Opinion: Haas F1 Team Needs to Improve, or Leave F1
Written by Isabel Brito, Edited by Yu Xin Wang
Ever since the team debuted back in 2016, Haas has been nothing but a downhill disgrace. Owned by American businessman and engineer Gene Haas, the Formula 1 team was created after he made an investment in 2014. However, all this while, it has seemed that the investments were never enough.
Debuting with drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez in 2016, the season didn’t contain any impressionable runs from the team, other than the fact that they were the first team to pass the crash test. In 2017, Kevin Magnussen joined the team, but besides scoring a few points throughout the season and ending up in eighth place in the World Drivers’ Championship, the American team still didn’t have what it takes to be a competing team.
It wasn’t until the 2018 season when the team finally seemed to have found a balance in themselves. It was arguably Haas’s best season, and it probably still is, but somehow everything bad always falls on team principal Guenther Steiner’s lap. At the time, there were rumors and accusations that the Haas F1 team had copied a previous Ferrari car. Nevertheless, the American squad ended up being fifth in the championship that year.
Despite their newfound confidence, Haas was facing budget problems. While the rest of the teams on the grid managed over one hundred million dollars, the American team was managing “crumbs” and along came Gene’s hesitation in further funding the team. Regardless of the sponsors they acquired, the money never seemed to be enough, and with one of their sponsors withdrawing in 2019, Gene Haas would always find himself investing more money than he ever needed to in the first place.
In all objectiveness, Haas was constantly replacing cars or spending money on repairs more than they were spending on upgrades. The cars were out of date and commonly described as “a box on wheels”, and 2020 was probably the year they topped it all off. After having multiple severe crashes in the season, Grosjean found himself trapped in a fire in the car after yet another accident. Steiner’s decisions in the team have been nothing short of poor, and the way he speaks about his drivers doesn’t help either.
The 2021 season seemed to be the team's saving grace when businessman Dmitry Mazepin and driver Mick Schumacher came into the mix, but Steiner was wrong. As much as having Russian potash fertilizer producer Uralkali and a German sponsor helping the team, it still wasn’t enough. The team scored no points during that season and their budget was nowhere near the FIA’s set cost cap, which only meant that the cars were constantly out of date and undriveable. The 2022 season had the same story.
The massive amount of bad luck and poor management only leads to one question, ‘Should the Haas F1 team keep trying?’ and my personal answer is no. All along, the team has brought incredible drivers to the grid that I’ve seen deliver so much better performances than when they were in the Haas team. I believe both Gene and Steiner have wasted an incredible potential in drivers by not giving them a proper car. The only reason these drivers weren’t given competitive cars is because Haas has never been prepared to be a proper team in the first place.
The creation of this team seems poorly planned and thought, which has led them to ultimate disaster. Even if they had a decent car, the way they treat and speak about their drivers is unprofessional and disrespectful. Steiner seems to only think of them as a money grab instead of human beings. We see a lot of that poor treatment, especially in the last three seasons where Steiner has repeatedly bad-mouthed a driver. I believe treatment like that brings drivers' confidence to a low, and if you want your drivers to perform well, then you need to treat them well and give them reassurance that the team is going to get better.
Over the years, instead of focusing on developing the car and giving their drivers a quality vehicle, they have spent their time looking for sponsors and repairing low quality cars. Truthfully, I've seen the worst crashes in F1 in the past ten years and none of the cars have been damaged to the extent the Haas cars have been. All this goes to show how they are actually choosing to spend the money that they claim to not have, thus always putting on an act of being the underdog. It is not untrue, but the team is the underdog because they've continuously chosen to not grow.
All in all, the team's demise is a situation of self-evaluation, mentally and internally in the team. There are too many areas that aren’t working in their favor, and those are situations that need to be tackled. Whether it’s hiring new team members or bringing in new sponsors, an extra effort needs to be made within the team to make sure that the drivers feel confident enough to put on a decent performance. In the current season, the team has a new sponsor, and it’s the first time that the American team has the opportunity to reach the cost cap, giving them full potential for a decent season. However, we are only two races into the season and are yet to see how they develop, but ultimately, a lot of changes need to happen internally within the team before they can even think about being competitive.