America’s F1 team, Haas hopes to continue rebound from worst in helping U.S. growth

F1 Grand Prix of Miami - Opening Party
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Most Americans know Haas F1 as the worst team in Formula One, its drop to the back of the grid playing out over four seasons that happened to be captured on Netflix programming.

But that was before the debut of this year’s new car, a makeover forced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and a super fast engine from Ferrari. Now Haas is turning heads and scoring points, and hopes to convince the audience at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix that it is America’s team.

“We absolutely are America’s team. We’ve got the American license, there is not many companies more American than Haas Automation and Gene Haas,” said Guenther Steiner, the team principal of Haas F1 and resident of Mooresville, North Carolina – the heart of NASCAR country.

Steiner found himself amidst the stock cars and oval tracks when Haas, the California businessman and founder of a machine-building company, decided he wanted to take Haas Automation global. He’d already reached the top of NASCAR when he brought in Tony Stewart as co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and won a Cup Series title, and Haas figured placing the Haas Automation logos on F1 cars as they raced all across the globe would broaden the brand.

The business strategy has been a winner for Haas’ machine company. The racing, however, has been daunting since he purchased the assets of the collapsed Marussia F1 team.

Haas’ debut was delayed a year from 2015 to 2016, and what started as a midpack organization gradually faded out of contention. When the pandemic hit ahead of the 2020 season opener, Steiner and Haas made a decision among the uncertainty to pause spending.

Their plan was to wait out the 2022 regulations and development of a new car. Then Haas dumped veteran drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen and replaced them with a pair of rookies who didn’t stand a chance last season in a car not capable of competing.

Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin didn’t score a single point combined, the rookies didn’t get along, and Mazepin was widely criticized for even being in the seat; his father’s Russian fertilizer company, Uralkali, was Haas’ primary sponsor.

“It was very difficult and Gene told me after a few races, four or five, he said, `Guenther, you told me we’d be bad, but actually it’s really bad,’ ” Steiner recalled. “And I said, `I knew this was coming and we’re only a quarter of the way through the season and there’s a lot more disappointments to come.’

“But it’s very tough, tough for everybody. The least affected was probably the drivers because they were rookies, and for them, being in Formula One was already a plus. But for the rest of the team? Being last is a lot more work than being first. It’s unbelievable.”

The belief was always that the 2022 regulations would help Haas improve. But Haas is also a Ferrari customer, and Ferrari was on target to be a much better team – Charles LeClerc is the current championship leader – and its engines would give Haas a dramatic boost.

The plan seemed to have worked when the cars hit the track for preseason testing. Haas was fast.

And then everything unraveled when Russia invaded Ukraine.

Gene Haas could not keep Uralkali on his cars – Dimitri Mazepin is an associate of President Vladimir Putin – and the logos were stripped off. After a week of uncertainty, Haas cut ties with both Mazepin and his father’s company.

It should have been a disaster. It instead has been the surprise of the season.

Steiner called Magnussen, who had vowed to never return to F1 as he raced in the United States last year, and offered him his job back.

Magnussen was on vacation in Miami when he took the call, which lasted only a couple minutes. Now he’s out of sports cars – he drove for Chip Ganassi in IMSA last season – and back where he wanted to be. The Danish driver was fast in preseason testing and a jaw-dropping fifth in the season opener and has scored 15 points so far this season. Schumacher, the son of F1 great Michael Schumacher, has yet to score points but has a veteran alongside him to help.

Schumacher said it wasn’t difficult knowing he’d likely be last every race last season and it helped him grow.

“I was still excited racing, my first year, and it’s a matter of thinking long-term,” Schumacher said. “The tough days are the ones where your character gets shaped and as a driver you can really try and make a difference.”

Three months after Steiner interrupted his vacation, Magnussen has settled back into F1. He wants to help Haas show that it can be America’s team, and they race Sunday for the team owner, who said Wednesday his mother, Margaret, had died.

“She loved NASCAR and, especially, Stewart-Haas Racing, and since Haas F1’s team’s debut, she became a Formula One fan, too,” Haas said in a statement. “We compete in her honor and are forever guided by her principle and spirit.”

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
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Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury