Haas bet big on 2022, risking their fortunes of the 2021 campaign, but still the American outfit wants more.
There were few sorrier sights than Haas in 2021. A commitment to focusing on the upcoming regulation changes combined with two rookie drivers meant they rarely occupied any position other than plum last.
And as March of 2022 began, team boss Guenther Steiner must have wondered if he was eternally cursed. The Russian invasion of Ukraine had far more important ramifications in the world than the fortunes of an F1 team but it gave Steiner and co. a headache just weeks before the season was set to begin.
In their time of need, Haas returned to a source of previous comfort and invited Kevin Magnussen to rejoin the team having been let go at the end of 2020. Soon both the decision to bring the Dane back and the sacrifice of 2021 looked to have paid off.
Arguably Haas’ finest moment came in the very first race when Magnussen, whose neck was still not in optimal condition, secured a P5 finish in Bahrain, the team’s highest points score since the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix.
The VF-22 combined with a powerful Ferrari engine looked to be a winning combination but for all the joy on one side of the garage, there was concern on the other.
Mick Schumacher’s pointless rookie season came as no surprise given the car’s limitations but it was Magnussen’s quick return to form that shone the spotlight on the German. While the Dane finished in the points in Bahrain, Schumacher came 11th and in the next race in Saudi Arabia, a problem that would come to define Schumacher’s Haas career resurfaced.
The German crashed heavily in Q2 and such was the damage, Haas chose not to race him on Sunday for fear it would impact the next grand prix in Australia
As their rivals fitted upgrades, Haas found themselves standing still. They would go on a run of five pointless races as their early season form fell away and Schumacher’s crash in Monaco, which sheered the car in half, was symbolic of their downturn in form.
This downturn would not prove to be terminal. At Silverstone, Schumacher got the monkey off his back with the first points score of his career while Magnussen’s P10 meant it was the team’s first double points score since the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix.
Both drivers would improve their finishing place by two next time out in Austria as Haas appeared to be hitting form heading into the summer break. It would prove to be a false dawn.
Just two points in their last 11 races saw them finish eighth in the Constructors’ Championship, an improvement on 2021 but perhaps not by the margin they would have been hoping for.
There was still time for a team and driver first though as Magnussen took pole in Sao Paulo, celebrating wildly with every member of the garage as a reminder of what these achievements can mean to the constructors not used to battling for podiums.
As Haas’ form spluttered along and focus no doubt turned to 2023, there was an even greater focus on their drivers with Schumacher’s contract set to end following the final race in Abu Dhabi.
The German’s name was mentioned in the game of musical chairs that erupted following Sebastian Vettel’s retirement but when the dust settled, he found himself without a race seat for 2022.
Haas kept their cards close to their chests, not confirming the seat was his but giving him enough to suggest he was one of the few candidates being considered. In the end, the candidates boiled down to two, Schumacher or Nico Hulkenberg.
The choice was a simple one, gamble that Schumacher could put his errors behind him or opt for the safe hands of an experienced F1 veteran, Haas plumped for the latter.
It is hard to gauge how the team will be feeling now that the 2022 season is over. The P8 represents their best result since 2018 but you do wonder if they will feel the 37 points they earned were worth sacrificing 2021 for.
Perhaps the true results will appear in the seasons to come. With a new title sponsor on board, Haas may not have to be constantly balancing the books and will be able to upgrade throughout the season, a luxury they have not been afforded in recent campaigns.
In Hulkenberg and Magnussen they have two F1 veterans which means in theory everything is there for them to succeed but in a sport such as this, theory does not always translate into fact.
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