This was not how the 2019 Formula 1 season was supposed to go for Haas. The Constructor had seen continued improvement year after year and proved critics wrong in the process. Haas was able to develop its own identity and moved away from being wholly considered a Ferrari sister team. Whether it was the constructor’s energetic team principal, Guenther Steiner, or the open relationship with the media, Haas was a model of the modern F1 team. All of that has gone out the window halfway through this season leaving questions abound as to how so much has gone wrong in the span of a few months. Surely this can not continue for the rest of the year?
There are three critical problems plaguing Haas this season, and each issue comes from three completely different parts of the team: the car development, the drivers’ relationships with each other, and the trouble with title sponsor, Rich Energy. There looks to be a perfect storm going on at Haas and while each issue is different, there is no denying it stems from on-track performances.
Let’s first address the most recent developments following the German Grand Prix. Haas was able to get both drivers in the points at the Hockenheimring. Romain Grosjean finished seventh while Kevin Magnussen finished eighth. Yet, for what would be considered a solid day for a team desperate for any points it can get, the news is focused on another on-track clash between the two teammates. The Haas drivers made contact at the hairpin during the race. Luckily the consequences were no where near as severe compared to what occurred during the British Grand Prix, which saw a double retirement for the team.
The fact that both Grosjean and Magnussen were able to continue without damage and nab some much needed points fell on deaf ears with Steiner. Following the race, Steiner addressed the collision,
“I was surprised after Silverstone, they did it again!”
“I didn’t speak with them after the race, there’s no point.”
“I need to tell them event by event and lap by lap what to do, and I think that will happen.”
Both Magnussen and Grosjean are skating on thin ice with Steiner at this point in the season. A team like Haas simply cannot afford for its drivers to be making the highlight reels for collisions, retirements, and radio reprimands. Both drivers are skilled and should be able to get the best out of the car, but the frustration resulting from the car’s poor performances might just be getting to their psyche. Either way, Haas must not continue to allow this to go on any longer, and the fact that team orders have not been imposed, regardless of Steiner’s distaste for such commands, is baffling. It is no shock then to see rumors that Grosjean’s contract may be terminated during the summer break.
Unfortunately, Haas has been having to deal with the utterly laughable situation concerning their title sponsor, Rich Energy. There have been a number of articles and videos breaking down exactly what was going on within Rich Energy, but the short end is that the company was apparently terminating their relationship with Haas due to poor performances. This was not, however, the actual decision by the shareholders as a whole, and now the then CEO, William Storey, sold his majority stake in the company. This debacle, which still sees Rich Energy as the constructor’s title sponsor, has not only tarnished Haas’s reputation but also that of Formula 1 as a whole merely by association.
Perhaps all of these issues would have been mitigated had Haas been having a respectable season. Instead, Haas finds itself tied second to last in the Constructor Standings with Alfa Romeo Racing only ahead of Williams, which got its first point of the year thanks to penalties for both Alfa Romeo drivers. While the points are important, the results on Sunday should be taken with a grain of salt in the grand scheme of progress for the constructor. Bottas, Hulkenberg, Leclerc, Norris, Gasly, Ricciardo, and Perez all retired from the German Grand Prix leaving only thirteen cars when the checkered flag waved. Grosjean and Magnussen only finished ahead of Hamilton, the two Williams’ drivers, and the two Alfa Romeo’s.
Guenther Steiner gave his thoughts on the race itself,
“The weekend didn’t end better than yesterday. We got two cars to the end, but the result is quite disappointing.”
“Our [race] pace wasn’t good. We finished…not on merit or speed. I’m not standing here saying, ‘Hurray, everything is fantastic.’ Our speed wasn’t there.”
There are very few reasons for optimism this year inside Haas’s paddock and at some point the team will just need to shift its entire focus on the 2020 season so as to avoid a repeat of this year. The summer break could not come at a better time for Haas. Next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix will unlikely provide any sense of reprieve with expectations for the car looking to be none at all. The whole situation is embarrassing for Gene Haas’s F1 team that was defying expectations since its first season back in 2016. This can not go on any longer and it could bring about dramatic changes either in the coming weeks or after the season comes to a close. Something must be done while the workers back at the factory and in the paddock continue to work hard behind the scenes.
Photo Credit-Unsplash: Puk Patrick