Let's Talk About Haas, Baby
What 'haas' Haas done, and what does this mean for its future?
It was late at night and I was scrolling on Instagram, desperately trying to fall asleep. That's when I saw the "BREAKING: ROMAIN GROSJEAN TO LEAVE HAAS" post, in bold red. My first thought was "No way this is real- this is definitely a meme!" Then I looked at the account name: "F1." The official F1 instagram had revealed Grosjean's departure. So then I flocked to Reddit (as one does), and tried to see if anyone on r/formula1 or r/GrandPrixRacing had anything to say about it. About 15 minutes after that, I saw a reddit post announcing Kevin Magnussen's departure as well. This was enough for me to lose sleep for the rest of the night, pondering about Haas's future.
The issue isn't the departures themselves- we were all expecting this at some level. It is definitely bittersweet. We've all had our moments with them, and who can replace Grosjean's sweet, charismatic personality on the grid? I, for one, won't stop looking at the awesome things he builds on his instagram. We all know they will go on to do better things for the world of motorsport. However, the move by Haas to announce both its drivers on the same day might suggest that this was in the works for a long time- the level of performance just wasn't there from both drivers not to mention the right amount of funding to build a better car. I figured I'd provide a quick recap of Haas's history, because this wasn't an overnight move.
The team itself is an American team, with two bases (one in North Carolina and one in Banbury, UK). The founder, Gene Haas, bought the old Marussia F1 base in 2014 to set up a new operations base for Haas.
2016: This was the debut year for Haas, with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez in the lineup. Grosjean finished 6th at the first GP of the year in Australia, making Haas the first American constructor to win points in its first F1 race. Gutiérrez was not performing as well as Grosjean, however. Grosjean eventually won enough points over the course of the season to bring Haas to 8th in the Constructors.
2017: Esteban Gutiérrez was replaced by Kevin Magnussen, and the season was still fairly okay. Haas still finished 8th in the Constructors, for the second year in a row.
2018: This was by far the best season to date for Haas. The year started off on the right foot for Haas again, with Grosjean and K-Mag starting 5th and 6th on the grid, respectively. Though both drivers did retire after their respective pit stops, they still performed equally at Austria (finishing 4th and 5th). Magnussen scored Haas's first ever fastest lap at the Singapore Grand Prix, and the team finished 5th in the Constructors. This was the highest finish for Haas, and a huge jump in performance. It is, however, worth mentioning that Haas started announcing its partnerships with Ferrari around then, and many people had mixed opinions about it.
2019: This was definitely the worst season to date for Haas. This was the year of the Rich Energy Scandal (please go read up about it and watch the videos because IT. IS. WEIRD.). The season again started off on a high note, with Magnussen finishing 6th in Australia. However, the second race was when both drivers dropped to the back half of the grid, finishing 19th and 16th. This was quite possibly the start of their downward spiral. The team tried to reverse Grosjean's upgrades for the British GP to figure out what was causing the car's problems, yet the two drivers collided into each other on the first lap! The German Grand Prix was slightly better, with both drivers finishing 7th and 8th. The team, however, finished 9th in the Constructors- a 4 place drop from the previous year.
2020 (Present): Currently, the Haas team only has 3 points. The pacing has not been optimal, and now we just wait to hear any further announcements from Haas. How did a team go from performing in the upper half of the grid, go to performing in the lower half of the grid?
What does this mean for Haas, and who are some possible drivers?
As we know, Haas has had issues with funding. If you're not aware of how finances play a part in the sport, the more money you have = more sponsors = more publicity = more money to invest in the car. This is the reason why we have teams like Mercedes, with enormous budgets for the car, performing well every single week. This is also the reason why teams like Williams, with little funding, have limited resources to upgrade the car's performance. Haas was not bringing in as much money with the Grosjean-Magnussen lineup, which now leaves us considering the money aspect when predicting driver-lineups.
Veteran Drivers: Perez and Hulkenberg have both showed impressive efforts this season, with Hulkenberg really stepping up to the plate as a fill-in driver (for Stroll and Perez). Perez is currently out of a seat, as his seat has been signed to Sebastian Vettel for Racing Point Aston Martin for 2021. Hulkenberg is still waiting to sign for a permanent seat, and it would be amazing to see these two men in the Haas seats. Do I think this is really going to be the case? Probably not, and let me tell you why.
The team is most likely looking for one veteran driver and one rookie driver. Of the two possible veteran drivers, Perez seems like the best possible choice. Not only has he been consistent, but the funding aspect would also be covered- he brings in a large amount of money. Two rookie drivers would most likely not happen as well, but let's take a look at the rookies contending for this seat. I don't believe Haas will use either of its development drivers, so that leaves Schumacher, Ilott, Shwartzman and... Mazepin. Yes, you read that right- Nikita Mazepin. Most people know that Schumacher, Ilott, and Shwartzman have been doing really well in F2, that they are all Ferrari Academy drivers, and that they rank 1st, 2nd, and 5th in the standings. Schumacher and Ilott were supposed to have their F1 debut at Nurburgring, but couldn't due to bad weather. Shwartzman is supposed to debut at Abu Dhabi later this year. Now, where did Mazepin come from and why is he important? Mazepin ranks 6th in the F2 standings, which isn't that great compared to the other three drivers. That doesn't mean he's not a good driver, he's certainly had his moments in the past. The reason why there are talks surrounding Haas and Mazepin, is because Mazepin would bring in a large amount of money for Haas. For Haas's situation, it makes most sense to have a Perez-Mazepin lineup, and use the resources to really build a better car. Would this really be fair to Ilott, though? Ilott was supposed to drive the Haas at Nurburgring, and it just wouldn't be fair that a driver 4 places below him gets the seat (if Mazepin does). However, this is the way the sport works sometimes.
Now, the return of the Schumacher name to the sport has just about everyone eagerly waiting, including myself. Haas hasn't denied taking on Schumacher in a seat, but I personally feel like a Schumacher-Raikkonen lineup at Alfa Romeo would be way better for Mick. However, there have been talks of Alfa keeping Giovinazzi for another season, so there's no telling how this will play out.
We're all just speculating at this point, and we can't know for sure what is going to happen. Will Haas sign two rookies? Will they sign two veteran drivers? Will Mazepin actually be prioritized over Schumacher or Ilott? Let your thoughts be known in the comments! If you'd like to follow me, I'm on instagram @shvet_writes, and on YouTube as ChevyTalksF1. Stay amazing!