Despite a patchy second half to the year, Haas’s debut season in Formula 1 exceeded most people’s expectations. Big points in the first two round showed the grid that the new kids on the block had well and truly arrived. The question is, can the ‘American Dream’ continue this year?
Haas F1 deserve a huge amount of credit for what they achieved in their first season in F1. A 6th in their first race in Melbourne followed by an incredible 5th place in Bahrain highlighted that the foundations of the team were strong. Their early results didn’t come at the expense others either, it was sheer performance from Grosjean and the tea. Another solid finish in Russia backed up that start-of-season form. Unfortunately, the pace did drop off throughout the rest of the year. Brake issues were continual and the team perhaps endured a more typical ‘newcomer season’ throughout the rest of 2016. But the VF-16 was a capable car, at least in Romain Grosjean’s hands, and his qualifying performance in Brazil for 7th place really showed the speed he and the car could offer. But 2017 now offers the opportunity for the team to really notch it up another gear.
“Aesthetically, the car has a more aggressive look. It’s lighter and more aerodynamically efficient. Everything we learned from our first car has been applied to our new car.”
Haas F1 Team Principal Gunther Steiner
Esteban Gutierrez did not enjoy the season that Grosjean did and scored no points across the whole season. He was subsequently dropped and Kevin Magnussen has joined the team for 2017 & ’18. Whilst perhaps a backwards step compared to his previous team at Renault, Haas offers good job security for Magnussen and perhaps a better car in the short term for the Dane to showcase his talents. Let’s not forget that he took a podium finish in his debut race for McLaren back in 2014 and his race performance in Russia last year for 7th place really showed his speed. He is the driver that Gutierrez should have been. Fast and capable of strong results and as equally talented as Grosjean. Both deserve top drives but from what testing has shown so far, the VF-17 is a very good car.
— Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean) February 26, 2017
“The pedal box is the same, but all the rest is very different from last year’s car.”
Haas F1 Team Principal Gunther Steiner
The car has proved not only reliable, but fast. Magnussen was 4th fastest on day one and day two, completing the most laps of any drive on the latter. Grosjean had two equally successful days, showing the same pace and reliability that Magnussen had. The team is still suffering niggling brake issues as it figures out which way to go regarding them, but it has been a very strong start to 2017 for the American boys and girls. But where will they rank this year? As we have discussed previously the midfield looks like it could be insanely tight with Haas, McLaren, Williams, Force India, Toro Rosso and Renault all in the mix. Perhaps even Sauber early on before the 2016 Ferrari engine shows its age. Haas finished 8th last year and a jump up the order to 6th place is probably a reasonable target for the team. The car aerodynamically looks good and has perhaps the most artistic shark fin of the grid.
Gene Haas saw Kurt Busch take victory in the Daytona 500 recently for his NASCAR team. Now that doesn’t mean Haas F1 are going to win the season opener in Melbourne but perhaps it is a good omen. If Haas can move forwards in 2017 it will really prove that this team means business and that they are not a sufferer of ‘second season syndrome’. Formula 1 is a cutthroat sport, and the last trio of new teams (Manor, Caterham and HRT) have all vanished from the grid. Haas have shown that it is possible for new teams to be successful straight away, and the technical structure they have in place with Ferrari should be seen as an ideal solution for other potentials looking to join the grid in the future. In terms of an early impression and the opening races providing a marker for a vague running order, there will be less pressure this year compared to their debut, but the team needs to focus on the long game this year and aim to keep up in the development race. The target for Haas this season must be to remain in touching distance of the teams around them at the start of the year.