kevin magnussen

Getty Images

Haas: 2017 line-up change key to see if issue was driver or team

Leave a comment

Haas Formula 1 chief Guenther Steiner says that the decision to drop Esteban Gutierrez in favor of Kevin Magnussen for 2017 was a key step to see if the driver or the team was behind the No. 21 entry’s failure to score a point last year.

Gutierrez joined Haas for its maiden season in F1 last year, partnering Romain Grosjean, but failed to pick up a single top-10 finish across the course of the year.

By comparison, Grosjean scored 29 points, highlighted by a charge to fifth place in the team’s second outing in Bahrain, impressing the F1 world.

Despite being backed publicly by Haas’ chiefs, Gutierrez was dropped at the end of the year in favor of Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, who signed a multi-year deal starting in 2017.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Haas team principal Steiner said that the change was key in understanding where the problem lay in 2016, with Magnussen being high on the shortlist to replace Gutierrez.

“Very simply, you try to improve. Esteban didn’t score any points last year, and it was also important for us to see if it was the driver or us not delivering,” Steiner said.

“That’s why we decided that we need a change. There are not too many drivers in the league of Kevin – and we knew Kevin already, as we had spoken with him already the year before.

“So we talked again and it didn’t take long to come to an agreement.”

Magnussen made an early impression at Haas by scoring points in just his second grand prix, finishing eighth in China.

The Dane appears to have found stability in F1 after a rocky start to life as a grand prix driver, having been dropped by McLaren after his rookie year despite being touted as one of the British marque’s finest young talents.

His story is not dissimilar to that of Grosjean, who was also dropped after a handful of races with Renault in 2009 after replacing Nelson Piquet Jr.

Grosjean went away and won the GP2 title in style, securing a return to F1 in 2012 with Lotus, and has since established himself as one of the sport’s brightest talents.

“I agree that both had some troubles in the past, but difficulties make you better, and both are still in F1, so there must be more to it,” Steiner said.

“But to be fair, we never really investigated why they had to leave teams. We took them as individuals who would suit our mentality at a time when they were free and we wanted them.

“I think they fit pretty well into our team – maybe we are a bit troubled as well! There is the American saying: ‘What makes you suffer makes you tougher!’”

First F1 points of 2017 an early birthday present for Grosjean in Bahrain

Getty Images
1 Comment

Romain Grosjean may have been unable to repeat his magical charge to fifth place for Haas from last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, but the Frenchman nevertheless managed to pick up an early birthday present in the form of his first Formula 1 points of the year.

Grosjean lifted NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ eponymous operation to its best F1 result in just its second-ever race in Bahrain last year, finishing fifth.

The pace advantage of the front-runners and close-knit nature of the midfield made a repeat result unlikely for Grosjean in 2017, leaving him to settle for eighth place at the checkered flag.

The result marked Grosjean’s first points of the year, matching the result achieved by teammate Kevin Magnussen seven days earlier in China.

“It was a pretty good race. I made a decent start and my first stint was pretty good, but it was tough to stay behind the Renault,” Grosjean – who turns 31 today – said.

“Then we had the bad luck with the safety car, as we’d pitted just before. I saw [Sergio] Perez come out and I thought: ‘How did he come out in front of me when he’d been 10 seconds behind?’ He gained 12 seconds with the safety car and that cost a position.

“At the restart I struggled a little bit with the top speed. But, eventually, we made the right strategy call and pushed on the good laps with some great overtaking maneuvers. So, here we are, P8. It’s good to be here scoring points.”

With Grosjean and Magnussen now off the mark in 2017, Haas now has two drivers contributing to its F1 points haul for the first time. Esteban Gutierrez failed to score a single point through his one-year stint with the team in 2016.

Kevin Magnussen still hopeful of racing alongside his father at Le Mans

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Haas Formula 1 driver Kevin Magnussen still hopes to partner his father, Jan, and race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but remains focused on his current grand prix duties for the time being.

Following Fernando Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 announcement on Wednesday, the F1 paddock has been awash with talk about drivers entering other races besides their current commitments.

Magnussen Sr. made 25 F1 appearances between 1995 and 1998 before going on to enjoy a successful career in sportscars, racing at Le Mans with Corvette every year since 2004 and with the American marque in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Magnussen Jr. pursued a seat with Corvette for Le Mans back in 2015 when he was benched for a year by McLaren, and also tested for Porsche’s LMP1 team ahead of his F1 return last year.

Speaking in Bahrain on Thursday, Magnussen said that while he is not looking to follow Alonso’s lead and divert away from his F1 duties anytime soon, he is keen to team up with his father at Le Mans someday.

“I think for me, I want to be in Formula 1 and focus on that, but my dad is still racing and he’s in a competitive team in his series and also racing at Le Mans,” Magnussen said.

“I think it would be a shame not to try and do a race together, me growing up with him racing all the time, it would be a really special experience to do a race with him.

“I imagine winning a race like Le Mans with him would be fantastic, so it’s weighing up those two things.

“Formula 1 is my main priority and what I want to focus on, but there is the desire to do something like that with my dad as well, so we’ll see what happens.”

Magnussen leads Haas to first 2017 F1 points, finishing P8 in China

Leave a comment

Kevin Magnussen led Haas to its first Formula 1 points of the year in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix with a charge to eighth place in damp conditions.

Magnussen joined Haas for 2017 after leaving Renault, but endured a difficult debut weekend with the American team in Australia two weeks ago, qualifying 17th and retiring after an early clash.

Magnussen led Haas’ charge in qualifying to secure P12 on the grid, and was able to negotiate the tricky track conditions well in the early part of the day before settling into a good rhythm in the dry.

Late passes on the Force India pair of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez lifted Magnussen to P8 at the checkered flag, marking Haas’ first points of the year. It was also the first time a driver other than Romain Grosjean has finished in the top 10 for the team since its arrival in F1 last year.

“It was a good race, I had fun out there. I had a good car all the way through the race,” Magnussen said.

“I’d made a really poor start, so to come back from that and push, I was really happy. The car’s been good today. I was able to look after the front tires, which I think was key, along with working with the team to get the car in the right window.

“The race was really well managed from the team. It was good strategy to get me out on the supersoft after the intermediates. You had to fight for it, in terms of passing. It’s not easy, but you also have grip, so you can take different lines and get close in alternative ways.

“It’s so much more fun when you’re fighting in the points. I’m happy for the team and we’re looking forward to the coming races.”

Teammate Grosjean was unable to bounce back from his Q1 exit and grid penalty, finishing 11th after a luckless race.

“Yesterday was a bit of a joke and today the same guy crashed in front of me on the straight line, so I had to stop. I lost a lot of time,” Grosjean said.

“Then [Marcus] Ericsson at the restart left miles ahead of the car in front of me. I don’t know what he was doing, so I was already on the back foot. [Esteban] Ocon pushed me on the first lap. I lost half of the right-hand side of the car.

“From there I just pushed as hard as I could. I couldn’t really find an opening on [Jolyon] Palmer. Once I did, though, I had some good lap times. We were doing a decent job, but it was already too late.

“It was not easy on strategy. The guys did the best job they could. We saw the checkered flag and the lap times were looking decent.

“I think we had more, but it’s time to look forward to the next race and, hopefully, it’s going to get better.”

Magnussen’s haul of four points lifts Haas to seventh place in the constructors’ championship above Renault, Sauber and McLaren.

Haas’ sophomore F1 season starts badly with double DNF in Australia

Leave a comment

The Haas Formula 1 team’s sophomore campaign got off to a bad start on Sunday as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were both forced to retire from the Australian Grand Prix.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, making its debut in Australia 12 months ago.

Grosjean scored a memorable sixth-place finish on that day in Melbourne, and looked poised to repeat the result in 2017 after qualifying sixth on Saturday.

A poor start was Grosjean drop to seventh, but he managed to hold position through the opening stint of the race ahead of the pit stop cycle.

However, Grosjean had no chance to wield some strategic genius as Haas did last year, with a water leak forcing him to retire while inside the top 10.

“I suddenly lost a lot of power. I told the guys, then the next thing I knew I had to slow down the car,” Grosjean explained.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result, but again, right now I’m hot and we’re all disappointed to lose a seventh-place position, but the car was there in qualifying in P6. The start wasn’t ideal, so we need to improve that. I felt I was faster than the Williams, so there’s huge potential in the car.

“I guess the key for us is to keep the momentum and get the consistency we didn’t have last year, where I’d be fifth in Bahrain then 19th in China. I really want to improve on that and get more consistency in terms of results. If we do that, then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of races where we can score good points.”

Grosjean’s new teammate for 2017, Kevin Magnussen, suffered an early setback when he clashed with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson on the first lap, and ultimately retired due to a suspension issue stemming from the incident.

“I had Ericsson on the outside and I understeered into the side of him, which was unfortunate. I lost my front wing and damaged the car a little bit,” Magnussen said.

“We changed the front wing and then I went for a long test session to feel the car and learn a bit more about it, which was good. It feels good and the car is fast.

“That’s the really positive thing from this weekend. The car is there. We just have to make it finish and score points.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “Not the race we wished for, or we expected. With Romain it looks like we had a water leak. We don’t know yet where that came from.

“Obviously, Kevin’s race was destroyed in the third corner after the contact with Ericsson. He then ended up later with a suspension failure, which we still have to investigate why.

“The good thing we take out of here is that the car seems to be fast. We need to work on a few parts and, hopefully, we can get back strong again in China in two weeks.”