Haas’ Formula 1 debut far exceeded anyone’s expectations - and was a perfect illustration of how a team can push the boundaries of the regulations to achieve desired results.
Much of the criticism Haas received in the run up to its Formula 1 debut was unwarranted. True, Haas VF-16 was as close to a customer car as it could possibly be, but it was very much within the rules.
The regulations of the sport clearly distinguish between the ‘listed’ and the ‘non-listed’ parts with the teams required to manufacture the former on their own to qualify as a constructor.
Although Haas tried to use as many parts as it possibly could from last year’s Ferrari, it did make the ‘listed’ parts on its own, hence, complying with the regulations
Any of the incumbent teams, particularly those struggling for finances like Sauber, could have gone the same route as Haas, but chose not to do so. Hence, it’s perhaps unfair to criticise another team for an opportunity they didn’t utilise.
Consider this comparison, for instance. Formula 1 teams continuously push the boundaries of the regulations to come up with devices like the F-Ducts and concepts such as blown diffusers. What Haas did wasn’t any different.
And looking at the season gone by, Haas’ strategy seem to have paid off. It’s debut was the best for a full-blown startup in a long while.
Haas hit the ground running with a sixth place result in Australia, with Romain Grosjean confirming that the result wasn’t a fluke by finishing fifth in the next race in Bahrain.
Although the team’s performance nosedived thereafter, it did manage a Top-10 result at its home turf while also making into Q3 with both cars at Suzuka.
The results were all the more remarkable considering that the outfit had no previous data as reference, increasing their workload on Fridays.
Tyre and brake issues
The fact that Haas was new to the grid was best evident from its poor understanding of the Pirelli tyres. The team found it particularly hard to get them in the working temperature, leading to excessive degradation.
Issues with brakes didn’t make life any easier for Haas and it had to replace Brembo with Carbone Industrie during the latter part of the season.
Luring Romain Grosjean from Lotus/Renault was a big coup for Haas. The Frenchman scored all of 29 points for the Kannapolis-based outfit, including its headline results in Melbourne and Bahrain.
Had Haas chosen a pay driver instead of Grosjean, it would have been interesting to see how many points the outfit would have scored, if any.
That’s not to say Grosjean had a perfect season. There were times when he made silly mistakes, particularly on the way to a wet grid in Brazil where he was due to start seventh..
Meanwhile, Esteban Gutierrez had a difficult time in the other seat at Haas. The Mexican’s previous race experience with Sauber wasn’t exactly promising and his F1 return also failed to capture public imagination. Yes, the 25-year-old faced the lion’s share of Haas’ misfortune, but his pace wasn’t spectacular otherwise either.
Perhaps it wasn’t surprising when Haas decided to drop the Ferrari Academy Driver in favour of Kevin Magnussen, who has proved that, if given a good car, he can deliver the results.
by Rachit Thukral