Mid-season review: Haas avoids 2017 slump

Mid-season review: Haas avoids 2017 slump

15 August 2017 – GPUpdate.net's mid-season review series continues with Haas, which has made gradual gains in its sophomore season, following the recruitment of Kevin Magnussen to partner incumbent Romain Grosjean.

Haas: 6.5/10
Championship: 7th
WCC points: 29
Best race: 6th (1 x GRO)
Best qualifying: 6th (1 x GRO)
Fastest laps: 0
Qualifying duel: GRO 7 – 4 MAG


Haas acquitted itself well during its maiden campaign, albeit hamstrung by inconsistency and an over-reliance on one driver. This year, it has avoided the dreaded sophomore slump, and while it has not made monumental gains, it has done a commendable job considering the task posed by the introduction of major technical changes. In this regard, its approach to 2016 paid off, and it dealt well with splitting resources, especially when the nascent nature of the operation is taken into account. In Romain Grosjean it has a rapid driver still determined to prove his worth, and recruited well in Kevin Magnussen, who likewise is eager to turn around his flailing career after abortive stints with McLaren and Renault. Magnussen's ability to score points has also reduced some of the burden on Grosjean, enabling Haas to enter each event feeling a top 10, on either side of the garage, is a possibility. However, brakes – particularly for Grosjean – and use of the tyres remain a primary concern, meaning Haas enters a weekend unsure how it will play out. In Austria it led the midfield pack, in Hungary it was nowhere. But for a second season, it has so far been decent.

Romain Grosjean: 7/10
Championship: 13th
WDC points: 18
Best R result: 6th (1x)
Best Q result: 6th (1x)


Grosjean has fully settled into life at Haas now, as he continues to chase a top-level seat, which is increasingly unlikely to materialise. On occasion, Grosjean has extracted the maximum possible, turning stunning pace, and has generally been the quicker driver both in qualifying – making Q3 five times – and the race. However, Grosjean's season has slipped into a regular discussion point around brakes. The Franco-Swiss driver's aggressive style means he is heavily dependent on a comfortable feeling under braking. When the brakes have been on point, Grosjean has been able to utilise his natural speed, such as in Austria, where the newer Brembo materials were available. He has also been faster on Carbon Industrie products, albeit only occasionally allowed. However, he was abject in Azerbaijan (when insufficient supplies meant he ran old material) and he consequently filled the airwaves with agitated messages, hardly a confidence boost for the team, while his angst also creates a negative image for himself, albeit influenced by FOM's selective broadcast approach. Grosjean will light up the midfield if Haas can solve the brake issue and understand the tyres – but those are two major factors, and easier said than done.

Kevin Magnussen: 6.5/10
Championship: 14th
WDC points: 11
Best R result: 7th (1x)
Best Q result: 11th (1x)


Magnussen, in his third season with three different teams, has lagged slightly behind Grosjean, though put in a few eye-catching displays, and has suffered the brunt of Haas' problems. Magnussen is a more consistent performer than Grosjean, avoiding the troughs, but has equally shied away from the peaks. His best weekend, Austria, went unrewarded amid problems, while prospects in Australia, Bahrain and Spain were also scuppered by factors not within his influence. He did well to capture seventh spot in Azerbaijan, having briefly put Haas into the podium positions amid the chaos around the city streets. One sub-par element of Magnussen's season has been his qualifying pace; whereas Grosjean has made it through to Q3 five times, Magnussen has yet to reach a top 10 shootout. This, obviously, restricts his race potential, leaves him on the back foot strategically and means he is more susceptible to the perils of first-lap contact. Magnussen already has a 2018 deal in his pocket and has spoken of a happier feeling away from a factory team – perhaps indicative of a driver who has found his place in terms of ambition and competitive level.

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