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Haas F1 Needs a Resurgence in 2022

By Gary Jordan
Published on December 8, 2021

Haas PHOTO: HAAS

This coming weekend sees the last race in an enthralling Formula One championship season, that has had as many twists and turns as its bendiest racetracks, with more to come over the next few days.

Championship rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have lit up the tracks this year and taken their driving to new heights. They have pushed each other to the limits, seeing them clash on the track more than once, and their team principals having heated exchanges. The Mercedes and Red Bull Racing teams are at the pinnacle of their sport, and look to dominant for the foreseeable future, with Ferrari and McLaren having to play catch up along with other constructors jockeying for mid grid positions each race weekend. One team though has had an awful season. In fact, from their first year in the sport in 2016, this has been their worst so far and one to truly forget as they have failed to pick up any points at all.

The Haas F1 Team, or to give them their full title, Uralkali Haas F1, is based in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and works out of its factory in Banbury in the UK. It was founded in 2014 by Gene Haas who wanted to branch away from his familiar NASCAR background and test the waters in Formula One as its global expansion was taking hold. After acquiring the failed Marussia F1 team base in Banbury, and much of their assets, his original plan was to start racing in 2015 but that was put on hold. With some negotiating Haas caused a stir amongst the other constructors in the paddock when he struck a deal with Dallara, an Italian manufacturer, to build their main chassis, and it would be powered by a Ferrari power unit. Another savvy move was to bring former Red Bull technical director Guenther Steiner on board as Team Principal, and after passing the regulatory tests they were set for their debut in 2016.

Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner at US Grand Prix, Circuit of the Americas, Austin TX 2007
PHOTO: STEVE LAUGH

Haas’s dream was now a reality and with Romain Grosjean finishing in sixth place in the 2016 season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the team was the first American constructor to win points, and the first rookie team to score since 2002. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, as the team’s second driver, Esteban Gutiérrez had a crash which caused a red flag after wiping out the McLaren of World Champion Fernando Alonso. Scoring points in their next race, an impressive fifth by Grosjean in Bahrain, was as good as it got for the rest of the campaign as they went on to score 29 points overall and finish eighth in the constructors’ standings. Kevin Magnussen replaced Gutierrez for the 2017 season, but it was Grosjean who was turning heads and gave the team their best qualifying session to start in sixth. It proved to be a more consistent season scoring wise, but they finished in the same place as their opening campaign.

Sticking with the same two drivers for the following year, 2018, proved wise as they both ran in high grid places and challenged for points on a regular basis and in doing so finished a highly credible fifth in the standings. This though was to be their peak moment as things went downhill dramatically. After high profile sponsor Rich Energy put some welcome money into the bank in 2019, a drop off on performances saw them pull out in September. This was the team's worst season points-wise, and in the standings they were only placed ninth.

2020 had a further low point, one which would have a huge impact on the career of Romain Grosjean. The French driver crashed through the barriers on the opening lap in Bahrain, his car splitting in two and bursting into flames, causing severe burns to his hands Grosjean had to be thankful for the car's Halo system to prevent what could have been a fatal incident. The team was in shock; they couldn’t pick themselves up and only managed three points the whole season.

This brings us up to date, and the current season. Russian Nikita Mazepin, and Mick Schumacher, son of legendary driver Michael, were now the drivers, and with money at a premium it was decided that development on the car would be stopped, and efforts put into the 2022 season. Thus, the team so far, going into the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend has not managed to score a single point, the only team to do so. Its best result so far was a twelfth place by Schumacher in Hungary. After completing just 23 laps between them in Saudi Arabia this past Sunday, Steiner was clearly downbeat, “A disappointing day today with two crashed cars. Mick just tried to keep up with the Williams (a crash with George Russell ended the German's race) which didn’t work out, and Nikita got himself into a position where he couldn’t do anything about it – he was a passenger of whatever happened in front of him. Unfortunate but one more to go, and then we move on.”

Formula One is built on success, and if you don’t have it you struggle. Gene Haas is fully aware that if improvements aren’t made quickly then his foray into this high-octane sport could be short-lived, as he pushes his own money into it and a lack of serious sponsorship comes forward. After this weekend the team is having to cobble together two cars that have had two high impact crashes, with few spare parts to help them recover.

Steiner will do his best to get the team and the cars on the track, “It’s better the damage is done now than five races ago” he told Autosport magazine. “We have one race to go. We’ve got enough spares to rebuild the cars, but we don’t have enough spares if we have accidents in Abu Dhabi.” Whatever happens this week, Haas F1 will go into 2022 needing to make a monumental improvement. Just how is something that they will all be scratching their heads over in Banbury and North Carolina over the winter months if the USA is to maintain a worthy place on the grid.

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