The 2019 Formula 1 season starts with the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park, Melbourne this weekend (March 14-17 2019). The Rich Energy Haas F1 team will start their fourth year in Formula 1. The American team has been on an upward trajectory since their entry into the sport in 2016.
The team secured a creditable fifth position in the constructors’ championship last season. This was an improved performance after the team finished in eighth position in their first two seasons. The performance of the Haas F1 team at the two pre-season tests at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Spain showed that they would again be in the thick of the tight midfield battle.
The Haas F1 team was impressive in winter testing in 2018. They surprised the paddock when they emerged as the fourth fastest team in testing. But pit stop blunders at the first race in Melbourne scuppered a strong double-points finish for the team. Romain Grosjean then made a series of errors that threw away points in the early races. The team could have finished a strong fourth in the constructors’ championship, if not for these errors.
Kevin Magnussen has come into his own in his last two seasons with Haas F1. The Dane had a poor start to his career at McLaren. Since then, Magnussen has developed into a combative midfield driver who has sharp elbows. Grosjean turned things around by the end of last season. If both drivers perform to potential, the Grosjean vs Magnussen intra-team battle in a fast Haas F1 car could be close and exciting.
#8 Romain Grosjean
143 GP Starts | 381 Points| 10 Podiums | 1 Fastest Lap
The Renault and Lotus Years
Romain Grosjean started his career with the Renault F1 team in 2009. Then test driver Grosjean was called up to replace Nelson Piquet Jr. at the European Grand Prix after the Crashgate scandal. It was a disastrous seven races alongside the formidable Fernando Alonso. Not only was Grosjean outscored by Alonso (0 to 13 points), but was involved in several incidents.
At the end of the season, Grosjean lost his Renault drive and returned to racing in other motorsport series. In 2010, he returned again to the GP2 series. The next year, Grosjean redeemed himself as he emerged as GP2 champion in 2011.
Rarely do drivers get a second chance at a Formula 1 career after a disastrous start like the one Grosjean had. But he got a second chance when he returned to the Lotus Renault F1 team, first as a test driver and then with a full-time drive in 2012.
Return to Formula 1
In 2012, Grosjean partnered Kimi Räikkönen who was making his return to F1 after a two-year break. Grosjean was decisively beaten by the Finn (96 to 207 points) as he finished in eighth position compared to Räikkönen’s third position in the drivers’ championship.
Grosjean scored three podiums, but was involved in a number of first lap incidents. Mark Webber labeled him “the first-lap nutcase”. Grosjean earned an one-race ban after he triggered a multi-car collision at the start of the Belgian GP. Grosjean showed flashes of brilliance in qualification and edged Räikkönen that season (10-9).
In 2013, Grosjean put in a mature drive and scored a further six podiums. But Grosjean was again beaten by Räikkönen in points (132 to 183 points). Grosjean finished in seventh position compared to Räikkönen’s fifth position in the drivers’ championship.
Over the next two years, Grosjean partnered Pastor Maldonado at a financially troubled Lotus team. Grosjean became the team leader and outperformed the crash-prone Maldonado.
In 2014, Grosjean finished in fourteenth position (8 points) compared to Maldonado’s sixteenth position (2 points) in the drivers’ championship. In 2015, Grosjean performed well in the now Mercedes-powered Lotus team. The Frenchman again outscored Maldonado (51 to 27 points) and scored an emotional podium at the Belgian GP.
The Haas F1 Years
In 2016, Grosjean surprisingly departed the Lotus team to join the new American team Haas F1. That season the French manufacturer Renault returned to F1 after they bought the Lotus team. It was a natural fit for the French driver to drive for Renault. But Grosjean decided to make a daring move to the brand new outfit, Haas F1.
At Haas F1, Grosjean partnered Esteban Gutiérrez that first year. The Frenchman was the natural team leader and scored a creditable sixth position for the new team at their first race in Australia. Grosjean easily outscored Gutiérrez (29 to 0 points) as he finished in thirteenth position to Gutiérrez’s twenty-first position in the drivers’ championship.
Many experts felt that Grosjean’s move to Haas F1 was prompted by the hope that this could be a stepping stone to a drive for the Ferrari team from there. Haas F1 has a very close technical and strategic partnership with Ferrari. But those hopes have since evaporated. The last two seasons has seen Grosjean fight a very tough battle against the very competitive Magnussen.
#20 Kevin Magnussen
81 GP Starts | 137 Points| 1 Podium | 1 Fastest Lap
Kevin Magnussen was guided by McLaren through the junior formulae and entered the sport after he won the Renault Formula 3.5 series in 2013. The Dane is a second-generation F1 driver following in the footsteps of his father Jan Magnussen.
The McLaren and Renault Years
Magnussen made a great start to his career as he finished in second-place at his very first race at the 2014 Australian GP. The Dane originally finished third and was promoted to the second spot after Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified. That has been the lone podium that Magnussen has secured in his four seasons in Formula 1.
The rookie was beaten by the veteran Jenson Button in his first season. Magnussen was outqualified (8-11), out-raced (5-14), and outscored (55 to 126 points) by Button in 2014. In 2015, Magnussen was demoted to the reserve driver role as he had to make way for the new recruit and star driver Fernando Alonso.
McLaren released Magnussen at the end of the season with both the veterans Button and Magnussen ensconced firmly there. Magnussen moved to a full-time drive at Renault for 2016. He partnered Jolyon Palmer during his only season with the French team. Magnussen beat Palmer (7 points to 1 point) that season. He made the decision to move to Haas F1 and partner Grosjean in 2017.
Grosjean vs Magnussen at Haas F1
Magnussen came into his own with his new team Haas F1. The Dane quickly acquired a reputation for being a combative driver with an elbows-out approach on track. He has had run-ins with the likes of Nico Hulkenberg, Charles Leclerc, and Fernando Alonso.
In 2017, Magnussen was edged by Grosjean in points (19 points to 28 points) as he finished in fourteenth position to Grosjean’s thirteenth position in the drivers’ championship.
In 2018, Haas F1 started the season with high hopes after they emerged from winter testing with the fourth fastest car. The first race in Australia confirmed this as Magnussen qualified in sixth position and was running in a strong fourth position in the race. An unfortunate pitstop error by the team ended Magnussen’s race. Sadly the same fate befell his teammate Grosjean a couple of laps later.
Grosjean struggled in the first eight races of the season with a series of unforced errors. It was the Austrian GP, the ninth race of the season, where the Frenchman scored his first points when he finished in fourth position. Magnussen had scored 27 points by that time.
Over the last 13 races, Magnussen was outscored by Grosjean by 37 points to 29 points. Magnussen’s results started tailing off by the end of the season. But, Magnussen beat Grosjean over the season as he outscored (56 points to 37 points), out-raced (11-8), and outqualified (11-10) him. Magnussen finished in ninth position to Grosjean’s fourteenth position in the drivers’ championship.
Grosjean vs Magnussen in 2019
In 2018, Haas F1 were in a close battle with Renault F1 all-season long to finish fourth in the constructors’ championship. Grosjean was disqualified from the Italian GP from sixth position (8 points) for a technical rule infringement with the floor of the car. Magnussen was disqualified from ninth position (2 points) at the United States GP for consuming over the fuel limit of 105 Kg.
Renault F1 (122 points) outscored the Haas F1 team (93 points) by 29 points. Without the penalties and errors from the team and drivers last season, Haas F1 could have finished in fourth position.
The performance of the VF-19, the new Haas F1 challenger, during winter testing showed that they again have the potential to fight with teams like Renault, Alfa Romeo Racing, Toro Rosso, McLaren, and the Racing Point team to head the midfield and earn the tag of “the best of the rest”.
If Grosjean performs to his standards, the Grosjean vs Magnussen intra-team battle in a good Haas F1 car would be spicy and combative at the very least. Grosjean if he remains error-free should be able to get the better of Magnussen in 2019.
The best result for Haas F1 has been Grosjean’s fourth position at the Austrian GP in 2019. If both drivers perform to their potential, the team could solidify its fifth position or improve to fourth position. In a topsy-turvy race, the very first podium for the Haas F1 team is also possible.