The American team has two rookie drivers in Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin and its worst car in F1 yet
By Yuri Coghe
It’s going to be a long year for Haas fans.
Their car appeared to be the slowest in the grid at the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the situation shows no signs of changing anytime soon.
In fact, team principal Guenther Steiner appeared to throw in the towel after only the first race of the season.
“I would say if we can take the fight to Williams, that is about it for what we can do,” he said after the season opener won by Lewis Hamilton. “I am very realistic about that and we are not putting any effort into doing anything more than that.”
Haas’ performance went downhill since they finished on a team-high fifth-place in the constructors’ championship in 2018. Even 2016 and 2019, when they made it to a decent sixth-place finish in the first race of the year, feel like a lifetime ago now.
For the new season, Williams – who had to endure being the worst performing team in the last three years, seems to have passed the American team in performance.
Counting with two rookie drivers in Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, a rare and questionable set-up for an F1 team due to the evident lack of experience at the highest level and knowledge to provide the engineers with feedback, certainly doesn’t help.
“We will try to get the biggest amount we can out of the car, to get our drivers better prepared. That is where the most time is at the moment, just getting them the most experience and that is what we want to do so they are ready when we have a better car. That is just how our plan is for this year,” Steiner continued.
Schumacher, son of seven-time world champion Michael, is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and has clinched the F2 championship last year. Mazepin, however, has had his presence in F1 questioned left and right due to on-track performances and off-track behaviour.
The Russian driver’s debut race in F1 didn’t help his case. He lost control of the car after only three turns, smashing his Haas into a wall and causing a safety car to be deployed.
“I just said to him to keep his head up and keep on going,” Steiner said about Mazepin after the Bahrain Grand Prix. “For sure, it’s not ideal what happened, but it happened. He beats himself up pretty badly but he is ready to go again.”
A year lost
Steiner is treating 2021 as a year lost for Haas, with all the focus to do better being left for the next season.
Since the 2022 F1 cars are going to be very different from the current ones as the long-awaited new rules kick in, he says it’s nonsense to invest in their 2021 challenger.
“When we started the development in November last year we knew we couldn’t catch up. Why would you waste [money]? The car was bad in 2019, it didn’t get a lot better in 2020 and all of a sudden we invest a year of development in a car that’s only going to do 23 races? That would be complete madness in my opinion.”
Steiner thinks the team is better off accepting its position at the back of the grid for the time being and saving money to try to make an impact next year.
“At some stage, you ask, if you put a big investment in, are we going to be sixth? No. Are we going to be seventh? No. The best we could aim for was eighth and then it’s a case of ‘is it really worth investing your future in the next six months and lose sight of the next five years?’ No.
“For me, we’ll be [at the] back this year, but next year hopefully we can – or the aim is to – get back to where we were in 2018, not where we were in 2019 or 2020.”
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