Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Just when F1 needed a good news story, here comes Haas

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Formula One has been bereft of good news stories in recent months. But the appearance of its first new competitor in six years is a positive development eagerly anticipated by many.

However the fact only one of the four new teams which were granted entry in 2010 remains in the field – Manor, formerly Virgin – underlines the huge challenge facing this American team.

Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016
Haas: American money, Italian chassis, British base
By producing a car and running it for 31 laps on the first day of testing they have already accomplished far more than the last American entrant into F1. US-F1 folded before their planned 2010 entry got off the ground.

For its F1 debut Haas has exploited rules which did not exist then. Reading the rulebook closely, team chief Guenther Steiner has minimised the number of parts built by the team, sourcing the rest from Ferrari.

This prompted a request from Mercedes to FIA to rule on the legality of their co-operation. The FIA duly gave the team the OK on the morning of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but it serves to illustrate how aggressively Haas has pursued this approach – one which could become a model for other new teams in the future.

Crucial to the team’s success is how well its multi-site configuration functions. The team is headquartered at Kannapolis in North Carolina, in a purpose-built facility alongside that which the Haas NASCAR team operates out of. But its F1 car has been built by Dallara in Italy, and between races the cars will be serviced at its ex-Marussia base in Banbury.

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With just eight days of real-world testing before the season began, Haas could scarcely afford any problems. However early impressions have been fairly positive.

The team suffered a front wing failure in testing but swiftly had an interim fix in place which allowed them to keep plugging away. The second week of running was hampered by power unit problems.

Nonetheless the VF-16 logged over 2,200km in total meaning the team are better-prepared for the first race than several of their predecessors have been in recent seasons.

Not since Toyota’s megabucks F1 entry has a new team come into Formula One and scored points in its first season – and that was back when only the top six places counted. Can Haas prove new teams can be competitive from the off?

8: Romain Grosjean

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

On the face of it Grosjean has made an oddly-timed decision to leave his former team and throw his lot in with the newcomers. Renault’s support brought him into F1 in the first place yet Grosjean chose to jump ship just as the French manufacturer chose to return.

Realistically whichever option he took Grosjean would have known that 2016 is unlikely to see him competing at the sharp end. With many expecting a vacancy at Ferrari to open up when Kimi Raikkonen moves on (or is moved on), Grosjean may have positioned himself very cleverly as the lead driver in the team which is likely to be in the spotlight.

21: Esteban Gutierrez

Esteban Gutierrez, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2016

Arriving in F1 with Sauber in 2013 was too much, too soon for Gutierrez. After a productive season on the sidelines at Ferrari he now returns with one of their customer teams and his objective is clear: he needs to ‘do a Massa’. His Sauber predecessor’s career-saving 2004 campaign must be the model for Gutierrez in 2016.

Gutierrez could scarcely be paired with a more suitable driver than Grosjean: another graduate of ART’s junior teams who was lucky enough to get a second shot at F1. If Gutierrez can keep his experienced and rapid team mate in sight he can secure his future in the sport.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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28 comments on “Just when F1 needed a good news story, here comes Haas”

  1. It is very interesting that Haas see F1 as profitable simply by competing. They believe their customer base can grow five-fold by being involved in this global sport. I don’t think they are under any illusions that they will win races or championships for many years, although that will of course be their ultimate goal. It is indeed a very healthy sign for F1 and I do hope others will follow suit soon. If we can have more mechanical grip and a 26 car grid, things would be very fun again.

    1. Is it a healthy sign for F1 though? Agree with the term or not, essentially they are a customer team. When what were just sponsors in the past now see the path to gaining the exposure they need from F1 coming from running a team rather than being a sponsor. If more manufacturers drop-out and more of these quasi-customer-exposure-driven teams pop up, it very well could turn F1 in to a 1 or 2 horse race manufacturer wise, debilitating the quest for excellence through competition that is in its DNA.

      The amount of pure vitriol exposed towards Red Bull by the fans last year for not being a manufacturer and just being there for the exposure, and that they should put up or shut up because they’re not making cars, would not give me much hope for fan respecting a customer team based F1.

  2. The more I read about Haas, the more confidence I have in them. They are a team that have entered F1 knowing what to expect. They’ve managed to get talent from around the racing world, and have 2 drivers who will be able to give them a steady baseline to work from.
    They’ve set up a strong partnership with Ferrari, who whilst they may not be the fastest team in F1, know the ins and outs of the sport and Haas will no doubt be benefitting from that (either directly or indirectly).
    For starting in F1, it seems the logical thing for any prospective new team to do. Hopefully Haas get ‘the bug’ over the next few years and start looking at ways to get ahead of Ferrari, which will bring in more brands and names into the sport, growing it once again.

    I honestly believe if Haas get this right, that F1 can learn a lot from them.

    1. Yeah for sure it will be really fun and interesting to watch them, but I’m not sure they’ll be teaching F1 anything, and I certainly don’t see them ahead of Ferrari until they have found their own engine and are a works team with whoever that might be. Using as many Ferrari parts as possible along with their PU will never put them ahead of Ferrari, so at some point they’ll have to go it alone to truly compete in the top 3, so they’re a ways away from that, but all the while they know that and will no doubt glean huge marketing impact in F1.

    2. Evil Homer (@)
      9th March 2016, 12:12

      Hass has been much smarter in their entry to F1 than the last three- they need a big brother to help and whom better than Ferrari – give them time and they will be strong- I was looking for a new ‘second team’!!

      Its too early for 2017 driver changes I know, but GRO, RIC & BOT all have the same idea I think….. unless the Mercs really fall out this year!

  3. Haas definitely seems to have approached it right which is no real surprise given that they are a “racing” business.

    I feel for them though – 8 test days to shake down their first ever F1 car. But they did it and I for one hope they continue a steady improvement.

    New blood of this sort of calibre is absolutely necessary for F1

    1. They have had years of unlimited testing and it shows that they did not exploit this one off loophole to the fullest… But I wish them solid steady progress anyway. ..

      1. They have had 8 days of testing, not years, so don’t be such a downer. Look at their laptimes, immediately within 2.5 seconds off the best, that shows they did exploit the loophole ( if you want to call it that) very well.

      2. Oh yes– years of testing the 2016 Ferrari engine, the 2016 Ferrari transmission, the 2014 McLaren ECU, the 2016 Pirelli tires… Heck, they built the chassis in 2010, just in case USF1 folded!

        No, they had one extra year of wind tunnel testing, using 60% scale models. Let’s not get carried away.

  4. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
    8th March 2016, 12:42

    The best news for them is that they have this close link with Ferrari, and even when they don’t admit it, they have become Ferrari junior team. That will always attract both sponsors and good drivers in the hope of landing the big seat.

    1. Yeah they won’t be calling themselves Ferrari junior but methinks Mercedes will be thinking of them as that, and will be keeping a close eye on them since filing and losing their complaint about potential data sharing between Haas and Ferrari.

    2. I think rather than “Ferrari B-Team”, the phrase should be “Ferrari apprentice team”– they’re taking advantage of an established team and it’s resources to learn the craft.

  5. I’m not expecting miracles from Haas, but I do expect them to be closer than five seconds off the pole time that ‘Lotus’ were at the 2010 Australian Grand Prix, and much closer than the seven seconds Hisapnia were.

    Occasional points has to be the realistic target, and the team very much has my support. They’re a nice breath of fresh air, they’ve brought the numbers back up to 22, which is more than the full-time entries in IndyCar this year, they haven’t gone and rushed this project and they’ve come in with two experienced drivers – of which one had a superb season last year, as opposed to throwing in a couple of Americans for the sake of having American drivers on the grid.

    They may be a Ferrari b-team for now, and in the short term it is quite a clever way of going about things, but should they show that they can stand on their own feet, Haas could be a team to watch in a few years or so.

  6. pastaman (@)
    8th March 2016, 12:55

    As someone from the USA, I have to say this makes me feel so good :) Also, I will finally have a team that I officially cheer for! I have teams that I like and drivers that I like (luckily Grosjean is one!), but I was always more a fan of the sport than any single team or driver. Now when I go to F1 races you can bet I’ll be decked out in my Haas F1 gear!

  7. I wish the Haas team the very best of luck. They did a brave thing to come in and they’ve ticked all the right boxes so far

    However, I disagree about Gutierrez. His situation could scarcely have been worse. Grosjean might be a reminder for him that you can succeed given your second chance but that’s where the good news end. He’s partnered with one of the fastest drivers on the grid and last time when that happened he was annihilated by the Hulk. With more experience now, I don’t believe he’ll be destroyed as utterly this time (except in qualifying) but equally that won’t be enough to prevent him dropping off the grid for good after this year

    1. Possible for sure but I’m not sure the team will be focused on a driver rivalry so much as what is each driver contributing to advance the car’s performance. If Gutierrez provides great feedback I think he will be forgiven if he lags behind RG, and will live to try again in 2017, for the sake of continuity on the team.

      1. @robbie I agree. His only hope is that the year being 3rd driver at Ferrari has taught him enough technically to be an asset. Because on pure speed it’s game over

    2. When thinking about Gutierrez paired with Grosjean, I’m again wonder which driver is faster – the Hulk or Grosjean? While I rate the Hulk highly, I think Grosjean might actually be the quicker of the two.

      I think Esteban will be good for car feedback, but I don’t expect him to be anywhere near Grosjean. I’m also left wondering how Vergne would have faired against Grosjean.

      1. Vergne would’ve fared better than Guti that’s for sure

        The only real comparison we have Grosjean vs Hulk is from junior formulae:
        In 2007 Grosjean won Euro F3 while the Hulk was 3rd. However RoGro was in his 2nd season while Hulk in his first.
        In 2008 Grosjean graduated to GP2 and finished 4th. The Hulk dominated his 2nd season of Euro F3.
        In 2009 they met again in GP2 and fought for the championship. By the time Grosjean left for F1 to replace Piquet he was behind Hulk by 47 points to 55 and 2 wins to 3. However this again was Grosjean 2nd season at this level while it was the Hulk’s first
        Overall it’s a close call with maybe a slight advantage to the Hulk. However, this doesn’t translate equally to F1 and besides they could’ve developed at different rates since then so you may well be correct that RoGro is slighty ahead of the Hulk at this point

        None of this matters as far as Guti is concerned. He’s nowhere near the level of both of them and I predict he’s not gonna enjoy this season very much, or at all

        1. @tim-m Sorry, forgot to tag you

        2. @montreal95 You make many good points. It’s really too close to call! (aside from Gutierrez, whom I also predict is not going to have a enjoyable season).

  8. I have to say that I am really very impressed with the measured, methodical approach Haas took with his F1 team. He strikes me as one who is very results oriented and not just some flippant billionaire with his very own pet F1 team like so many others. The car they have produced seems quite mature for a first outing and, while I don’t expect podiums, I do expect to see points this season, and that would be greater success than any of the non-“junior” recent entries into the sport.
    If you have not read about Gene Haas, check him out. He is a very shrewd businessman with a passion for motorsport and a definite plan for success which he knows, in this sport, will take time. I wish them the best of luck!
    Now, I’m off to go buy my Haas F1 shirt.

  9. As an American F1 fan it is awesome to see Haas make a mark. I have been a fan of his NASCAR team since Tony Stewart became co-owner. I think that team gives clues to their long term goals in F1. Their NASCAR team use Hendrick engines and chassis and have built a championship winner car around those components. Next year they are stepping away from Hendrick and building their own chassis and using Ford factory engines. I see Haas doing the same thing for a few years with Ferrari and Dallara, then; maybe with their new alliance with Ford, will move more towards a fully independent race team with Ford power. They have a state-of-the-art wind tunnel and engineering capabilities. After a few years of data and success on track I can see them being a strong, consistent team and maybe an avenue for another PU manufacturer.

    1. Fellow American here. It’s nice having Haas in F1, it sort of gives me a “home team” to cheer for. I was a NASCAR fan before I was an F1 fan, but you can thank Juan Pablo Montoya for helping to spark my interest in F1. It’d be nice to eventually see an American driver, especially on the Haas team. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to this F1 season. My expectations of Haas are obviously tempered a bit, I’m really hoping they can just finish all of the races and maybe even score some points.

      1. I have the same expectations for Haas this year. Hoping their development curve is up to snuff as well. I like how Gene has clearly stated their expectations, even when they were maybe a little over-zealous.

        I have been a NASCAR fan for much longer as well, primarily due to having a lot of races on broadcast TV in the US. Only after finding some “alternative” methods to watch the F1 season online has my interest really taken off. The technical aspect of F1 is what really draws me in. I can read the tech articles on the cars over and over all day.

  10. What i like about Haas is there dedication to motor sport. They have showed what they are capable of in NASCAR, and now they will take another step. Looking at the size and popularity of NASCAR they didn’t need to do it, but obviously they think it makes sense, and I can see the connection from advanced manufacturing equipment to formula 1. I think this enthusiasms will bring them a long way, and they deserve it.

  11. Yeah, it’s great news that we have a new team entering instead of another (or two) dropping out. I think their approach, while getting really close to being a customer car, is good move for the team because it solves so many areas technically that they can concentrate on building the cars, learning about operating it (using their experience in the US, using experienced drivers and the Ferrari people involved), making this a great basis to build on.

    I do hope that they will grow to be somewhat less dependant on Ferrari in the coming years, but for now, its important that they are on the grid and have a good chance of not running at the back on their own.

    I won’t hold up my hopes that they can score this year, but then again, with a reliable car and a driver able to make it work, a bit of luck and a few extra dropouts ahead might just give them that.

  12. Matthew McMahon
    11th March 2016, 13:29

    The fact of the matter is running a team on your own infrastructure alone in this day and age is becoming more unfeasible ever year (and it’s not something I’m happy about) however Haas’ approach to their F1 venture has been impressive and if they can pull off a decent first season it maybe an incentive for other new team’s to take a similar route in the future.

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