#TheXtraLap: Can Haas solve the mystery of their car?

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Even before the season started, Haas announced a new title sponsorship – it was with a British Energy drink called Rich Energy and the cars would get a black and gold livery, reminding fans of the Iconic JPS Lotus era.

This partnership would prove to be a major problem on its own but I won’t bother you with that.

After a solid season in 2016, where they entered as a new team and ended up 8th in the WCC, they have done a good job staying there in 2017 and even climbing to 5th in 2018. Now, in 2019, things are a bit different so let’s have a look.

Australia. The season went off to a good start when both cars qualified in the top 10 on Saturday. Grosjean got to start from 6th on the grid while Magnussen started from 7th. The race on Sunday was one with mixed emotions. Although Magnussen got a well earned 6th position, Grosjean experienced what Haas were known for last season. Bad pitstops. Grosjean had to retire with a loose wheel.

Bahrain. The second race of the season and Haas still showed they had a fast car when they qualified with Magnussen in 6th and Grosjean in 8th position on Saturday. The race on Sunday though was a whole other story. While Magnussen finished in 13th place, Grosjean got his second DNF of the season due to collision damage.

China. On Saturday, both Haas cars got into Q3 but that was it. They didn’t set a time so would start the race with Magnussen in 9th and Grosjean in 10th. On Sunday, Grosjean managed to see the finish flag in 11th position while Magnussen got stuck in 13th at the flag.

Baku. The updates brought on the car didn’t seem to work as both Magnussen and Grosjean were struggling for pace and on Saturday, Magnussen qualified in 13th while Grosjean couldn’t improve higher than 15th. Raceday and it became another disappointment. Magnussen scored another 13th position while Grosjean had another DNF due to brake failure.

Spain. Back to Europe and just as all other teams, Haas brought new updates, hoping to get a more stable car. All looked good on Saturday when Grosjean qualified in 7th with Magnussen next to him in 8th. On Sunday, their good form continued as Magnussen scored 6 points to finish 7th and Grosjean got the final point when he finished in 10th position.

Monaco. The streets of Monaco are unforgiven and you need an almost perfect lap to get a good starting position. On Saturday, Magnussen made Q3 and was able to start in 6th position but Grosjean couldn’t get out of Q2 and had to start from 13th on the grid. Grosjean was very vocal, as he had been for a few races, that the car and tires were so difficult to get into the operating window. However, when the race finished on Sunday, it was Grosjean who got a point by coming home in 10th position while Magnussen went backwards to finish down in 14th.

Six races done and it was back to Europe, the pecking order would normally be more obvious but the Haas car was so unpredictable that the team couldn’t give a straight answer as to where they saw themselves in the contractors’ order. So far, it has been gone up and down. Good in qualifying, bad in the race. Bad in qualifying, good in the race. Both bad, both good. The team couldn’t pinpoint where the issue was that they needed to address. Headaches for the team that looked to be set for a good season were dropping down the order, due to changing results.

Canada. A race weekend on the Island near Montreal meant new chances for the team in their search of answers to their unpredictable car. On Saturday, Magnussen again got to Q3 but a crash in qualifying which caused damage meant he had to start from the pitlane. Grosjean didn’t do much better when he couldn’t qualify higher than 15th. Sunday came and both drivers were way out of the points. Grosjean finished in 14th place, teammate Magnussen was lapped twice when finishing down in 17th.

France. Back in Europe and a home race for Grosjean. Spirits were high to do a good job but again, the car wasn’t playing nice as Magnussen qualified 15th and Grosjean couldn’t impress his home-crowd either and had to start from 17th. It has to be said that Magnussen was running with the latest updates while Grosjean stayed with the “old” car. Maybe the Sunday would be better for the Haas team but sadly no. Grosjean was the first to retire from the race while Magnussen ended up 17th when the finish flag dropped.

Austria. The Haas team were still scratching their heads, trying to figure out why the car wasn’t playing nice. Free practice saw Grosjean getting a better handle of the car but during qualifying, for some reason, they couldn’t get the car back into the sweetspot like before and while Magnussen went from a mediocre Friday to a fifth starting position, Grosjean went the other way around and qualified in 11th. The team was baffled and couldn’t find an answer as to why both cars suddenly acted differently. Perhaps it was different on a daily basis so Sunday could be good. Neither driver could impress as Grosjean finished highest of the two in 16th, 1 lap down and Magnussen, who started 5th, had a terrible race and finished 19th, 2 laps down.

England. Another weekend where Haas was searching for answers. To compare data and trying to find out the root of the problem, Magnussen got the updated spec while Grosjean reverted back to the Australia spec, the spec that kinda worked. The signs on Saturday were vague as Grosjean did beat Magnussen in qualifying but with a 14th for Grosjean and a 16th for Magnussen, Haas couldn’t be happy. If things couldn’t get any worse, on Sunday, on lap 1, what seemed to be slight contact between the two drivers, turned out to be enough for both drivers to retire from the race. A weekend to forget.

Germany. Closing in on the summer break, Haas still didn’t have the answers they needed so Grosjean and Magnussen stayed with their different spec cars. Saturday came and it was a pretty good day for Haas, also because free practice sessions were wet so all teams were in the same boat (mind the pun) Grosjean, with the Australia-spec car qualified a strong 6th while Magnussen got 12th but in front of Renault, Toro Rosso, McLaren, Racing Point and Williams. Sunday started out wet but during the race, it dried up and got wet again. Mayhem during pitstops and cars drifting off the track. It had everything and even Grosjean and Magnussen couldn’t manage to keep it clean and contact was there once again. This time, however, there was no race-ending damage and Grosjean finished 7th while Magnussen came home in 8th. This would normally be in 9th and 10th but both Alfa Romeo cars got a 30-second time penalty so it bumped both Haas cars up 2 spots.

Hungary. The final race before the summer break and Haas are still puzzled about their car. They just can’t seem to find the answers as to what works to get the car into the sweetspot, the perfect operating window. Again, Grosjean used the Australia spec car while Magnussen got all the planned updates. During qualifying, Grosjean was again the fastest of the two, qualifying in 9th while Magnussen managed 15th. Did this mean all the updates brought so far, didn’t give the boosted improvement? Sunday would show more but it was Grosjean who retired with a water pressure issue while Magnussen battled with the Renault of Ricciardo but couldn’t get higher than 13th at the finish line.

Now it’s the summer break so what did we learn so far?

Haas have a car that is still unpredictable in all conditions. Updates or not, it doesn’t look as if they found a cure for their problems. What started out as a strong beginning, spiralled down to a team that is standing 9th in the constructors’ championship and if they don’t find any answers soon, they will lose grip on the rest of the midfield.

#MsportXtra