Australian GP is an anxious start for new teams and drivers
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) A proven American motorsports success story making the leap into Formula One, a rookie driver carrying the hopes of his Asian nation, and a leading manufacturer taking the first steps to recapturing past glories.
For Gene Haas' new team, for Rio Haryanto and for Renault, this weekend's season-opening Australian Grand Prix represents an anxious start to what they intend to be long and successful futures in the sport.
Gene Haas has shown in NASCAR how to go from a fledgling team to a series champion inside a decade, and while the task will be significantly harder in F1, there is an expectation that the Haas team of 2016 will be more competitive than a usual struggling first-year team.
An engine supply from Ferrari, chassis from Dallara, and experienced F1 drivers in Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez, gives Haas the ingredients to have some of the mid-ranking teams looking over their shoulders.
Gutierrez, formerly Ferrari's reserve driver who arrived at Haas as part of the engine deal, said the team is keeping its ambitions in perspective.
''It's very ambitious as a new team to arrive and set a target to score points, but we will work very hard to achieve that,'' Gutierrez said Thursday.
''Initially it's very important to keep our feet on the ground, make sure we run smoothly during the weekend. If we can accomplish that this weekend, we can come out in a very happy mood. We have everything to gain, so achieving points would be something extraordinary.''
Indonesian driver Haryanto is part of an all-rookie team at Manor, which is expecting a significant improvement this season with a Mercedes engine supply and some overdue ownership and management stability.
His appointment owes much to the sponsorship he brings to the team from the Indonesian state oil and gas company, but his record in the GP2 series indicates he will not be out of his depth in F1.
''There's been tremendous support back home,'' Haryanto said. ''I'm very proud and I'm sure the whole nation is proud too, to have me in Formula One.
''My expectation is to try to learn as quickly as possible and try to build a good relationship with the team.''
There is also a new beginning for Renault, which has stepped up from engine supplier to return as an F1 team in its own right, 10 years after winning the most recent of its titles.
The buyout of the Lotus team and the consequent upheaval in management and technical staff put Renault behind the schedule of some of its competitors, but rookie English driver Jolyon Palmer said the team expects improvement after an understandably slow start.
''There were a lot of difficulties over the winter, everything was a little bit late,'' Palmer said. ''The expectations are pretty low, and this year is just about building a foundation.
''If we can start off with a solid base this weekend, then we've got good potential to improve over the course of the season and so, definitely, we hope to be in the points.''