Haas F1 Team Makes History in Australia
Haas F1 Team made history before and after the 32nd Australian Grand Prix Sunday in Melbourne.
The organization’s debut in Round 1 of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship marked the first time an American team had competed in Formula One since 1986. And after ending a 30-year drought for an American squad in Formula One, Haas F1 Team ended another drought for an organization’s maiden F1 race.
After starting 19th, Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean finished an impressive sixth, earning the team eight points in the constructor standings. The last time a Formula One team scored points in its debut race was in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix when Mika Salo finished sixth for Toyota.
The fortunate outcome was due in part by the misfortune of Grosjean’s teammate, Esteban Gutiérrez, who was taken out of the race in a spectacular accident involving McLaren driver Fernando Alonso on lap 17. With debris littering the track, officials displayed the red flag. The field came to pit lane where the cars were stopped, and the only work teams could do to their cars was change tires. Opportunity knocked and Haas F1 Team answered.
When the race went back to green, Grosjean was good to go the distance without pitting. His strategy was to outlast and outrun as many of his counterparts as possible. He succeeded, with only five drivers finishing ahead of him, all of whom belonged to race teams with decades of experience. The sixth-place finish was worth eight points, placing Haas F1 Team fifth in the constructor standings.
“A lot of people have contributed to this, so we have to thank all the people, starting with Guenther Steiner (team principal) who put all this together and kept pushing me to go out and try this,” said team Founder and Chairman, Gene Haas. “The Ferrari people have been excellent. They’ve helped us a lot. Dallara helped us build the chassis. We’ve got a great sponsor in Haas Automation. It’s all great.”
“There’s a new F1 team on the block and it’s an American F1 team, so we’re real proud of that. But these other teams are pretty dang good at what they do. I wouldn’t sit here and say we’re going to be in front of them all the time, but today was a good day.”
“Obviously, the chassis, aero, engine – they all work. That’s what’s really important. That’s why we took the extra year to work on that. The car is a very stable platform. We’ve kind of known that since (testing in) Barcelona. There’s been a lot of little gremlins and technical issues, but I think the fundamental chassis will be awesome for us.”
“Grosjean had a heck of a challenge there. They made the decision to go on the mediums for 39 laps, so that was really pushing it. He basically didn’t chew up his tires initially, so he was able to get 39 laps out of them. I think near the end he was starting to pick up time on the person behind him. Tire strategy, saving your tires, those are the kinds of things that make a driver a legend.
“Grosjean just drove his heart out and did everything he could to keep it up there and it worked out. When (Nico) Hulkenberg was behind him I thought he might catch him, but he held him off and we actually started to make some time. He was saving fuel near the end, so I think once we got to the last few laps and we started to push a little harder, the car really responded.
“This is racing. It’s what we do for a living and, you know, it’s cool. But I’ll tell you, there’ll be some bad days too, so we’ll enjoy this one."
“A very good day at the office,” added Romain Grosjean. “This feels like a win. For all the guys who worked so hard over the last few weeks, this is unbelievable. We were unlucky yesterday, but got a bit lucky today with the red flag. Still, we were able to hold off the Williams (Valtteri Bottas) and the Force India (Hulkenberg). We didn’t have much set-up (time) on the car. It was a case of, off you go and see what happens. This is an unbelievable feeling. The guys did an amazing job and I told them, this is like a win for all of us. First race and here we are, P6. A happy day.”
Haas F1 Team will now turn their sights to round two of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Bahrain Grand Prix, which takes place in Sakhir, Bahrain on April 3.
Image Credit: LAT Photographic