Why Haas F1 is apprehensive about signing a U.S. driver

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MEXICO CITY -- Haas boss Guenther Steiner thinks putting an American driver into one of the team's Formula One cars before they are ready would have huge consequences on the sport in the U.S.

This week 2017 IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden told ESPN he is keen to secure at least one season in Formula One before he retires. Though it would not be his only option, as the only American squad on the grid Haas would seem a logical choice for the 26-year-old.

However, the team has resisted calls to sign an American since joining the grid in 2016, despite Alexander Rossi's breakthrough with Manor at the end of 2015. Haas enjoys a close technical partnership with Ferrari, meaning it will have several of the Italian outfit's junior drivers to pick from if its opts against continuing with Romain Grosjean or Kevin Magnussen when their deals expire at the end of 2018.

When told about Negarden's comments, Steiner said: "I think there's about another thousand guys out who wish to do that! I think he's a good driver and absolutely, a very good person, a very nice guy. I don't know anything, you're telling me. He needs to speak to me, not with you I guess!"

Steiner went on to elaborate on the reasons why he would be apprehensive about signing an American driver without any F1 experience.

"My opinion of an American driver is: Yes it would be great, but it needs to be successful. I am not saying Josef couldn't be successful but you cannot just jump into it. I think it's different when you jump into Le Mans from Formula One as everything is there but if you come from another series and jump into Formula One, it is difficult.

"I don't want to make it sound more difficult than it is because we are all privileged to be here. It's steps you need to take, you cannot just come to Formula One. Look to Brendon Hartley, I think he's a very good driver, he was a real good talent. His first race [with Toro Rosso in Austin] he struggled with the car compared to Daniil [Kvyat], but it's normal, but he was exposed to the culture of F1. He was a test driver and Josef has never been exposed to it."

Rossi's five races at the end of 2015 came with back-markers Manor. The American lost out on a full-time drive to Rio Haryanto -- backed by the Indonesian government -- the following year and has made the full-time switch to the IndyCar series. Though that famously led to Rossi claiming an Indy 500 victory as a rookie, Steiner thinks it is a lesson F1 should learn from.

"To put an American in and make him fail... that was the same with Alex Rossi, to make him fail is not good for him, not good for F1 in America or good for us.

"The pressure here is tremendous, after three races you don't deliver you know what you are and you need to leave. It was the same like when we came in, after six races if we didn't deliver, it's just another one that would be gone in six months and you guys wouldn't be sitting here with me anymore as no one would want to read about us anymore -- I would respect that.

"We need to respect that, if we put an American in Formula One it'd be great, [but] if the American is 19th, 18th ... nobody is interested."

Though averse to signing an American to a full-time role, Haas currently has Connecticut-born Santino Ferrucci as test and reserve driver.