Formula 1Season Review

2016 Season Review: Haas F1 Team – Solid Rookie Season

13 Mins read
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Sunday 27 November 2016. World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image _ONZ0102

#8 – Romain Grosjean – France – 19 Starts, 2 Did Not Starts (Singapore, Brazil), 29 Points, Best Finish: 5th (Bahrain), Championship Position: 13th.

#21 – Esteban Gutierrez – Mexico – 21 Starts, 0 Points, Best Finish: 11th (Spain, Monaco, Austria, Germany, Singapore), Championship Position: 21st.

The 2016 Formula 1 season marked the debut of a new team, Haas F1 Team, the first team to be started from fresh since Virgin, Lotus and HRT joined the grid in 2010. They are also the first all-American-led team in three decades, after the failing of US F1 Team in 2010. The team were granted entry to the season but later confirmed to the FIA that they were in no position to race in the championship.

To be in with a fighting chance this season, they signed Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez. Grosjean left Lotus F1 Team at the end of 2015, prior to the confirmation of the Renault takeover. As Ferrari are their main part supplier, it is understood that this is the reason behind the team signing Gutierrez, as he was the test driver for Scuderia Ferrari in 2015.

The Australian Grand Prix marked the first time the Haas VF-16 went under race conditions, on one side of their garage Grosjean had a successful Grand Prix. He finished in sixth, after holding off a big group of rivals until the chequered flag. Gutierrez had to retire from the Grand Prix after the McLaren Honda Racing of Fernando Alonso clipped the rear of the car.  Alonso came off worst as he went into an airborne barrel roll across the gravel trap, and in a good bit of sportsmanship, Gutierrez clambered out and immediately ran over to check if the Spaniard was okay.

Heading into the second round of the championship, they had a massive push behind them with Grosjean securing their debut point. This success continued in Bahrain, with Grosjean qualifying in ninth then finishing in fifth at the Sakhir International Circuit.  With a good tyre strategy behind him, he was able to do one better than Australia to drive superbly to another points finish. Gutierrez on the other hand suffered with brake issues that led to a second consecutive retirement. He was running inside the top eight early during the race but his second trip to the pits was for good, after experiencing issues with his braking system.

Both drivers failed to reach the top ten in China, ending their impressive start to their debut season. Gutierrez was the first Haas driver home, after he finished in fourteenth. Finishing his first Grand Prix of the season, after having no luck in Australia and Bahrain. Despite experiencing a dream beginning to the season, it came crashing down for Grosjean.

The Frenchman had to pit immediately for a new front wing, after crashing into the Sauber F1 Team of Marcus Ericsson. He was unable to recover his positions lost, after qualifying in fourteenth, at the end he had to settle for nineteenth.

Romain Grosjean at speed in Sochi Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic

Grosjean bounced back from the disappointment in China, to bring home Haas four points at the Russian Grand Prix.  He was able to hold off the challenge of the Sahara Force India Formula 1 Team of Sergio Perez in the last quarter of the race to finish in eighth. Gutierrez had another disappointing Grand Prix, following a first lap incident with Nico Hulkenberg at turn one. He missed his braking point and ran into the back of Hulkenberg. The stewards deemed he was at fault for the incident, so handed him a drive-through penalty.  He was able to continue his Grand Prix, but was only able to recover to seventeenth.

The Spanish Grand Prix marked Grosjean’s first retirement of the season, after suffering with braking issues. This was his first retirement since the 2015 United States Grand Prix, when he was with Lotus. Grosjean had a good start but with a broken wing he had to make a necessary pit stop.  This pitstop saw him lose a lap and then he retired with those braking issues. Gutierrez finished just outside the points in eleventh, this was his best result since his return to the championship. The Mexican was on course to secure his first points of the year, but suffered with high degradation with his Pirelli tyres that saw him drop behind Felipe Massa, Jenson Button and on the penultimate lap, Daniil Kvyat.

Along with a few problems during Free Practice 2, the team were able to recover to allow Gutierrez to do his best from the beginning to the end. Monaco saw Gutierrez get the better of team-mate Grosjean, as he finished two positions ahead in eleventh. Kimi Raikkonen almost took Grosjean out, as he got too late on the brakes at the Loews hairpin and smashed into the barrier.

When he re-joined the track, he nearly collected Grosjean, who he was lucky to escape unscathed. For Gutierrez he lost confidence with his car, after switching to the Ultrasoft tyre. During the wetter opening to the race, he was running inside the top ten but when the track dried out he was unable to retain this position. Gutierrez saw the chequered flag in twelfth but with Valtteri Bottas handed a ten-second penalty for causing a collision, he was promoted to eleventh.

For the Canadian Grand Prix, Gutierrez completed another good race, after finishing in thirteenth, a step backwards from Monaco though. This finish saw him finish ahead of Grosjean again, despite revealing his struggle to get his tyres working at the optimum temperature early in the stints. Then struggling to keep that temperature towards the end of each stint.

This is an issue that has blighted their weekends since the early part of the season. Like Spain, the front wing on Grosjean’s car broke which forced him to make an unscheduled third trip to the pits. A top ten finish disappeared as a result of the failure, before the failure he was running in eleventh and fighting hard for points. The third pit stop costed him everything the team had been working for.

Gutierrez on cool-down lap around Baku City Circuit Credit: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic

The European Grand Prix made a return to the F1 calendar this season, a race that no teams were pre-prepared for as there was no data from any previous years. With a new circuit in Azerbaijan, it was expected to be carnage on the first lap. All that happened was a small incident into turn one where Gutierrez locked up, leading to a small shunt between the Mexican and Hulkenberg.

Damage was sustained to Gutierrez’s front wing, which he changed on lap eight, he was only able to recover as much as he could. He finished in sixteenth, after failing to improve on from his qualifying position of fourteenth. For Grosjean, he believed the team did their best in Azerbaijan, as he finished in thirteenth. By lap ten, he managed to climb to eighth at the Baku City Circuit.

The original plan was a one-stop strategy but this was forced to be scraped after a build-up of debris in his radiator intake ducts. With the risk of the engine overheating, the team had no choice but to pit Grosjean. Despite the team doing their best, Grosjean believes they weren’t where they would like to be on the grid.

The ninth round of the championship saw Haas head to Austria, where Grosjean finished in the points for the first time since Russia.  Grosjean finished in seventh, despite being awarded a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. He was able to onto seventh, despite in the closing laps the close attention of Sergio Perez. Perez crashed out of the race on the penultimate lap, meaning Grosjean was able to cruise to the chequered flag and not have to worry about the Mexican.

For the third time this season, Gutierrez finished in eleventh, just missing out on points by 0.621 seconds at the chequered flag. With a poor getaway, he dropped down the order but fought well to get back up the order. He was denied a point finish by the Manor Racing MRT of Pascal Wehrlein. Gutierrez believed he lost a lot of ground at the beginning of the Grand Prix, and he fought his way up the grid to the front on a different strategy than what was planned.

At the British Grand Prix, Gutierrez was the final finisher on the road in sixteenth, 10.471 seconds behind Felipe Nasr. He never had the pace to be able to challenge those ahead in his VF-16. Despite it being a troubled weekend, he believed he could learn from these mistakes for future races.

On the other side of the garage, Grosjean failed to see the chequered flag, after an transmission issue forced him to end the race early. He felt though the race had already been compromised after failing to get the Intermediate tyre to work and had a slow stint on that compound of tyre. The transmission issues transpired on lap seventeen, crawling to a halt at Copse Corner.

Grosjean retires from the British Grand Prix Credit: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic

For the Hungarian Grand Prix, Gutierrez finished ahead of teammate Grosjean in thirteenth. It wasn’t without it’s action for Gutierrez, after he received an abusive hand gesture from Lewis Hamilton. At one stage the Briton was held up by Gutierrez when Nico Rosberg was closing in on Hamilton. When Hamilton finally passed Gutierrez he delivered what appeared to be a middle-finger salute to underline his unhappiness.

Gutierrez felt this was not a very respectful move from him, but he received a five-second time penalty for ignoring the blue flags. For Grosjean, he struggled with the car’s balance for much of the race. Nonetheless, he was able to hold the Renault Sport Formula 1 of Kevin Magnussen in the closing stages to claim fourteenth. Along with the balance, he felt the strategy didn’t work, which led to this disappointing outcome.

For the German Grand Prix, Gutierrez lost a number of positions at the start, with him being the only driver to start on the Soft tyre. It it thought that with a better start, Gutierrez could have been a points contender. He claimed his fourth eleventh place finish of the season. Finishing behind Gutierrez was team-mate Grosjean, who took the second Haas to thirteenth, despite informing the team over the radio about smoke coming from the back of his VF-16, the car held on to see the chequered flag. The mechanics could not find anything abnormal on their data on their end, so they allowed Grosjean to drive the car home. They were in a good position heading into the three-week Summer break as they had secured 28 points in the Constructors’ Championship.

After the three week summer break, the F1 championship headed to Spa-Francorchamps. Haas had a relatively good Grand Prix as Gutierrez finished ahead of Grosjean in twelfth, as he once more got the better of his Haas team-mate. Earlier in the Grand Prix, both drivers had ran inside the top ten but those who had been delayed early began to climb their way back through the grid.

Gutierrez believed points were on the cards for him, with losing some time behind the safety car, he was unable to stay in the top ten. After avoiding the chaos at turn one, Grosjean was unable to keep the other drivers behind him. He suffered with a lack of top speed, an issued the team were able to solve but not before the Frenchman was well out of contention for a top ten finish.

The roles were reversed at the Italian Grand Prix, as Grosjean finished in Gutierrez’s normal position of eleventh. Grosjean was able to hold off the charge of Jenson Button, holding him off by 0.551 seconds at the line. Again the Ferrari-powered Haas just didn’t have the speed to challenge the rivals ahead, with the car lacking straight line speed to compete with the Mercedes powered cars.

Gutierrez finished behind Grosjean at the Italian Grand Prix Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Photographic

Team-mate Gutierrez finished two positions behind in thirteenth. Despite a good qualifying position, he was unable to improve on this and fell down the grid in the early stages of the race. He managed to recover some ground but not enough to finish the Grand Prix higher than his starting position. With this qualifying performance, it looked like a turning point, but a slow start at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza left him languishing down the field.

For a fifth time this season, Gutierrez finished in eleventh in Singapore, a man on a mission to score his first points of the season. Despite not scoring points, he felt he was consistent throughout the whole weekend. The team brought an upgrade to the Marina Bay Street, with this consistency it bodes well for them.

For a second consecutive week, Gutierrez had a poor start as he lost some time that made him overheat his tyres when he tried to recover, and this cost him towards the end of the stint. With the finish of eleventh, it left the team feeling optimistic about the future race weekends so they can push forward.

On the other side of the garage, it was a disappointing weekend after Grosjean suffered from a brake issue before the race.  This prevented the Frenchman from starting the Grand Prix, so he was left to watch from the sidelines. This was the first time in his F1 career that Grosjean failed to start a race, it came about from a weekend full of issues that compromised him heavily. With him losing the brake-by-wire, he was unable to race as it made the car unsafe.

The sixteenth round of the championship was in Malaysia, where both drivers retired from the Grand Prix.  Grosjean caused a virtual safety car during the Grand Prix, when the brakes appeared to fail on his Haas, his second consecutive race with brake issues. There was also disappointment on Gutierrez’s side of the garage as he retired after a left-front wheel failure. With a puncture on the right-rear tyre from contact with Magnussen behind, he had to immediately pit.

He pushed himself a lot when he returned to the circuit, to make up the place he lost, from here his race didn’t get any better. Heading into turn nine, he lost his left-front wheel, he was able to steer the three-wheeled VF-16 to a safe area. Once he climbed out of the car, he joined Grosjean in the paddock. Once the race was over, the stewards looked into the incident.  They deemed that Gutierrez wasn’t to blame for the incident but decided the team could have done more to prevent an unsafe release. The result, a €5,000 fine.

Grosjean retires from the Malaysian Grand Prix Credit: Andy Hone/LAT Photographic

From Malaysia Haas headed to Japan where one side of the garage had a successful weekend, where the other didn’t. Grosjean finished in eleventh, just missing out on the points. Williams Martini Racing were able to jump ahead of Grosjean, making a one stop compared to the Frenchman’s two.

This was a frustrating time for Grosjean as he missed out on a top ten result, after struggling with the Soft tyre he was able to find more pace once he switched to the Hard tyre. He believed he was faster than both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas but was unable to get passed either driver to move back into the top ten. Gutierrez on the other hand had to settle for twentieth, despite a good start.

With him starting the Grand Prix at the Suzuka International Racing Course in tenth, this wasn’t the best outcome for the Mexican. With Grosjean ahead of him in seventh, this was the best collective starting position for Haas this season. A spin on lap twenty when the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr attempted a block, meant Gutierrez was unable to climb back up the grid.  As he had damage on the front wing, twentieth was the position Gutierrez had to settle for.

At the United States Grand Prix, Haas returned to the points, with Grosjean just finishing in the top ten as the final points scorer. Despite starting in seventeenth, this was a good position for him, especially as it was Haas’ home Grand Prix.

The Grand Prix wasn’t all success for them as Gutierrez had his fourth retirement of the season. He had ran as high as tenth in the early stages but soon dropped down the order before retiring with yet another braking issue, after running off track when his brake-by-wire system failed. It was looking promising for the Mexican as the first stint was very strong and managed to get into the top ten.

The Mexican Grand Prix was eventful for Gutierrez, after an incident with Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, where three into one did not go. Gutierrez was in the middle pitching Wehrlein into Ericsson, he believed there was nothing he could have done to avoid the clash. The stewards shared the same opinion as they deemed no action needed to be taken over the incident.

Despite this incident, he was able to finish in nineteenth, ahead of Grosjean who as well had a disappointing Grand Prix. The Frenchman started from the pit lane after the team changed the floor of his VF-16 on the morning of the race. After the Virtual Safety Car that was triggered by the incident between Ericsson and Wehrlein, Grosjean moved up to nineteenth.

Gutierrez retires in tricky conditions at the Brazilian Grand Prix Credit: Haas F1 Team

With a lack of downforce, combined with the slippery track surface, he was unable to make any forward progress. After passing Esteban Ocon for twentieth, this was the position he saw at the chequered flag. Grosjean admitted after the the car was very difficult to handle and to drive, with it equalling a very difficult day.

The Brazilian Grand Prix marked the second occasion where both drivers retired.  Before the Grand Prix had even started on Sunday, Grosjean crashed out meaning he didn’t start in his seventh place on the grid. On the installation lap, he lost control of the VF-16 by aquaplaning up the hill, which led him to crashing into the barrier at the top of the incline. He felt this was just bad luck, as the team went from hero to zero in less than 24 hours after a stunning qualifying effort on Saturday.

After feeling a points finish was on the cards, Gutierrez suffered from an electrical problem that affected his breaks. Despite the best efforts from the team to attempt to fix the issue, the team were unable, which led to his retirement. With tricky conditions at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace on Sunday it was all about keeping the car on track. In the wet, electrical problems are the worst things you can have.

This retirement meant Gutierrez only had one opportunity left of the 2016 season to score points for the season. Gutierrez failed to score any points for Haas during the season as the best position he could finish at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi was twelfth, this was behind team-mate Grosjean. It was a normal race for both Gutierrez and Grosjean, as none of their problems from the season, made themselves known in the finale.

This Grand Prix also marked the end of Gutierrez’s career with Haas in their maiden season. As the team confirmed that Grosjean would be joined by Magnussen for the 2017 F1 season. Grosjean was the sole provider of the points for their Constructors’ Standing, which saw the American-led team finish the season in eighth. A position that was above expectation for a team making their F1 debut.

Will Haas be able to fix the problems that have arose during this season to have a successful 2017 season? After both drivers have had reliability issues throughout the season with the brakes. Or will they continue their progress from the second half of the season, only time will tell when Haas return to the grid at the Australian Grand Prix.

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