Sunday, 20 March 2016 the Haas Formula 1 Team made its debut at that year’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, now seven years later the memories are still fresh for team principal Guenther Steiner.
That year, for that race at Albert Park, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Guiterrez lined up 19th and 20th on the 22-car grid, with the Frenchman famously finishing sixth in the team’s debut; while Guiteerz collided with the McLaren of Fernando Alonso, triggering the Spaniard’s death-defying crash.
A bittersweet debut for the Gene Haas-owned only American team in F1, with a lot borrowed from Ferrari, also their engine supplier, which caused consternation among their ‘old-school’ rivals at the time. The F1 ‘n00bs’ had shown them up.
Ahead of their return to Melbourne this weekend, the team’s 147th Grand Prix, the memories of 2016 are still vivid for Steiner: “I will never forget our first race in 2016. Getting to Australia and being confronted with all the issues we had because it’s still the first race for a team, and it’s very difficult for a new team in F1.
“For us… scoring points, every time I go there I remember that moment, the team and the people who were there on the first day, still remember it. For us, it’s always a great way to come back to that place and remember good memories,” recalled Steiner.
Steiner: Everybody likes coming to Melbourne
Why? “It’s a combination of things, it’s the wonderful people of Australia who always give us a big welcome, it’s the race track which is in the city, but it isn’t a street race it’s a race track, and it’s the history,” explained Steiner.
“It’s the welcome we’re given – people really appreciate us being there and it’s very simple, we all love to go there,” added the Haas boss ahead of the 37th running of the Australian Grand Prix, the 26th time in Melbourne.
This year’s Haas drivers, Kevin Magnussen, and Nico Hulkenberg are both well-versed in the nuances of Albert Park. Magnussen starred on his debut in 2014 by finishing on the podium, a feat only he and Lewis Hamilton have achieved since the turn of the century.
Haas drivers Hulkenberg and Magnussen embroiled in a very tight F1 midfield battle
Hulkenberg scored a best of sixth, also in 2014, while he has finished seventh on four occasions in Melbourne, including on his most recent appearance down under in 2019.
This year the midfield is tighter than ever, with almost no backmarkers as the second year of this generation’s F1 rules appears to have tightened up the entire field, barring the dominant Red Bulls who cantered to one-two’s in Bahrain and Jeddah, with a second at least to spare in race pace.
Steiner is realistic about his Haas team’s prospects at Albert Park: “There are only a few points available for the midfield teams and everyone is in that midfield, from P6 down it’s all midfield, there is nobody behind.
“We must take every opportunity. I think we are in the midfield, the upper end of it, but every race could see a change where each team is. The only thing to do at the moment is to work hard and try not to make mistakes because they will cost dearly,” reckoned the Haas team boss.
Haas team’s constructors’ record in F1 is: