Incoming Formula 1 team boss Gene Haas has five drivers under consideration for race seats next year, with Esteban Gutierrez looking more likely than ever to return to Grand Prix action in his new team.
As fellow Ferrari F1 reserve driver Jean-Eric Vergne has committed to a deal with the rebranded DS Virgin squad in Formula E, Motorsport.com understands that Gutierrez is set to join Haas with backing from Mexican telecommunications giant Claro.
Gutierrez is part of the Escuderia Telmex system, which is also part of Carlos Slim’s conglomerate businesses.
“We’re down to five now, I think,” Haas told motorsport.com of his shortlist of targets – which is still believed to include Force India's Nico Hulkenberg.
On the subject of his interest in Gutierrez, as well as the technical partnership with Ferrari, Haas said: “He’s a Ferrari reserve driver, so Ferrari would be interested in seeing how he does and it kind of helps both parties.
“We get a driver who Ferrari thinks has a lot of potential and we can see how he does too."
On the subject of a timeframe for his driver line-up to be decided, Haas replied: "In the next four weeks or so, this month is when the real thought-proving, intense decision-making occurs.
“But we’re also actually waiting for the current F1 teams to make their decisions before we will. You never know who’ll become available.
"It seems like the bigger teams are putting in younger and younger drivers, so some of the more experienced drivers might become available.”
Interview by Lee Spencer