A solemn truth echoes off the garage walls of the Haas team. Ralf Schumacher, a former Formula 1 winner, has laid down a stark ultimatum for the small and struggling American outfit: consider a sale, or continue to languish at the back of the grid.
Nico Hulkenberg, the experienced German driver, who found his return to F1 via Haas, hasn’t shied away from the grim outlook. “We actually needed a real step forward in performance, and unfortunately that didn’t happen,” he lamented post-Brazil, casting doubts over a resurrection of fortunes in 2024 despite the newly-launched ‘B’ car that even he agrees is a flop. Sundays behind the wheel are now “not much fun,” he said – a candid confession. Yet, Hulkenberg’s commitment remains, his name inked for Haas in 2024, an allegiance Schumacher doesn’t question. “Haas gave Hülkenberg the chance to get back to Formula 1,” he acknowledged on Sky Deutschland. “That’s why I think it’s fair and right that he’s staying.”
Schumacher’s concern, however, digs deeper, unveiling a consistantly critical view of Haas’ trajectory. “Nico also realises that Haas is at a dead end with everything they do. Haas doesn’t seem up to the task of competing in the current Formula 1,” he said. “You get the feeling that he’s dealing with the situation openly and honestly, but maybe he’s also hoping that he can get out of it somehow,” Schumacher added, probing into the psychological toil of a driver in turmoil.
“It’s clear that he’s getting impatient.”
Granted, Ralf Schumacher’s scrutiny of Haas has been relentless, not least because of the controversy surrounding the departure of his nephew, Mick. But personal sentiments aside, his analysis casts a foreboding shadow. “Gene Haas would have to invest a lot of money,” he states, referring to the team’s eponymous owner, a titan in industry but seemingly an underdog in F1’s high-stakes casino.
The stark choice presented is unenviable: inject a fortune or find a buyer. Schumacher delineates the stark reality – “The idea of buying one thing here and another thing there and then cobbling it all together is difficult on your own.”
He points to a possible lifeline – becoming a junior team, a vassal state in the empire of F1, which could grant Haas a veneer of purpose. But the conclusion is drawn with a sense of inevitability, a crossroads where Haas must either find companionship in this journey or risk becoming a footnote in the annals of Formula 1’s relentless march. “It’s clear that Haas needs a partner if things continue like this,” Schumacher asserts, adding ominously: “It won’t work like this in the long run. One option would be for him (Gene Haas) to sell the team.”