2016 FORMULA 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
startup Formula 1 team last scored
points in its debut season in 2002, when
Mika Salo grabbed a couple of fortuitous
sixth-place finishes for Toyota. That was a
powerhouse manufacturer spending big,
but the last independent team to do it
was Stewart Grand Prix in 1997, and even
that had significant backing from Ford.
“If you try to do it like they did 20
History is against startup teams scoring points in F1, but Haas F1 looks ready to buck the trend.
years ago – start out, make a car, and
then go racing – it’s very difficult to do,”
said Haas F1 team principal Gunther
Steiner last year. “Almost impossible.”
In which case, why is F1’s newest team
gunning for points and a finish as high as
seventh or eighth in the Constructors’
Championship? The reason is the supreme
pragmatism applied to the project – the
same pragmatism that helped Stewart-
Haas Racing become a major force in
NASCAR, thanks to an alliance with
Hendrick Motorsports. Yet for all the
claims that it’s a Ferrari “B-team” (both
team and Maranello deny this), it’s still a
mountain to climb for a startup team.
But pre-season testing went well, very
well. A front-wing failure on the opening
day in Barcelona led some to question
Haas’s readiness, but thereafter things
went solidly. The VF- 16 is rapid enough
not to be the caboose of the F1 grid (an
“honor” that’s set to go Manor’s way) and
it ran consistently enough to assume it will
finish races from the get-go. The question is,
who other than Manor will be behind them?
Renault, which is still rebuilding the
ex-Lotus team after a late takeover, will
start the season slowly. McLaren-Honda
has shown few signs of a quick fix in its
struggle to climb the order. Toro Rosso
THE GENE’S OUT OF THE BOTTLE
Aside from the inevitable gremlin here and there, the
Haas F1 team’s Ferrari-powered VF- 16 has been solid
straight out of the box during pre-season testing at
Barcelona. Can it convert promise into points in Australia?
The new, American-owned
Haas F1 team’s secret weapon
could well be a Frenchman.
Romain Grosjean’s technical
skills will be a huge asset during
the startup’s debut season.
WORDS Edd Straw MAIN IMAGE Glenn Dunbar/LAT