Is either Haas driver really ‘winning’ at the moment? It’s been a confusing, disappointing season for the team so far.Kevin Magnussen came home ‘best of the rest’ behind the top three teams (Romain Grosjean’s progress was halted by a pit stop error, just like last year).
But the team quickly ran into trouble. Although Magnussen put his car sixth on the grid in Bahrain he slumped to 13th in the race, mystified by his inability to get the tyres into the correct operating window. That set the tone of the following races.
As the season wore on the team also began to question the direction it had gone in car development. An earlier specification of the car was brought back for Romain Grosjean, who declared himself much happier with it.
But even this seems not to have given a clear answer about where the team had gone wrong. Magnussen, still driving the updated car, has periodically been able to unlock greater performance from it.
Comparing the performances of their two drivers under these circumstances is tricky, particularly as they’ve had different hardware for the last three races (since reverting to the old car, Grosjean has out-qualified Magnussen every time). While Magnussen has claimed most of the points, Grosjean has usually lead the way home when both cars have finished.
One point is obvious, however: They need to stop hitting each other.
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The two Haas cars have made contact on three occasions so far this year. The first time, in Spain, Magnussen caught his team mate by surprise at a restart and passed him. Grosjean should have been able to avoid the contact.
The two subsequent incidents owed more to Magnussen’s characteristically robust approach. At Silverstone he clung to the outside of his team mate on lap one, making contact pretty much inevitable, and though it was a surprise such light contact forced both out it is always a possibility when open-wheel cars collide.
Amazingly they tangled again in Germany, this time while Grosjean was passing Magnussen, and the latter veered well off the racing line as he tried to hold his team mate back. Fortunately no harm was done and they went on to take the team’s biggest points haul of the year so far.
Haas have told the pair to avoid contact with each other and trust in the team to sort out disputes over position from the pit wall. This appears to have fallen on deaf ears, however. Both have committed the kind of moves on each other which would be considered hard racing between drivers of rival teams, but recklessness when it involves team mates.
Magnussen, however, insists the criticism has been overblown, telling journalists: “In the heat of the moment we’re blaming each other on the radio and stuff like that, but what people don’t see is that we get together between the races and talk it through and try to be constructive and move on in a constructive way. Apart from those incidents on track, I feel that we have a pretty good working relationship.”
The incidents have been “blown out of proportion a little bit”, Magnussen added. “I know you guys love a bit of a conflict and stuff like that, but it isn’t as bad as it looks.”
Having begun the year with the fourth-fastest car Haas go into the summer break ninth in the championship, albeit 17 points away from fifth place. A respectable result can still be salvaged, but only if they start performing at the level they’re capable of.
While their car problems are mostly to blame for Haa’s points deficit, their driver trouble has been an added aggravation. Until they can put that behind them and sort out their car, neither driver can claim to be ‘winning’ this one.
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Quotes: Dieter Rencken
Romain Grosjean vs Kevin Magnussen: Key stats
Romain Grosjean vs Kevin Magnussen: Who finished ahead at each round
Romain Grosjean vs Kevin Magnussen: Qualifying gap
Times based on the last qualifying round at each race weekend in which both drivers set a time
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