In Australia, Grosjean and Haas steal the show

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by R.J. O'Connell, Mar 22, 2016.

  1. R.J. O'Connell

    R.J. O'Connell

    Grosjean Gutierrez Haas.jpg Haas F1 Team and driver Romain Grosjean turned in one of the all-time great debut performances for a brand-new constructor in the Australian Grand Prix this past week. In one of the coolest moments of the 2016 Formula 1 season, Grosjean drove from 19th on the grid to finish sixth, securing points for Haas in their debut race. Haas, the first American constructor to enter the sport in thirty years, had also became the first brand-new team to score points on debut in over a decade.

    And what a road to that sixth place finish it was!

    While Haas did turn in the most impressive results from pre-season testing that we'd seen out of a new constructor, not a continuation of a previous team a lá Brawn GP or Red Bull, they were still seen as a lower-midfield fixture coming out of the eight days of testing at Barcelona.

    Granted, that was still more than what some had expected out of Haas F1 Team when the project was first announced in 2014. The most cynical of F1 fans expected Gene Haas' squad to end up as another USF1 debacle - the last attempt at an American F1 constructor that ultimately failed to even get on the grid, with only a bare chassis tub and a tenative agreement with future WTCC champion Jose Maria Lopez to show for it.

    After all, out of the last thirteen brand-new F1 constructors, only four of them had ever scored points in their first season, while eight of them folded after three seasons or less - in the case of MasterCard Lola F1 Team, they lasted one weekend. Formula 1's cost of participation is so prohibitively expensive today, that it has deterred a lot of teams from other categories from making the jump to F1.

    Haas wasn't an instant success in NASCAR, chassis builder Dallara had yet to build a capable F1 car in their few brief and unsuccessful attempts at it, And even with a strong technical alliance with Ferrari that had been drawn up for over a year before their debut, how far could they realistically climb as part of one of the most competitive mid-grids that F1 has seen in years?


    Even though Friday practices were hit by changing weather, drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez were confident in the ability of the Haas VF-16 leading up to qualifying

    And even there, with the driver lineup, there was cause for trepidation this off-season. Grosjean was signed last September to much fanfare. By then, Grosjean had already established himself as a complete driver who'd been improving every single year. No worries whatsoever on the lead driver front!

    But second driver Gutierrez was a much different story. After two luckless seasons at Sauber with only six championship points to his name, there were very few outside of his most fervent supporters who believed that the former still had the goods to compete in Formula 1. It didn't matter that he was a former GP3 champion, a former GP2 race winner, and had quietly became the best race starter in F1 over his two years at Sauber - Gutierrez was still considered an underwhelming candidate.

    Whatever confidence they had must have been shattered after qualifying was over. After a lackluster first run in Q1, Gutierrez was on a blistering lap that would have easily put him through to Q2, and Grosjean was going even faster. But as part of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad qualifying format drawn up before the start of the season, their fastest laps counted for nothing.

    "I was on a good lap and then suddenly I’m out," said Grosjean, who qualified nineteenth, after qualifying. "I don’t even get a chance to go to the end of the lap. That’s annoying because the car was good, our baseline is good, and in terms of performance, we were clearly able to go through."

    Gutierrez, who qualified just behind him in twentieth, added:

    "It was a little frustrating not to see the lap time we achieved reflected in the results. However, we know the potential is there. Looking ahead, we need to be positive, to keep working hard and moving forward."


    Twenty-five years ago, a similar disappointment befell first-year Jordan Grand Prix in pre-qualifying for the United States GP in Phoenix. Bertrand Gachot made it out of the session on his last lap, and eventually qualified for a race for only the sixth time in thirty-three entries up to then. But teammate Andrea de Cesaris, who'd qualified on the second row for the USGP one year before, blew an engine on his flying lap as he tried to bump his way back into the safe zone. His weekend was over before lunchtime on Friday. It wasn't a good start for the team, just out of Formula 3000, or its veteran driver, in his absolute last chance in F1.

    The entire Haas team entered Sunday's race determined to fight back. And that's just what Romain Grosjean did. Starting on a harder compound tyre than most of the drivers around him, he could go longer on his first set of new Pirelli tyres than they did. By lap twelve, he was already up to twelfth place. By lap seventeen, he was already well into the top ten.

    Behind him, Gutierrez didn't as good a start, with an engine problem slowing him down in the opening laps, but he was holding onto twelfth place. However, Fernando Alonso was gaining rapidly in his McLaren Honda, and on lap seventeen at turn three, Alonso was making his move.

    Catastrophe struck. Alonso clipped the back of Gutierrez at nearly 300 kilometers an hour, sending the car skidding off into the gravel and airbourne into a terrifying rollover. Both drivers, thankfully, emerged unhurt - even Alonso, whose McLaren MP4-31 was reduced to graphite grey rubble in the aftermath of an awful crash. One that evoked memories of Martin Brundle's rollover at the same corner in '96, or the multi-car crash in 2001 that claimed the life of Graham Beveridge, also at the same spot on the circuit.

    Gutierrez's misfortune turned out to be a benefit for Grosjean. Team strategist Ruth Buscombe expected a red flag to come out due to the severity of the accident, so she left Grosjean out until the crucial red flag was thrown on lap nineteen. Under the red flag, every driver could change onto a new set of tyres. Haas put Grosjean on a set of medium compound tyres that could, in theory, last the remaining thirty-eight laps.


    And for most of those thirty-eight laps, Grosjean had to resist constant pressure from Force India driver Nico Hulkenberg and Williams driver Valtteri Bottas, both piloting much faster cars on paper, built by far more experienced squads.

    Haas enjoys a lot of support from Ferrari to the point that they've basically replaced Sauber as Ferrari's unofficial B-team. But this was still remarkable, that a brand-new constructor was holding off two of the best teams in Formula 1 for nearly a full race distance. And that Grosjean was holding off two drivers that are often rated as superior to him, in multi-time podium finisher Bottas and Le Mans champion Hulkenberg.

    Grosjean, of course, came from a Lotus team that had to do more with less for much of the four years he drove for them, and quite often, that's what he did. He was used to this sort of fight. But this time, there was a renewed confidence that he arguably didn't have for most of the last two seasons - in the chassis, in the engine, in the team around him.

    As the chequered flag fell, with Nico Rosberg defeating Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, with Sebastian Vettel's chances at a victory going to waste with suspect strategy, with the Toro Rosso duo of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz taking their rivalry five thousand levels above where it sat before, Romain Grosjean finished sixth in Haas' debut Formula 1 Grand Prix, and it may as well have been a full-on victory.


    "This feels like a win. For all the guys who worked so hard over the last few weeks, this is unbelievable," said Grosjean after the race. "This is an unbelievable feeling. The guys did an amazing job and I told them, this is like a win for all of us. First race and here we are, P6. A happy day."

    Gene Haas heaped even more praise upon Grosjean after the race, saying, "Grosjean just drove his heart out and did everything he could to keep it up there and it worked out."

    But for the entire Haas organization, Grosjean's drive into the points at Melbourne was the culmination of two years of tireless work, of overcoming skepticism and a few bad breaks on Friday and Saturday for good measure, to immediately establish themselves as a Formula 1 contender.

    "There’s a new F1 team on the block and it’s an American F1 team, so we’re real proud of that. But these other teams are pretty dang good at what they do. I wouldn’t sit here and say we’re going to be in front of them all the time, but today was a good day," said Haas after the race.

    "This is racing. It’s what we do for a living and, you know, it’s cool. But I’ll tell you, there’ll be some bad days too, so we’ll enjoy this one."

    Where does Haas' debut rank among the other brand-new teams who excelled in their debut seasons?

    The most recent all-new constructor to score points in their first race was Toyota in 2002. And even though Mika Salo finished sixth, it came with massive attrition, several unsuccessful attempts to pass rookie Mark Webber's Minardi (which lost top gear), and finally, Salo spinning on the last lap. Given that Toyota were willing to invest more money into their team than even Ferrari themselves, it was a bit of a disappointing outcome. They ultimately finished last in the championship with two points in 2002.

    Stewart Grand Prix, who've evolved into Red Bull Racing, endured a tough 1997 season where their cars recorded just eight finishes in thirty-four entries, a DNF rate of over 75 percent. But one of those races they finished was when Rubens Barrichello drove to a sensational second place in a rain-soaked Monaco Grand Prix. It was their only points finish that year for the 9th-placed Stewart team, but what a result it was!

    Sauber's 1993 campaign kicked off with J.J. Lehto qualifying sixth and finishing fifth in the final South African GP in Kyalami, and Karl Wendlinger added four points finishes over the course of the season to get Sauber to seventh in the Constructors' Championship, with both Lehto and Wendlinger just missing out on the podium.

    And then there was Jordan, who didn't even get both cars into the first race of the 1991 season, but went on to enjoy the most successful season for a first-year team in the last twenty-five years by finishing fifth in the Constructors' Championship. De Cesaris not only rebounded from his Phoenix heartbreak to record the team's best finishes of fourth in Canada and Mexico, but he came within five laps of catching leader Ayrton Senna and potentially winning the Belgian Grand Prix.

    That was the race, of course, where Mercedes-Benz gave team principal Eddie Jordan a six-figure cheque to field a 22-year-old young driver of theirs, because Gachot (who won Le Mans that June) was in jail. A rookie who had never raced at Spa before, learned the track on a bicycle, and qualified a sensational seventh on Saturday. That rookie's name was Michael Schumacher. And later that year, after Schumacher bolted to Benetton, Jordan gave a first F1 drive to the 1991 Formula 3000 championship runner-up - future two-time CART champion, and two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Alex Zanardi.

    Have no Fear.jpg

    Who knows if Haas can go on to match Jordan's fifth-place effort from twenty-five years ago? Australia could have been just a one-off points finish in an otherwise fruitless 2016 season to come. Maybe that was Grosjean's one and only shining moment of the season, and maybe Gutierrez endures another poor campaign and erases all doubt that he is not F1 material.

    Or it could be the start of a remarkable, year-long fight among the likes of Force India, Toro Rosso, Renault, or even Red Bull, McLaren and Williams. This weekend could have been the prelude to an even bigger result further on down the road - maybe a chance for either driver to stand on the podium.

    Either way, in just one race, Haas achieved more than what many had ever expected of them. And even in a sixth-place effort in the backdrop of a race for the win between three legitimate championship contenders, Grosjean was hailed as the driver of the day in Melbourne - and deservedly so.

    Oh say, can you see: Haas F1 Team and Romain Grosjean were the brightest stars of the Australian Grand Prix.

    Photo Credit: FIA, Haas F1 Team
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 23, 2016
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  2. BoogerMac


    Great article! I'd love to see Haas F1 succeed this year and hopefully the Australian GP was just the beginning.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  3. Ole Marius Myrvold

    Ole Marius Myrvold
    JWB 96-13 Premium

    Great Article indeed! :)

    It is however very much Ferrari and Dallara in the car, not so much HAAS. In that way, it is pretty similar to the Saubers from 2002 and until they became BMW.
    I wouldn't expect HAAS to be any worse than Sauber was in 02, 03 and 04 - 5th and 6th in the constructor championship.
  4. Trimaz


    Excellent article. It's always good to see a new team grab some points in their rookie season. It's also good too see Grojean higher up the chain. He's a talented and consistent driver and has matured ten-fold since his rookie days. I like him a lot.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. aka2k


    Too bad this Haas have nothing to do with Newman-Haas.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Rob



    "pretty dang good"
    "you know, it’s cool."

    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  7. Paul Jeffrey

    Paul Jeffrey
    RaceDepartment Editor-in-Chief Staff Premium

    Nice article RJ :)

    Delighted to see Hass do so well in its first Grand Prix. Grosjean has developed into a serious driver after showing so much promise in the junior ranks and his troubled start to his F1 career. I hope he can grow further with Hass in the coming years and prove to other teams that it is possible to enter F1 and make an impression.

    For me, I couldn’t care less about manufacturers entering Formula One, it’s always been about the privateer teams such as Williams, Sauber, Force India, Manor etc that make F1 great. These are the type of teams (under one ownership or another) that will be in the sport long after the likes of Renault and Merc walk away...
    • Like Like x 3
  8. gamer19


    Nice to read.
    Though... and not happy at all to say this but... I'm afraid it won't go like this all year.
    It's just many factors - start of the season, red flagged race and virtualy non pit stop race, lower level of developement compared to bigger teams, etc,....
    It's just something smaller teams do every year. Remember Sauber last year?
    Once again, I would be very happy if I'm wrong. Somehow.
  9. Lorenzo Bonder

    Lorenzo Bonder
    Wah wah. Premium

    After this I can pretty much nail that the Grosjean eating a crèpe around Austin is pretty much real.

    I KNEW IT.

    JK, he did great on the OZ GP, better than what I expected.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  10. Blimey


    Would be great if more manufacturers enter the series that are capable of winning a race instead of just driving 7 seconds off the pace at the back. BMW, Toyota. ;)
  11. David O'Reilly

    David O'Reilly
    A bad quali means I can go forwards in the race.

    Great article.:thumbsup:
    After Spa last year and now this I am a full Grosjean fan.
    Hats of also to Jolyon Palmer, he held off two quite fast Toro Rossos for many laps and showed he was no chump in his defending both with them and with Bottas.
    Hat off to Sainz, I know it wasn't on Verstappens script or the announcers but he beat him.
    Hat off to Franz Tost (Helmut Marko) for letting them race.
    Hat off to Rosberg. He out-drove Hamilton with a fine race and win. Cue the british press to start rationalising how the "workmanlike Rosberg had some luck against the genius Hamilton".

    My funniest moment...after Hamilton was stuck behind Verstappens gearbox for like 12 laps or more (imagine what Max could do with a car that could actually keep his toys from being thrown out). In pit lane during red flag Hamilton walkjs up close and stares at the Toro Rossos rear end. Come on Lewis surely you saw enough of it over the last 30 mins!
  12. Trimaz


    This year they have a relatively good line-up of drivers, however I was very impressed with Rosbergs performance in Melbourne. I've never know for him to not only have the pace but to also be consistent. It was a surprise, but you could see he was focused late in that race.
  13. gamer19


    Why limit yourself on only one race. Said Grosjean. :):thumbsup:
    And they repeat themselves oncee agin.
    They even improve already great result from Australia.
    My comliments to them. I didn't really expect this from rookie team. Like many other I guess.

    From Motorsport:
    Romain Grosjean was once again elated with the performance of his Haas F1 car and team following his second successive point-scoring finish with the new team in Bahrain.

    Grosjean followed up his sixth in Melbourne with fifth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix, and is now level on points with Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen in the World Championship.

    On his in-lap, Grosjean said over the radio: "Unbelievable guys – this is the American dream! What a great job from all of you, I love you – beautiful! I've got brakes this year, that helps."

    Grosjean ran an aggressive three-stop strategy, and twice used supersoft tyres on his shorter runs to charge past his rivals.

    "It was unbelievable fighting with the Williams, Red Bulls and Toro Rossos," said Grosjean. "I didn't have any issues, I could drive the car the way I wanted on an aggressive strategy on the supersoft tyres.

    "There are plenty of areas where we can improve but this [continues] the dream debut.

    "I'm very happy in the car, I have big confidence in the braking, which allows me to attack – I very much love the platform in the car and systems inside. It allows me to unlock its potential.

    "Now we have to keep our feet on the Earth."
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
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