Haas retains Grosjean in Hulkenberg blow

Haas will retain an unchanged driver line-up in 2020 after team principal Guenther Steiner rejected Nico Hulkenberg’s attempt to replace incumbent Roman Grosjean.

The decision extends Grosjean’s contract with the team into a fifth season and the Frenchman’s ninth full year in Formula One.

Despite persistent rumours over the past 18 months that Haas has been looking to replace Grosjean owing to his lack of points relative to teammate Kevin Magnussen, the decision boiled down to a straight shootout between him and Nico Hulkenberg, who was cut loose from Renault for 2020 earlier this season to make way for Esteban Ocon.

But Steiner wasn’t convinced Hulkenberg’s continued good standing in the sport, despite him holding the unenviable record of most race starts without a podium finish, would outweigh the benefit of maintaining stable and experienced driving partnership.

“The main thing was this one: do we want to make this step and introduce a new element into the team?” Steiner said. “That was the main reason why we stayed with Romain. We know what we’ve got.

“Knowing Romain pretty well over the last four years, his good sides and his bad sides, we just decided to stay with him.”

“The decision in the end was very subjective because they are all good drivers; we just need to get the best out of them and put them in the best position to deliver.”

Grosjean said he was excited by the opportunity to continue his career with Haas, having joined the team in its debut season, and developing the car from its unpredictable base this season.

“It’s obviously great news,” he said. “We’ve built the story since day one and it feels like the story’s not yet over, so I’m very, very happy to carry on with the team.

“This year’s been a challenge, but it’s also been a good year in terms of growing up with the tea team, understanding what went wrong and how we can move on in the future.

“You never really know [if next year will be better], but I guess the team has worked really hard and has made some good understanding this year from the drivers feedback and what we’ve seen.

“I’ve got confidence that we will bounce back. To which level you never know, but hopefully to a really good one where we can fight in some fun races.”

The contract extension is also being interpreted as a vote of confidence in Grosjean’s technical ability after he convinced the team to revert to its Australia-specification aerodynamics package as the team struggled with upgrades halfway through the season.

In that respect Grosjean was instrumental in forcing the team to realise its development path had generated no performance improvements this season and reassess the car, which should pay dividends next season.

“[Magnussen and Grosjean] are a little bit different, but I think between the two it is a good combination,” Steiner said. “It’s a good balance that one doesn’t go too much this way, and one doesn’t follow.

“Kevin has got his mind, and Romain has got his mind, and sometimes they don’t agree on something, which I think is also good — if people always agree on something, if you take the wrong path, then you agree to go down the wrong alley.”

The decision further reduces Hulkenberg’s options to for a place on the F1 grid in 2020, with only Williams and Alfa Romeo considered potential options and yet to confirm their complete driver line-ups, though Toro Rosso and Red Bull Racing also have seats yet to be confirmed.