Haas F1 Team: 2017 Preview
The Haas VF-17. | Photo: Twitter/Haas F1 Team

Haas F1 Team: 2017 Preview

VAVEL looks at Haas, now in their second season. They shocked at the start of 2016, but quickly faded. Can a new car and driver lineup amend that?

therealjeagles
James Eagles

The first American team on the Formula One grid since 1986 endured a healthy debut year in the sport. Gene Haas' eponymous team collected 29 points over the course of 2016, beating Renault, Sauber and Manor in the Constructors' Championship.

They even saw a fairytale start to the season, when Romain Grosjean crossed the line at Albert Park in a highly commendable sixth, with the team's strategists - led by the now Sauber employed Ruth Buscombe - doing their job to perfection on an abrasive day.

What made Haas' project all the more interesting were the technical ties to Ferrari, the team thought to be a sort of 'junior' side for the Scuderia - the Italians providing the gearbox, power unit and rear suspension complex; but with a chassis built by Dallara, the newcomers proved they were no pushovers, not there just to make up the numbers. At times it was tough, with Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez both having their own tempestuous moments in the second half of the year, but the potential for growth looks good. The key will be how they adapt to rigorous rule changes and if they can avoid the fabled and dreaded 'Second Season Syndrome'.

Gutierrez is now gone. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Gutierrez is now gone. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson

With Gutierrez shipped off to Formula E after another disastrous year in the sport that failed to see him score a single point, Grosjean is partnered with Renault castaway Kevin Magnussen, at his third team in three seasons in F1.

The car

One of the last cars to be revealed, the VF-17 features a number of intriguing designs and details. One thing to note, there's a lot of detail at the side of the car, on the bargeboards in particular.

However, starting with the front, the redesigned nose sees a popular 'thumb' design as opposed to the more cleaner, rounded structure seen last year. Despite not running an S-Duct, the design has benefits aplenty for airflow underneath the car, with a number of vanes on the bottom side of the nose helping direct said flow to all the right places. In regards to the front wing that sits quite happily on the end of the nose, there's little change from last year, except on the endplates. Haas have borrowed from Ferrari with the design, it seems.

The front wing features a larger than expected outwash. | Photo: Twitter/Craig Scarborough
The front wing features a larger than expected outwash. | Photo: Twitter/Craig Scarborough

Moving on to the bargeboards I pointed out earlier, Haas have gone for a split design here, and although they may be more simplified than other teams with bigger budgets, the effect is still positive. A smaller plate sits next to the main part of the board helping direct flow. Pod vanes are used again, similar to Renault's design last year with the vane resting on top of the sidepod.

As for the sidepods, again, not much has changed since last season. But at the back, all is different - mainly due to the regulations. Currently running a shark fin, it is believed that Haas will test a T-Wing atop the fin, similar to Ferrari and potentially Mercedes. The rear wing is held by one support, and is a fairly rudimentary design.

The rear wing is simple. Expect a T-Wing to feature during testing. | Photo: Twitter/Craig Scarborough
The rear wing is simple. Expect a T-Wing to feature during testing. | Photo: Twitter/Craig Scarborough

As for the livery, out goes white, in comes graphite grey. Make of that what you will.

The drivers

8 - Romain Grosjean

Races - 102
Championships - 0
Wins - 0
Podiums - 10
Pole Positions - 0
Points - 316
Best Finish - 2nd x 2
Debut - Europe 2009

2016 started so well for Grosjean. A sixth in Australia, a fifth the following race in Bahrain, an eighth in Russia and a seventh in Austria. That was as good as it got. A sole point in the team's home race was the only upside to the second half of the season, a half that saw tantrums and brake failures. Numerous brake failures. And a pre-race shunt in Brazil.

Grosjean's year was a frustrating one in the end. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Grosjean's year was a frustrating one in the end. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson

The Frenchman took an obvious gamble when joining from Lotus and nearly reached his breaking point in Singapore. Luckily for Haas, he's back for a second year and looks like he'll honour out his contract.

No longer the reckless driver who was a first corner pile-up waiting to happen, Grosjean has shown great maturity since 2013, driving well, even when things haven't been going his way. 2017 will be a test for him and the team; after promising so much, can they deliver once more and make this a sustainable project?

Well, as sustainable as running a Formula One team can be, of course.

20 - Kevin Magnussen

Races - 40
Championships - 0
Wins - 0
Podiums - 1
Pole Positions - 0
Points - 62
Best Finish - 2nd (Australia 2014)
Debut - Australia 2014

It looked to be a way back in. It proved to be a nightmare. After being unceremoniously dumped by McLaren after a year of testing in 2015, Renault's offer must've been a welcoming relief for young Dane Magnussen.

Tipped to be a star of the future, a podium on his debut with McLaren in 2014 looked to be a sign of good things to come, but just 44 points later, the promise is dying. Locked in a battle with rookie teammate Jolyon Palmer last year, Magnussen quit the Renault side and opted for a new challenge with Haas, leaving the relative safety of a big factory budget and endless development resources for a wild ride in the west.

Magnussen joins from Renault. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Magnussen joins from Renault. | Photo: Getty Images/Mark Thompson

Pitted against Grosjean, 2017 will be a crucial year for Magnussen. Whilst podiums and poles are far from the agenda (or are they?), a sold showing will be expected from the 24-year-old, who doesn't want to end up fizzling out the sport the same way his father did in the late 1990s.

What can they accomplish?

Points are there for the taking, but with the midfield getting stronger and branching towards the top end of the grid, there will be minimal opportunities. 'Don't get outclassed' too often will be the main hope. Last place is a definite no-no.

Did you know?

Grosjean's 10th placed finish in the 2016 United States Grand Prix marked the first points scored at an American team's home race since Elio de Angelis claimed fourth at Watkins Glen in 1979.

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