The Haas F1 Team is having their best season so far in Formula 1 but there is still a sense of ‘could do better’ after a number of mistakes has cost them a whole host of points, although one side of the garage can be attributed to this more so than the other.
Fielding an unchanged line-up for the first time in Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, the team has scored sixty-six points in the opening twelve rounds, already by far their best points haul of their short life, but had they maximised their potential, they should be not only ahead of the Renault Sport Formula One Team but well clear of them.
The opening round of the season in Australia could come back to haunt them, with a two-car top six or seven result disappearing in just a handful of laps as both Magnussen and Grosjean were forced to retire through no fault of their own as they both suffered pit stop dramas that left both without all of their wheels and tyres attached properly.
Magnussen has been far the more consistent of the two drivers with points finishes in Bahrain, China and Spain in the opening five races, while it took until Austria for Grosjean to finally break into the top ten, but not without incidents in both Azerbaijan and Spain that made him look at best clumsy and at worst dangerous.
Points were lost in Baku when Grosjean inexplicably spun into the wall whilst running sixth behind the safety car, while he triggered a three-car crash on the opening lap at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya that saw him earn a grid penalty for the Monaco Grand Prix, which ultimately turned out to be the least competitive showing so far this year when neither the Frenchman nor the Dane could get anywhere near the points-paying positions.
That Austrian Grand Prix weekend though was one of redemption for the team, although they were lucky as Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton all retired ahead of them. Grosjean did not put a foot wrong all weekend long and took a well-earned fourth place, the best result so far for Haas in their three years in the sport, while Magnussen followed him home in fifth to give them their best ever haul of points in one weekend.
Subsequent points finishes have come in each of the past three races, with both drivers scoring top ten finishes in the Hungarian Grand Prix, with Magnussen again impressing on his way to seventh.
Magnussen has finished every race by the opening one so far and has brought home points on seven occasions, while Grosjean has only three top-ten results. If Haas can get consistent performances from both drivers, the VF-18 is a good enough car to take the team into that fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Although they share some components (legally) with Scuderia Ferrari, the design team can be mightily proud of the work they have done this year, and it is almost certain they will finish higher up in the championship than ever before. It is now up to everyone at Haas to ensure that is in fourth.
8 | ROMAIN GROSJEAN | POINTS: 21 | POSITION: 14TH | BEST RESULT: 4TH
The Frenchman may have taken Haas’ best ever result when he finished fourth in the Austrian Grand Prix but he has been error-prone throughout the year and finds his position within the team under threat for 2019 as a result.
The team has often been towards the best of the rest in 2018 but Grosjean has score less than half the amount of points of team-mate Magnussen and has seen a number of high-profile incidents blot his campaign, including an almost embarrassing crash behind the safety car during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix whilst on course for his first points of the season after accidentally knocking a switch on his steering wheel.
Perhaps the most high-profile incident was the first lap spin in the Spanish Grand Prix that resulted him being hit amid the smoke from his tyres by both Nico Hülkenberg and Pierre Gasly, with the stewards deeming his decision to put his foot on the accelerator and attempt to cross the track was dangerous and penalty-worthy.
It took until Austria, round nine, to break into the top ten for the first time, and it was great to see the Grosjean of old, confident and firing on all cylinders. He has subsequently scored points in both the German and Hungarian Grand Prix and appears to have found some form, but he needs a very consistent final nine races if he wants a fourth year with Haas.
It’s a shame that a driver touted to be a future Scuderia Ferrari driver to be fighting for his career but that is what a mediocre season can do to a driver. Ultimately it may already be too late for him, though a strong end to the year will make him a more attractive option elsewhere.
20 | KEVIN MAGNUSSEN | POINTS: 45 | POSITION: 8TH | BEST RESULT: 5TH (X2)
The season that the Dane has been threatening to have! It is amazing what a bit of stability can do for a driver’s confidence, with Magnussen staying with a team for a second consecutive season for the very first time in his Formula 1 career.
Magnussen made his debut in Formula 1 with the McLaren F1 Team back in 2014 and took a podium finish on debut but found himself dropped in favour of Fernando Alonso the following year, while in 2016 he raced for the Renault Sport Formula One Team, only to again find himself out after just a solitary season.
The Dane found himself at Haas in 2017 and retained his drive for a second season, although he has already done more than enough to extend that beyond this season after scoring forty-five points in the opening twelve races. He is not far away from having his best ever campaign points-wise, needing only eleven more points to better his 2014 total with McLaren, and he has nine races to do so.
Whereas Grosjean has been under pressure for dropping points, Magnussen can look back at his own performances with a sense of pride and should have more points on the board than he already has but for circumstances generally out of his control.
His Australian performance, much like Grosjean, was full of quality only for both to be undone by their pit stop issues, while his German race saw him running comfortably inside the top six only to take an ill-judged gamble on intermediate tyres that were quickly proven to be the wrong choice.
Overall though, his drives have been strong and he his results have kept Haas in the hunt for fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, and it is no wonder why his stock has risen so much. It also makes you wonder why McLaren gave up on him so quickly.