Haas F1 Team has apparently narrowed down its list of potential drivers for its 2016 entry into Formula 1 to five candidates.
Owner and founder Gene Haas had previously earmarked both Ferrari test drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Jean-Eric Vergne as probable recruits, but with Vergne now commuting to a second season of Formula E, it is presumed that Gutierrez' signing is all but done.
Given Haas' technical partnership with Ferrari and Gutierrez current association with the Italian manufacturer, the former Sauber driver has been deemed an attractive asset for Haas, who would also be interested in the Mexican's Telmex backing, which is a subsidiary of billionaire Carlos Slim's galaxy of companies.
“He’s a Ferrari driver, so they would be interested in seeing how he does and it kind of helps both parties," Haas told Motorsport.com. "We get a driver who Ferrari has a lot of potential and we can see how he does too."
In the past, Haas also expressed his interest in signing an American driver, but while current GP2 racer Alexander Rossi was identified as a potential choice, Haas also stated his desire to field an experienced pairing for the team's maiden F1 season.
With this in mind, Force India's Nico Hulkenberg must figure prominently on Haas' shortlist, although the German's future destiny appears more likely to be decided by Kimi Raikkonen's fate than anything the American team may have to offer.
Should Ferrari chose to replace the Finn with compatriot Valterri Bottas, as it is widely expected, a move to Williams by Hulkenberg is a likely outcome.
As events unfold, Gene Haas expects a definitive decision on his team's driver lineup shall take place in the next four weeks.
"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.”
Click here for F1i's report on how each driver performed in the first ten races of the 2015 season