This will be a difficult season for HAAS on several levels. No development, rookie driver and questions about the future of HAAS.
The 2020 season was difficult for HAAS, an inconsistent car and a neutered power unit all contributed to HAAS finishing in ninth with only 3 points on the board.
The Ferrari Conundrum
HAAS entered Formula 1 with a plan, a new plan. American Owner Gene Haas partnered with Ferrari, using the Formula 1 regulations to his advantage. HAAS would “buy-in” all components as part of a technical partnership with another team.
HAAS and Ferrari entered the partnership allowing HAAS to limit their spend on Research and development and manufacture of components.
The partnership would be in a sliding, with HAAS having to design and manufacture more of the car. This agreement seemed to work well at the start, with HAAS firmly in the midfield battle, however 2020 has shown that the agreement has not worked well in the long run.
The VF20 was a difficult beast to understand, HAAS seemed confused by its behaviour, this was evident at the Spanish GP, when the car was a massive two seconds slower than the first practice session only two days later. This has been an issue for HAAS for a few seasons, notably in 2019, HAAS struggled to understand why the car struggled to heat the tires.
A big issue for the HAAS was they are powered by the Ferrari power unit, the 2020 power unit was underpowered, this came in part due to illegal use of oil and fuel flow issues during the 2019 season by the Ferrari team.
HAAS were constantly at the rear end of the grid for most of the season with Magnussen and Grosjean scoring three points between them.
Out with the Old in with the new.
2021 brings some big changes for the American team. The biggest is the all-rookie line up, with Russian Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher joining for the 2021 season.
Mick Schumacher, son of 7-time World Champion Michael, joins from Formula 2 as Champion, with 215 points, his new teammate, Mazepin would finish in fifth on 164 points. Mick has shown some talent in Formula 2; however, he seems to be a driver that takes his time to settle, he would take a season in Formula 2 before really showing that he could be a Formula 1 driver.
Having the Schumacher name will not guarantee success or indeed talent, it will guarantee pressure and expectation. The world will expect to see the name at the front, they will (hopefully) understand that he will be unable to do much in the HAAS.
HAAS has decided on Nikita Mazepin as the other driver, Mazepin seems to be thew most hated driver in Formula 1 before he had even turned a wheel in the car.
His reputation precedes him, he is the son of Dmitry Mazepin (according to a 2015 Forbes article has a net worth of $1.3billion) has not endeared him with the watching public, with his questionable temperament and at times some tough driving style.
A now deleted Instagram video posted to his personal account seemed to show Nikita being inappropriate with a female friend, this caused the Formula 1 fanbase to question his suitability as a Formula 1 driver, to this day the “wesaynotomazepin” hash tag can be seen on numerous social media accounts.
Unfortunately for HAAS due to investment from Nikita’s father Dmitry, it has not allowed HAAS to be as forthright in their actions regarding Nikita, is cash king? One must wonder.
Calling it in….
HAAS are aiming for the participation award in 2020, they have already made it clear that the 2021 car would not see any development, rather they were focusing all development for the 2022 car and the new regulations.
This could see HAAS fall behind Williams Racing and further behind Alfa Romeo in the constructor standings. HAAS finishing in last place is very much a possibility.
There is one positive from that strategy, 2021 will see some new regulations coming into effect, notably development, CFD and wind tunnel time will be decided by a team’s finishing position in the constructors table, for example if Mercedes were to win the constructors in 2021, they would be allocated 90% (36 runs per week in the wind tunnel) of the maximum time allowed for CFD and Wind Tunnel use. If HAAS were to finish last, they would receive 114.5% time (45 runs per week). Are HAAS banking on a poor season to allow extra time to understand and develop the new rules?
HAAS are involved in Formula 1, but for 2020 at least they will not be involved, 2020 should go down as a 23-race test for both Mazepin and Schumacher, can they learn the craft and come out fighting in 2021? Time will tell…