Ahead of the first-ever Formula 1 race at the Portimao circuit in Portugal, Haas announced that it will be dropping both of its drivers at the end of the current season. The team has had a rough couple of years and has mostly been at the back end of the grid or often found itself entangled in on-track incidents. The main reason cited for letting go Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen was due to limited finances, especially in the wake of the pandemic.
Grosjean has been part of the team since it joined F1 in 2016 while Magnussen joined the following season. The Ferrari-powered output has shown flashes of mid-table brilliance in its stint thus far and 2018 was its best season which included a P4 finish at the 2018 Austrian GP. However, it all went downhill in 2019 with a rocky start to the season, an unfortunate pairing with a shady sponsor (Rich Energy) and just a slow car overall that mostly found itself at the back of the pack. Haas finished 9th in the constructor’s standings last season and is poised for a similar result in 2020 too though this year’s woes can be partly attributed to the dog of an engine that Ferrari built for this season.
Given how frequently we saw Grosjean and Magnussen be involved in crashes and driver mistakes, I won’t be the only one surprised that the pair stayed employed for even this long. Both are talented drivers for sure but Kevin tends to be overly reckless while Romain usually feigned surprise at his lapse of judgement. Most famously, Grosjean drove into the wall at Baku while under the Safety Car period. There is also the time he tried to Tokyo Drift out of a tailspin around the first corner at the start of the 2018 Spanish GP, creating a screen of tire smoke and causing two more cars to crash. Magnussen is better remembered for the times he ALMOST caused serious crashes with his Hollywood-antagonist-style last-minute blocking and making contact with other drivers (reminded me of Chick Hicks from the Pixar movie Cars but still more talented). The Haas duo has also made contact with each other on occasion. But neither have been particularly slow when seated in a quick car and easily warrant a drive in another top-level format. Rumours suggest the Frenchman will move to Formula E while the Dane could be looking towards Indycar.
“I want to extend my thanks to both Romain (Grosjean) and Kevin (Magnussen) for their hard work and commitment to Haas F1Team over the past few seasons,” stated Gunther Steiner in the team’s official announcement. He’d further mentioned this: “We have a lot of good memories together–in particular our 2018 season when we finished fifth in the standings in only our third season. Romain and Kevin played a significant part in that success. Of course, there is still plenty of racing left in the 2020 season.”
Given the scarcity of seats on the F1 grid, we are unlikely to see either driver on the grid next year. Haas is committed to the sport for a few more years and its engine partnership with Ferrari continues for now. Perhaps a fresh lineup of young blood could help the team be better prepared for the future while also raking in new investors. At this stage, it seems Haas will be able to dedicate more resources towards developing its 2022 contender while fine-tuning the current car for the next season. While this does open up two seats on the F1 grid, they are likely to be filled by affordable rookies than the likes of Sergio Perez or Nico Hulkenberg.
The internet discussions bring up three young contenders for the Haas racing team – Callum Ilott, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. All three drivers have shown strong results in the Formula 2 series thus far and are poised for a chance at the top. Expect the new lineup to be announced around the time of the final leg of the 2020 calendar.
In other news…
Stroll tested COVID-19 positive at Nürburgring
Racing Point’s Lance was unfit to race in the Eifel GP a couple of weeks ago which prompted the sudden and successful participation of Nico Hulkenberg. At the time, it was reported that he likely had a tummy bug and had tested negative for the coronavirus. However, it turns out young Stroll did in fact test positive for COVID-19 after the Eifel GP and had isolated for 10-days to make a full recovery. He has since tested negative for the virus and cleared to race at Portimao. Unfortunately, Racing Point didn’t inform the FIA post-haste about Strolls positive test and has earned itself a rap on the wrist. This is the same team whose other driver had also tested positive earlier this year and has the highest cases in the paddock so far.
Stay tuned to the Auto Loons blog for more updates and hope you’ll also be tuning in to watch the Portugal GP this Sunday.