This weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix marks Haas F1’s 50th Grand Prix since entering Formula 1 back in 2016. Since then, they’ve managed to cement themselves as one of the strongest midfield runners, despite the sport’s apparent ‘unworkable’ financial model.
“We can be proud with what we’ve achieved,” Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner felt when asked about reaching the 50 mark earlier this week.
Haas currently lie 7th in the Constructors World Championship, just one point behind privateer rivals, Force India.
“We have a very good car where we can be the best of the rest,” Steiner said, eluding to race weekends such as Bahrain and Spain, where Kevin Magnussen finished atop the midfield.
Haas driver Romain Grosjean agreed with the analogy over the VF-17, saying the car was “working well” in France, where he finished an unfortunate 11th after landing himself in the opening lap wars.
The Frenchman is hoping the VF-17’s performance continues to rise, something he believes Haas has “the potential to do.”
“We’ve shown that the car is good at the higher-speed circuits,” second driver Kevin Magnussen said, in anticipation of this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix held at the fast, flowing Red Bull Ring.
“The car is working well at most of the other circuits,” he added, pointing out that the team seem to have a weakness at lower speed tracks like Monaco and Singapore.
But then again, Mercedes aren’t the greatest around Singapore either.
How Haas is different to past teams.
The success of Haas in just their third Formula 1 season can be considered rather admirable when you look at the recent history of new teams entering the sport.
In 2010, the FIA allowed three news teams to the grid: HRT F1 Team, Lotus Racing and Virgin Racing.
After three seasons without a single point, HRT tried to sell their team off, but when no buyer was found it simply went bust.
Both Lotus and Virgin lasted two seasons before they were sold to new owners for 2012 and respectively rebranded as Caterham and Marussia.
The former would last three more seasons and never scored a point in F1, whilst Marussia struggled on until the end of 2016, being rebranded as ‘Manor Racing’ for their final season.
Marussia had one points finish: Jules Bianchi’s P9 in Monaco, 2014, whilst the 2016 outfit scored a P10 at that year’s Austrian Grand Prix.
These three teams entered Formula 1 in 2010 and today none of them continue to operate. In total, they lasted a combined 15 seasons and in that time, they collectively recorded two points finishes.
Haas, in just 49 Grand Prix’s thus far, have recorded 23 points finishes. This achievement cannot be undermined.
Formula 1’s broken state
Vijay Mallya, who owns Force India, has described the income distribution pattern of Formula 1 as “lopsided.”
In Haas’ debut season, they received the lowest level of income at just $19 million USD, a far cry from Ferrari’s illustrious 180 million USD payment. Haas’ payment was less than half of Sauber’s, who finished in the points once throughout 2016.
“It’s not a great business to own a team,” F1’s new Head of Commerical Operations Sean Bratches told Channel 4’s Lee McKenzie at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix.
How they did it
A lot of Haas’ success in Formula 1 has to be put down to their unconventional but completely legal relationship with Ferrari. At this year’s Australian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso infamously described Haas’ 2018 car as a “Ferrari replica.”
Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner remains adamant that the team design all their own parts and said in Australia, “we use mechanical parts from Ferrari, but everybody’s known that for the past two years.”
But Haas isn’t cheating, they’re cleverly using the regulations. At least that’s what Journalist Pablo Elizalde believes.
Following the drama sparked by Alonso’s comments, Elizalde defended Haas’ actions and said the team has “capitalised perfectly on an opportunity that existed in the rulebook.”
Elizalde believes the business model used by Haas is more effective and successful than other privateers – such as McLaren and Force India.
As Elizalde pointed out, there is nothing preventing current privateers from approaching a team such as Mercedes and forming a similar technical relationship to that of Haas and Ferrari.
The relationship has helped to bring the team success, a sort of ‘training wheels’ luxury that was never afforded to the Lotus, Virgin or HRT teams back in 2010.
And instead of approaching weekends knowing they won’t score points, Steiner is still saying things like, “we can really score some big points and come back and fight in the constructors’ championship.”
And that’s the greatest testament to why Haas has been so successful after just 50 Grand Prix’s.