Haas F1 Is Better Than Last Year. So Why Is Gene Haas Unhappy?

Haas F1 Is Better Than Last Year. So Why Is Gene Haas Unhappy?

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“The key for us in Singapore will be to get into the tire window” he said, referring to the operating temperature of the rubber for optimal performance. “If we do so, we’ll be in a good place. But again, that’s not easy to achieve.”

With Williams, the fifth-place team, 20 points in front of Haas in the standings and sixth-place Toro Rosso five points ahead, Gene Haas says he believes his team should be in a better position.

“In the race in Azerbaijan, we could have had both cars in the top 10 because of the troubles the top teams had,” Haas said. “That was an opportunity.” Grosjean was 13th, while his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, finished seventh after running third at one point.

Gene Haas, the owner of the Haas team. In 2016, Haas F1 became the first American team to enter Formula One in 30 years.

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Joan Cros/Nur, via Getty Images

“In Austria, both cars were quick that day,” Haas said. “Romain was sixth, but we had a hydraulic failure on Kevin’s car that took him out, so we would have had two cars in the top 10 there. We’ve missed some opportunities. So for me, this year feels like it’s been a little harder than last year.”

In 2016, Haas F1 became the first American team to enter Formula One in 30 years, and Gene Haas admitted there had been some teething issues.

“It’s pretty common knowledge we have struggled to get the tires up to temperature, then maintaining the temperature in the tires, and with brake heating,” he said.

Haas already owned a team in Nascar when he entered Formula One, which has not been kind to new teams. The previous three teams to enter Formula One from scratch, all in 2010 — HRT, Caterham and Manor — went out of business.

But the entry of Haas into Formula One has differed markedly from those teams because it shares a close technical collaboration with Ferrari.

Haas took advantage of regulations at the time, buying a number of mechanical parts, including the entire powertrain, suspension, electronics and hydraulics, from Ferrari. Haas also uses Ferrari’s wind tunnel.

That allowed Haas, whose team is based in Kannapolis, N.C., to focus on building the monocoque, crash structures and aero package, turning to the chassis designer Dallara, based in Italy, for assistance.

Haas is aware of the pitfalls in Formula One and knows that his team cannot stand still.

“Look at the teams that have gone out of business,” he said. “That shows if you really want to succeed in Formula One, then you really have to push hard.

Romain Grosjean of Haas F1 walks the track before the Belgian Grand Prix. He finished seventh.

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Dan Mullan/Getty Images

“If you’re happy with medium performance you’ll get lost in the dust really, really quickly, so we have to push hard, to show we can move forward; otherwise people forget about you.”

Guenther Steiner, the team principal, said he was proud of what the team had achieved, but admitted it could improve.

“If you want to get to the top you have to do better,” he said in an interview. “If you stay the same, then eventually you will go backwards.”

For many teams in Formula One, their second season, for whatever reason, has been more difficult than the first.

“Everybody predicted for us a horrible second season because it has happened to a lot of teams in the past,” Steiner said. “We were aware of this and so we set out not to have a horrible second year.”

He said the team knew it had to prepare early for its second season.

“We stopped development of last year’s car early, around May, so we could focus on this year’s car,” he said. “Once we went into the build phase, our people reacted very well, and we did a good job of heading into the second season prepared.”

Steiner said there was a synergy within the organization that was missing at the start.

“A lot of things have happened over time, one of those being the way the team has jelled, our processes are better, the collaboration, the interaction, how people work together is optimized because we know each other,” he said.

“There is trust, which is not to say people didn’t trust each other before, it’s just they didn’t know each other, and there was uncertainty as to who was doing what job. Now people know who is doing what, and what they are supposed to be doing.”

Kevin Magnussen shares driving duties with Grosjean at Haas F1.

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Dan Mullan/Getty Images

He said that last year everything was new and people had not worked together.

“When we had a drama it took time to sort things,” Steiner said. “Now, when there are tense moments in the garage, we know exactly what to do, everybody stays calm, there is no loss of energy.”

No one, however, would describe Grosjean as calm considering some of his outbursts over the team radio during a grand prix when there is a problem with his car.

Despite his outspoken nature, he is experienced and reliable. He scored all of the team’s points last year and has scored 24 of the 35 team points this season.

Since signing for Haas in September 2015, Grosjean has seen the team grow and mature over the past two years.

“In year one we had to accept, from early in the season, the car was what it was and there would be no more performance,” he said in an interview. “At an early point, the team had to write off the season, to stop developing the car, to move into year two.

“It took a lot of courage from Gene and Guenther to say ‘We’re going to invest a lot of money, but we’re not going to see any improvement over the next seven or eight months.’ That’s hard, in particular after starting the season as well as we did.”

Wherever the team finishes in the constructors’ championship this year, Haas already has an eye on the third season and further improvement.

“Year three is going to be a more stable year because we know we’ll have the same drivers, two good drivers, with both having one to two years in the team,” Haas said.

“That should give us a lot more depth, knowledge and stability, so when we come to these tracks we can be better.”

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