How Grosjean & Magnussen are proving they're not as bad as you remember
Remember these two? Seem to be doing quite well for themselves lately
Prior to the start of the current season, you would be hard-pressed not to remember the duo of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean at Haas. Starting out as teammates during Haas' second year of F1 in 2017, the pair will be remembered for their sometimes poor relationship within the team, which was well-documented by the Netflix boffins in the Drive to Survive series. You may also remember that when the car could perform, such as throughout the 2018 season, the drivers were capable of delivering the results also.
However, as the seasons went by and the car started to seriously slip down the grid, both Grosjean and Magnussen were dropped at the end of the 2020 season and left looking as drivers not suitable for F1. Grosjean, for his various crashes and incidents and Magnussen, as a driver whose over-aggressive nature was becoming a bit too much for other drivers. It was left in a way that looked more like the driver's problem rather than the team or the car, something which I instantly disagreed on since.
This weekend saw both Magnussen and Grosjean reunite for the first time since Grosjean's horrific crash in Bahrain last November. At the Grand Prix of Detroit in Belle Isle in the US, Grosjean is competing in IndyCar while Magnussen is in the IMSA WeatherTech championship, a weekend that has saw a pole position and win for Magnussen and two qualifying positions of third and sixth for IndyCar's two races for Grosjean. This is something that reveals a thing about these drivers, they really weren't as bad as you remember.
Both Magnussen and Grosjean are racing Stateside after leaving Haas at the end of last year. (Twitter.)
This was on top of a pole position at the GMR Grand Prix for Grosjean last time out, and Magnussen showing himself to be a top challenger in the DPi Cadillac. How is it in these two series, both known for the competitiveness between teams than that of F1, to be performing better than in F1 where it's not so competitive? Because they are good drivers, but like any driver, you can only do as much as your car will allow.
We remember the different seasons Grosjean and Magnussen were paired at Haas for different reasons, 2017 for the poor adaptation to the new aerodynamic rules, 2018 for a car that was sometimes head of the midfield and 2019 and 2020 for the constant tyre wear and pace loss issues in the race. Notice the difference between 2018 and 2019? Well, in 2018, both Grosjean and Magnussen could perform in the car. For 2019, both drivers could qualify quite well, but would then slip down the order and sometimes into each other. How, in simply one season to the next, be a difference in the drivers? They expect an improved package, they won't change how they're driving.
I never believed this was just the doing of the teammates. It, in my opinion, was because the development of the car was not up to it, presumably because of the financial issues after the whole situation with Rich Energy, and that the overall performance of the team was getting hit by it. As a result, Grosjean and Magnussen were now left with cars that were now becoming slower and harder to drive, and forcing the two drivers to push harder, contributing to more issues and crashes.
After an improved 2018, Haas started to slip down the order from 2019 onwards. (FIA.)
Realistically, it was neither the team's or driver's fault things went the way it went with Rich Energy, but it just isn't particularly fair to criticise these two drivers for making mistakes or not performing when in reality, they were really pushing it. I think a change of championship has done the best for both drivers and once again, both drivers are doing remarkably well in two series that could be called more competitive and close than F1.
Of course, I do wish Haas will be able to find the means of improvement next season. At the moment with Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher now driving for the team, Haas are expecting very little out of F1 this season and are waiting until the new regulation changes next season in the hope of both bringing a strongly developed and fast chassis to the grid, as well as two drivers now ready to fight in the midfield. It's a plan as crazy as Guenther himself, but come to think of it, maybe the man did make the right call keeping Magnuseen and Grosjean for so long.