F1 2018 Driver Battles: Haas struggles to release full potential due to mechanical and driver errors

Haas F1 team have the fourth best car on the grid but have failed to challenge likes of Renault and McLaren so far. Mikael Kataja asks why?


(REUTERS/Juan Medina)

This week we have been looking at each team and how their 2018 season is shaping up. Now it is the turn of Haas F1 who after a successful second season boasted 2018 would be even better.

Haas

The only American team on the grid had a better start to 2018 that anyone could have dreamed of during the winter. In Australia, Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean made it into Q3 without problems and put their cars fifth and sixth on the starting grid. In the race, they challenged the Red Bulls in front of them and were looking great in first stint. But then came the pit stops. 

Both cars pitted within a few laps from each other, only to have a wheel nut problem destroy everything they had built. A double retirement from top six in the first race of the season was devastating to watch.

Haas recovered from the massive disappointment in the following races with Kevin Magnussen carrying the team to points finishes in three out of the five races completed so far. That double-points finish however still looms in the distance with Haas’ second driver Romain Grosjean fading into obscurity, as the stats show

Qualifying head to head

Magnussen     4 – 1     Grosjean

Respective points 

Magnussen     19 – 0     Grosjean

Kevin Magnussen

Kevin Magnussen had an okay first season with Haas in 2017 and was looking forward to building on that this term. And he has, taking the number one driver’s place in the team. He has the upper hand on his teammate in qualifying and hasn’t had to do much to better him in races. Grosjean has had more than a few mishaps in 2018, most notably the crash behind the safety car in Azerbaijan (which he initially blamed on Ericsson, who was at least 50 metres behind him) and the reckless spin at the start of the Spanish Grand Prix which put half the grid in danger.

Meanwhile Magnussen has steadily racked up points and although he has made some controversial moves on the track, he has brought the car to the chequered flag in four out of five races, the odd one out being Australia. Kevin has already scored as many points as he did in the whole of 2017, so as long as Haas don’t stop developing the car, the Dane should find himself in the top ten or possibly top eight of the drivers’ standings in November.

Romain Grosjean

Poor Romain. His entire 2017 campaign could be summed up in two words: “My brakes!” Now the line for 2018 is quickly becoming “sorry guys” as the ten-time podium scoring Frenchman has been in a world of trouble in the first races of the season. If we leave out Australia, Grosjean doesn’t really have anything to show for the beginning of the season. He stands with zero points, sharing last place with Williams’ Sergey Sirotkin, and has already had a couple of embarrassing moments in Azerbaijan and Spain. Some have suggested that Grosjean has regressed back to his 2012 self when he was suspended for one race after causing a massive crash at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix.

Believe it or not, there is still hope for Grosjean. Haas have built what seems to be the best car in the midfield and even if he does not have the points to show for it, he drove well in Australia. However, the Frenchman needs to free himself from his downward spiral otherwise he might have to throw away any thoughts of replacing Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari and look for a seat in other series – perhaps Formula E.

Prediction for 2018

Haas stand in a good position even though they aren’t where they should be in the championship. They are 22 points behind Renault in fourth place, but with no more technical issues and Grosjean back to his regular level they should be able to get back in the mix soon. At the moment, their biggest threats are Renault’s and McLaren’s upgrades and Grosjean’s mental state, but it is too early to say if either will wreck the team’s season. After a mixed start, they will aim to stay on a positive track for the rest of the year.

Can Haas, and Grosjean in particular, recover from the early season wobbles? Share your views below.

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