Formula 1 heads to Austin, Texas, this weekend for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of The Americas.
For the Haas F1 Team, the race is a big event as it marks the first time in 30 years that a U.S.-based team has raced on home soil in the sport.
The team made its first grand prix at Australia back in March, where French racing driver Romain Grosjean scored points with a sixth-place finish. The team has gone on to score 28 points this season with four rounds still to go.
The Haas F1 Team is already getting things ready for the 2017 season, which will be its second in the sport. Here are five reasons the team is optimistic about the future.
1: Early preparation
The team has been getting ready for the 2017 season since February, largely due to the fact that there will be a bunch of regulation changes that all of the teams will have to contend with.
“The end of May, June, we stopped 2016 development,” explained Team Principal Guenther Steiner. The problem with this is that it could have hurt the team’s results in the mid to the end of the season. Sure enough, the Haas F1 Team struggled during the middle of the year, but Grosjean says that was to be expected.
“It wouldn’t have been normal not to go through that tough time,” explains Grosjean, who has scored all of the team’s 28 points. “Then we went back up, went back down, and we’ve had to prepare for 2017 as well. There’s a big change in regulations [for next year] and the team swapped very early on to next year, because the team wants to do better in year 2 and do better in year 3.”
2. Lessons from NASCAR
Gene Haas has been fielding cars in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full-time since 2003, yet it wasn’t until 2009 that the team took its first win in NASCAR’s premier division and not until 2011 that it took its first championship. During his time in racing, Haas has learned a lot about perseverance and also about working with suppliers, which he has carried over into F1 with Dallara and Ferrari.
“I’ll tell you right now, we would have stumbled very badly without Ferrari or Dallara’s help,” explained the team’s founder. “We have a very good relationship with all of our suppliers and I think we understand Dallara better, we understand Ferrari better, and hopefully they like working with us.
“I’ve had no regrets. This seemed like the perfect thing to do, I’ve done NASCAR for 15, 16 years now, and this seemed like the natural progression of moving up the chain to get to the highest level. NASCAR’s a high level, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not sure where you go up from Formula 1. The only other thing that would be left is the Indy 500 or Le Mans or something like that so there’s always another goal, but you have to have goals otherwise you just stop.
“I think in 10 years we’ll be a force. A lot of racing isn’t necessarily beating your competitors, it’s outlasting them.”
The drivers also praise Haas’ experience in motor racing for helping contribute to the team’s success.
“From the beginning I perceived [Gene] as a very humble person,” said Haas F1 Team’s Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez. “Very simple, very straightforward, he’s very passionate about the technical part of the sport, and I think the way he did this project together with Guenther Steiner was a very clever way of doing it, and it has proved that in the first season.”
3. Success in Japan
While the Haas F1 team has failed to score points since the Austrian Grand Prix back in July, they did accomplish something in the last race – the Japanese GP – that they had not before: Both drivers qualified in the top 10. However, that backfired against them on race day.
“We learned the hard way that when you go into Q3, you have to start on your qualifying tires,” explained Haas. “So the people that beat us were the people behind us that started on the medium tires, so they had a one-stop pit strategy where we had to pit twice. I think some of the cars in front did the two-stop strategy but they had the faster cars.”
However, Haas believes the aero upgrade is certainly a step in the right direction.
“The cars are definitely faster,” he stated simply. “The cars are faster around the turns now, so I think that will help us in the next few races.”
Gutierrez echoed Haas’ sentiments.
“I think in Japan it was very competitive, and we will try again in Austin and try and get a top 10 in the race.
“We need to fight for it.”
Gutierrez will have several family members on hand at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, before heading to his home race in Mexico next weekend.
4. Romain Grosjean
Grosjean will be back in the seat at Haas F1 in 2017, and Steiner had no hesitations in stating that he thinks the Frenchman’s role this season has been key to the team’s success.
“I think what [Grosjean] gave us is the confidence of our car,” explains Steiner. “As much as he sometimes complains about the car, he tells you what the car needs to do, he doesn’t tell you what to make you happy… I think he’s one of the crucial elements of our success here this year.”
2017 will be Grosjean’s eighth season as a driver in Formula 1.
5. Building the notebook
Building the notebook not only goes for on the track, but off the track as well. While some of the drivers and crew may have been to a track before, the team and the car have not, and so every race is a learning experience. Meanwhile, off the track the Haas F1 Team is still building its brand and, as more success and recognition comes, more partnerships can be made.
“The people who know what we are and what we do has probably doubled or tripled,” said Haas. “From a standpoint of recognition, it’s been pretty incredible.”
Meanwhile, Grosjean explained that the difficulty of experiencing a new track for a team is felt by the drivers too.
“It’s always hard for us to know what to expect when we come to a new track,” explained Grosjean. “It’s brand new for us, we don’t have any information from last year.
“Most of the time the puzzle is not complete because we’re starting from scratch each time we get to the track and, by the time we’ve got everything together, it’s the end of the race.
“There’s a lot of potential still to be unlocked.”