When the Haas F1 team begins testing their new car on March 1, 2016, Romain Grosjean will be their lead driver. In Kannapolis , North Carolina today Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner made the announcement, formalizing the decision.
To many who follow Formula 1, the fit was almost automatic. The last thing Romain Grosjean wanted to find was himself involved in a situation where he was donating his time to the Lotus F1 team. That is a subject for another post. But as the season shakes down, there are no possibilities within Formula 1 other than the Haas team. McLaren is strapped with two world champions already. Grosjean makes no sense there. Force India indicated and executed their driver contracts in a manner which assured their sincerity from the beginning of the season. Williams, Ferrari, both locked up.
So from Romain’s perspective, this is how I see it; “But then there is this American… from the North Carolina. Not only does this cat already own a big race team, he makes the machines that make the machines, Haas Automation. The owner of the team can not only read a micrometer, he makes the machines that make micrometers. The building still has the smell of fresh paint, there is no existing culture, no baseline for performance, and most of the teams countrymen cannot even spell F1. I would be the first lead driver for a new team. The pay check will clear, a world of marketing opportunities will open in a brand new market, and this is the country that put a man on the moon!”
Where is the downside for Grosjean? I don’t see it. Grosjean’s status with Lotus is at an odd form of parity with Pastor Maldonado. On April 19th of this year Gorsjean had to vacate his seat to reserve driver Jolyon Palmer for testing. His comment was “I think it’s unfair, but that’s life.” I first suggested that Gorsjean was a sure fit at Haas from my article on September 10th. He just makes sense for many reasons.
The Haas team will be running as close to a Ferrari “customer car” as possible without crossing the line. Haas will facilitate every necessary resource for a winning car. Even though Gene Haas has developed a new outsourcing model for a Formula 1 team , the quality and accountability is in lockstep to Haas’s commitment to win the F1 World Championship. The chance to be the lead driver for the team through testing, development and onto a championship are too attractive. There is no downside.
But what about Grosjean? Is he just the best available driver for Haas? There are few drivers with V6 Turbo experience. Regardless of who is available, Romain Grosjean is the best choice for Haas. The single primary reason has to do with his piratical experience developing V6 Turbo F1 Cars.
The current Formula 1 engine formula was introduced for the 2014 season. For that Season the Lotus F1 team was running Renault manufactured engines. The year was plagued with DNF’s (Did Not Finish) and complete frustration. For 2015 Lotus moved to another engine manufacturer, AMG Mercedes. Despite a bad start Lotus is 6th in the constructors and Grosjean currently in 9th position for the drivers championship while his teammate Pastor Maldonaldo is currently in 14th position.
For the third year in a row Romain Grosjean will be driving with a new engine manufacturer. Aside from any insights he can provide into the competitors engines, he can approach the March 16th 2016 testing session with a sense of confidence, knowing he has done this twice with the current engine formula. Armed with that knowledge and experience, and no question as to his number one status, and Grosjean is setup for success.
The next step in this process will be the announcement of the second driver. Earlier this season the team was quoted as saying that a Ferrari reserve driver will be joining their team. I believe the second Haas driver will be Esteban Guitterieez. But my reasoning is rather simple. Esteban hinted in a tweet a few weeks ago which I reference in another article. The other reason has to do with Mexican Formula 1 fans. A Mexican driver in an American car under the current political environment is marketing dynamite! I detail some of my my reasoning in that same article.
So the world waits until Gene Haas drops the other steel toe boot! And when it does it will be met with great excitement. We have a car and our lead driver. The next step is the second driver and team livery, colors! Personally I’m pulling for Shelby Blue and silver. But it really does not matter, because when the green flag drops for the 2016 Australian Grand Prix The Haas F1 Team will hit the ground running, and hard!