10/19 13:21 CDT Haas fighting for F1 'best of the rest' in Year 3
Haas fighting for F1 'best of the rest' in Year 3
By JIM VERTUNO
AP Sports Writer
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) --- The third season for Haas F1 has been its best, even if
it has been a bit bizarre.
Formula One's only U.S.-based team has the most points in its young history and
it has overcome some serious bumbles early to compete with --- and beat ---
some of the legacy teams.
Haas heads into this weekend's U.S. Grand Prix in a season-ending fight with
Renault for the "best of the rest" title among teams outside of the Big Three
of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.
"It's the best battle of the field. It's very tight. It's going to go to the
last lap of the race in Abu Dhabi, while I think the world championship is
probably going to go this weekend," said French driver Romain Grosjean, who
signed with Haas before its first season.
"To rise as quickly as we've done hasn't been seen in Formula One, I don't
think," said his Danish teammate, Kevin Magnussen.
Team owner Gene Haas sounded less impressed Friday.
"We are more stable then we've been in the past. Better communication, better
results," he said. "Unfortunately we haven't had the results we should have.
The potential is there. I feel good about that."
Haas F1 got off to a surprising start, earning points in its first race in
2016, and in 2017 had both cars finish in the top 10 for the first time at
Monte Carlo, the biggest race on the calendar. A strong run over the last 10
races of this season has Haas just eight points behind Renault in the race for
fourth place with four races left.
The 2018 season looks to finish better than it started.
After the team's best-ever qualifying at the Australian Grand Prix, neither
Haas car finished the season-opening race. Magnussen and Grosjean both left pit
stops with unsecured wheels and had to stop. The team was fined.
"That was extremely, extremely disappointing" Magnussen said "We are still
showing signs of immaturity at certain moments."
A month later in Azerbaijan, Grosjean fought his way from the back row into
sixth before he drove straight into the wall while following a safety car.
Grosjean blamed one of the season's most bizarre incidents on an errant flip of
a steering wheel switch that he said upset the car's brake balance and sent him
spinning into the barrier.
More valuable points were lost in Italy when the floor of Grosjean's car was
deemed illegal and he was disqualified from sixth place. Haas appealed and is
awaiting a decision on points that would close the gap with Renault with a
stroke of a pen.
Despite the gaffes, Grosjean has finished in the top 10 four times in the last
"I got eight points stolen in Monza," Grosjean said. "The results are coming
with the kind of performance Haas signed me for in the first place."
After the problems, Grosjean admitted it was a relief to extend his contract
with Haas for 2019. He and Magnussen will be teammates again.
"When I joined, I didn't know what Haas was going to be. I think they gave me
some credit for that when I had a tough time earlier this year and turned
things around," Grosjean said.
Team Principal Guenther Steiner said he and Gene Haas saw value in staying with
drivers who knew the Haas cars.
"Just to change a driver for the same level of skill, you go backward," Steiner
said. "There's not a lot of better drivers out there, so why should we change
them? Stay the same and mature quicker."
The question now is how high can Haas go?
The Haas business model --- which has drawn complaints from its
middle-of-the-pack rivals --- has it buying parts and engines, most notably
from Ferrari. It keeps costs down but creates a performance ceiling Haas is
unlikely to break through.
"We are not developing parts for our car," Grosjean said. "So far it hasn't
been a problem. If one day we start to beat Ferrari, it's not going to work."
Gene Haas was seems resigned to the idea that fourth could be the best Haas F1
can do against teams with much bigger budgets, development and staff.
"We're not really racing Formula One. We're racing Formula 1.5," Haas said.
"When I watch some of the races and see how the top three teams blow by us, I'm
That can be the frustrating part of an otherwise very good season. A taste of
success begs for more. For the 26-year-old Magnussen, he can be good with Haas,
maybe even the "best of the rest." But that's a career definition no driver
"It's been six years since I won a race in motorsport," Magnussen said. "I miss
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