Some think there is only one way to start racing in Formula One, and that is to buy an established team. Gene Haas saw things differently and set up a new ‘American’ F1 team, with bases in North Carolina, the UK and Italy.
In that structure, naturally he would do things differently, taking a large a customer package from Ferrari, and the design of the car by Dallara in Italy. It would make sure that they were competitive from the get go, something the three previous teams Virgin Racing (now Manor), Caterham (then Team Lotus) and Hispania/HRT.
Jumping ship from Lotus to Haas was Romain Grosjean, some suggesting his audition to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, given their close links. It really couldn’t have been predicted that Haas would be so strong in their very first race, with Grosjean collecting points on their debut. Further points in Bahrain for Grosjean cemented the potential for the outfit.
He was joined by now Ferrari backed driver Esteban Gutierrez, a year at the Scuderia after a couple of disappointing years at Sauber. He never quite looked as comfortable as Grosjean, and the results showed it, not scoring a single point through the season, which ultimately saw his departure after just one season.
It wasn’t all good news at Haas though. A season long battle with a braking problem frustrated Grosjean, especially in the midseason. An upturn at the end of the season in Brazil saw the Frenchman qualify seventh on merit, but crashed enroute to the grid in extremely wet conditions and didn’t make the start. It was a race where more points should have been possible, and it should have been strong points at that.
A first season in the sport, with a new car built by Dallara there was little development through the season. A new front wing was one of just a few enhancements brought to the car, with the team already working on the 2017 car before the 2016 had even started a race.
It has been proved thought that the concept works, sourcing as much major manufacturer backing as possible to create the closest to a ‘customer’ team as the regulations allow. With Ferrari not as competitive as they should have been in 2016, they could certainly benefit from a renewed effort in 2017.