Haas F1 were poised to make a strong challenge for fourth spot in the Constructor’s Standings prior to the start of the 2019 Formula 1 season. After all, Haas had an impressive 2018 season, which saw the American-owned team finish with 93 points. Up until this season, Haas managed to increase its final points total each season since joining Formula 1, but 2019 has proven to be extremely difficult and the team is mired in 9th in the Constructor Standings with only 16 combined points. Yet, Haas are only 24 points off of McLaren Renault in fourth. The most concerning issue regarding Haas’s 2019 season is that the engineers have yet to find the underlying issues holding the team back from success.
The French Grand Prix weekend was declared the worst weekend in the team’s young history by team boss, Guenther Steiner. He was quoted after the race:
“In the race we still struggled. I don’t know why. What is bizarre to me is that a car that was good enough to qualify seventh and eighth in the first race and then sixth in Monte Carlo, all of a sudden we are second last.”
Steiner has always maintained an open and somewhat charismatic relationship with the media. He rarely shirks difficult questions, but this weekend he looked as though he was ready for the summer break. Unfortunately for Haas F1, not only is the summer break over a month away, but the Austrian Grand Prix is next weekend.
Tire issues have been the primary source of frustration for Haas this season. Specifically the car has struggled to control the heat in the Pirelli’s tires at high-speed tracks, which are made up of long straights and slow corners. Back in April, Steiner admitted that this is the result of a multitude of issues including the aerodynamics, however, there have been other unknown problems preventing Haas from providing a quick fix.
Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have been far from their best this season, with each making costly mistakes at differing points during the first eight races. At certain times, the drivers have let their frustration be heard over the team radio. Magnussen notably expressed his anger with the changes to the car during the Canadian Grand Prix, following his horrendous crash in qualifying, which forced the team to work through the night to have a car ready for race day.
“This is the worst experience I’ve ever had in any race car ever.” Magnussen told the team.
He was quickly silenced by Guenther Steiner, but this instance summarizes the difficulties with the team. Driver error, bad luck, and a lack of understanding issues that arise have ultimately left Haas at its single lowest point since its induction into the sport.
The poor result at the French Grand Prix signified that there may not be a quick fix for the team in an attempt to make Grosjean and Magnussen more competitive. During a Q&A prior to the French Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean was asked about the effectiveness of the upgrades implemented in May. Grosjean responded saying,
“The upgrades have worked well from Barcelona onward, and I think they work well everywhere. France will definitely be a circuit where the aerodynamics are more important – more so than Monaco and Montreal- so yes, it will be a good test.”
Clearly the result from the “test” at Circuit Paul Richard in France was disconcerting, and the team back at headquarters must be dumbfounded that they have failed to locate and rectify the complecations plaguing the drivers. Unfortunately, it would hardly be surprising to see Haas struggle for consistency throughout the remainder of the season.
A saving grace for the team is that Haas earned its best combined points haul in its history at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix. Prior to that, in 2017, Romain Grosjean finished with an impressive sixth place at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. The team might experience a bit of a morale boost in the lead up to this weekend knowing that the drivers, especially Grosjean, have been magnificent at the short circuit, which only has a total of eight turns which results in the drivers going “full throttle” for a vast majority of the circuit.
As a result of the current struggles facing the American team, questions will inevitably arise regarding the futures of Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean, and Guenther Steiner. However, considering the continued success the team has experienced year after year, it would be ill-advised to make a dramatic move following one disappointing season. Grosjean might be under more pressure than Magnussen and Steiner, but he too has been more a victim of circumstance rather than driver error this season.
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is in serious trouble as it attempts maintain the high standards that have been attributed to the Ferrari-powered team, but this tumultuous time for Haas is the perfect opportunity for the everyone inside the team to solve the problem and push ahead. Every constructor will experience a rough season or seasons from time to time. One may need only look at Williams, who were fifth in the Constructor Standings only two years ago. Perilous struggles can lay the foundation for a magnanimous comeback. Haas must continue to chip away at solving the problem and put their continued faith behind their drivers to get the best out of the car.
Photo Credit-Unsplash: Puk Patrick