Guenther Steiner says he’ll still take a phone call from Daniel Ricciardo if he wants Mick Schumacher’s seat as he rates the Aussie as a driver.
Ricciardo will part ways with McLaren at the end of this season, the 33-year-old and team agreeing to terminate his contract a year early after falling short of expectations.
But with only two teams still with seats open for next season, Haas and Williams, Ricciardo has made it clear he’d rather spend a year on the sidelines than race at the back of the field.
That doesn’t mean Haas aren’t still interested.
Team boss Steiner says even at this late stage in the season, he would be happy to talk with him about next year but that it is entirely in Ricciardo’s hands.
“If he’s interested in us, he’s not shy to call me up. I am not going to chase him down,” the team principal told The Associated Press.
“I want him to decide what he wants to do for himself, first, before being talked into something.
“I think he’s a good driver and I don’t know how he got in the situation he’s in now, but I think he needs to come clean with himself and decide what he’s going to do.”
The Italian believes having a race winner like Ricciardo would be great for Haas, but did admit he’s perplexed as to his current form or lack thereof with McLaren.
“For us he would be a big hit,” Steiner continued. “He was a race winner and now he is without a job. He was a race winner just last year. I rate him as a driver.
“I have no idea why he doesn’t perform right now. That is for him to figure out.”
But unless Ricciardo has had a major change of heart in the last two weeks, Steiner shouldn’t wait for the call.
Speaking after Alpine confirmed Pierre Gasly at Suzuka, the 33-year-old told the media: “The Gasly news I was aware of and I knew they were talking and were very interested, so I would say that’s no surprise. We were trying to navigate our way around and figure out what’s next.
“The reality is now that I won’t be on the grid in 2023, it’s now just [a case of] trying to set up for 2024.
“I think there could be better opportunities then and that’s really what all this confirms now, where the sides are set.”
Steiner’s comment comes just one day after Schumacher was criticised by team owner Gene Haas for his three big crashes in this year’s championship.
Gene Haas on Mick Schumacher…
“I think Mick has got a lot of potential, but you know he costs a fortune and he's wrecked a lot of cars that have cost us a lot of money that we just don't have."
[Associated Press] pic.twitter.com/q6ZSVN6H5e
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) October 18, 2022
“I think Mick has got a lot of potential, but you know he costs a fortune and he’s wrecked a lot of cars that have cost us a lot of money that we just don’t have,” the American said.
But the door is not firmly shut with Haas saying a few more points would help Schumacher in contract negotiations.
“We need Mick to bring some points and we’re trying to give him as much time as possible to see what he can do,” he said.
“If he wants to stay with us, he’s got to show us that he can score some more points. That’s what we are waiting for.”