking his place, leaving Hulkenberg job-less.

The F1 rumour mill, though, didn’t have him unemployed for very long with reports claiming Haas would confirm him as Kevin Magnussen’s 2020 team-mate on the Thursday at Monza.

That, though, is not going to happen.

Hulkenberg says talks about a 2020 drive are on-going but did not comment on which team – or even teams – he is speaking with.

Speaking during Thursday’s driver press conference at Monza, he said: “Nothing concrete yet, but there are talks going on.

“It’ll be a while yet.

“I guess the situation is what it is now but it needs to be the right deal for all.

“There’s no urgency or hurry to sign anything, but there’s options out there but nothing to talk about yet.”

Hulkenberg has been linked to a Haas seat and says he would have no issue partnering Magnussen despite the now infamous “suck my balls” comment.

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Hulkenberg, Magnussen open to Haas partnership

Neither Nico Hulkenberg nor Kevin Magnussen have any qualms about teaming up together despite the infamous “suck my balls” comment.

Clashing at the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg approached Magnussen while the Dane was doing a post-race interview.

Hulkenberg called Magnussen the “most unsporting driver” in F1 to which the Haas man replied: “Suck my balls.”

Two years and rumours in the paddock suggest the two could be team-mates at Haas next year.

Asked if he had any issue partnering Magnussen, Hulkenberg told Autosport: “I’d love to see that.

“Honestly, the team-mate is the team-mate. You have to accept them.

“With some you get on, but you don’t have to get on. Maybe it’s better, I don’t know.

“I don’t think that would be a deal-breaker for me.”

As for Magnussen, he says he’s tired of even being asked about the supposed rivalry with Hulkenberg.

“It was dramatised massively, I’m getting really tired of this subject,” he said.

“Between me and Nico there’s really been only once incident in Hungary two years ago. It’s incredible we are still talking about it.

“There’s not many drivers who are friends off the track. We say ‘hi’ to each other when we see each other on the drivers’ parade, but there’s no issue between us.”

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