Haas F1 Team returns to Melbourne for their second Australian Grand Prix, to begin its sophomore season with a new set of circumstances. After being the new kid on the block in 2016, the new rules bring at least shared newness among all teams in 2017.
The first American Formula One team in 30 years made quite the impression in their debut year, with driver Romain Grosjean finishing sixth in the season-opening race. It was the best debut for any Formula One team since 2002 when Mika Salo finished sixth for Toyota, also at the Australian Grand Prix. Grosjean took the eight points earned that day on the Albert Park Circuit and went on to score 21 more points throughout the year to place Haas F1 Team eighth in the constructor standings.
After building its first car under one set of FIA guidelines in 2016, a new set of technical regulations in 2017 means another new car has been built from scratch. The Haas VF-17 features an advanced aerodynamic package designed to create a higher level of downforce. A wider front wing, larger barge boards, a lower and wider rear wing and a diffuser that expands 50 millimeters in height and width comprise the changes, along with wider tires from Pirelli, by 60 millimeters in the front and 80 millimeters in the rear, a 25-percent increase to bring the front tires to 305 millimeters and the rear tires to 405 millimeters.
In addition to its new car, there’s also a new driver for Haas F1 Team. Kevin Magnussen joins Grosjean to form a 1-2 punch that team owner Gene Haas thinks can advance his organization another position in the construction standings.
“It’ll be just as challenging as it was last year, but I think with the knowledge we have, we should actually perform a little bit better this year,” Haas said.
“I think by the end of last season we silenced the critics and, now, most people see us as a serious competitor.”
Magnussen and Haas F1 Team already have one-thing common: strong debuts in Melbourne. Magnussen made his first career Formula One start in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. It was an incredibly stout performance, as he started fourth and finished second. The 18 points Magnussen earned for that runner-up effort put him in the Formula One record book for the most points scored in a debut. And unless a new driver wins in his first race, it’s a feat that won’t be beat.
With his second-place finish, Magnussen joined an exclusive group of drivers who claimed a podium in their Formula One debut. Jacques Villeneuve did it in 1996 (second) and Lewis Hamilton did it in 2007 (third). Both accomplished the feat in the Australian Grand Prix. Villeneuve went on to win the Formula One title in 1997 and Hamilton is a three-time champion (2008, 2014 and 2015).
With podium-earning drivers in Magnussen and Grosjean, both of whom claim career-best second-place finishes, Haas F1 Team is poised for improvement in its second season.