(Photo credit: Artes Max)
It was baby steps for Haas in their second season. Although there were no eye-catching performances akin to their first two races of 2016, the points finishes came at a consistent rate, the highlight being Romain Grosjean's sixth in Austria. Despite finishing eight in the Constructor's Championship again, the gap to sixth place Renault was down to just ten points, setting up a intriguing middle-order battle this season.
Impressions from testing
The overall impression from the fortnight in Catalonia was positive, however there are caveats to consider. There weren’t any noticeable issues with the car's staying power on track, yet they did the least laps bar McLaren. Both drivers put in some impressive times, especially given they didn’t bring the fastest tyres to test. Whilst it suggests the Ferrari engine is packing serious power this year, the question is whether the times reflect the conditions in Barcelona. Colder weather means the performance gap between tyre types is reduced, and the lack of practising on the softest compounds may come back to haunt them in the heat of Australia.
Haas hopes for improvement in the Constructor's Championship hang on the power that the Ferrari engine can give them. Their performance in testing suggests they have really hit the mark this term. Even taking in to consideration the colder temperatures, the difference in real terms between their times on the supersoft tyres and those of everyone else set on the hypersoft compound is significant. Allowing for adjustments, the Haas one-lap time is genuinely up there with the top three teams. Even if this doesn’t translate into a 60-70 lap race, it could be a huge benefit in qualifying, and consistently starting with a nose ahead of your rivals will be worth serious points this season.
The team will once again be lead by Grosjean, whose experience has been vital to Haas settling into F1. At 31 and with over 122 races under his belt, he’s now a veteran of the circuit. He’s also shown in the past he can handle a quick car, finding himself on several podiums during his Lotus days alongside Kimi Raikkonen. After two years developing this car, he’ll want to push on and return to the front.
Alongside him is every driver's favourite racer, Kevin Magnussen. His take-no-prisoners style has won him few friends in the paddock, but many drivers don’t take kindly to a middle-runner throwing their weight around. Given an engine capable of delivering what the Dane's mind perceives, moves once seen as reckless may instead be deemed as daring.
Adding to the solitary podium he took on his debut in Australia four years ago may be a long shot, but the 25-year-old will look to rake in the point finishes this year to reinforce his staying power on the grid.
Can Haas achieve their first ever F1 podium finish in 2018? Let us know in the comments below.