Romain Grosjean’s spectacular drive at the opening race of the 2016 season has signaled a strong return for America in Formula 1 with newcomers Haas F1 Team.
Taking 6th from 19th place on the grid at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend to score 8 points on the team’s debut, Grosjean said that it the race “feels like a win” for the team, who ran two cars for the first time ever together this weekend, having built a second after testing concluded in Barcelona just weeks ago.
“For all the guys who worked so hard over the last few weeks, this is unbelievable…The guys did an amazing job and I told them, this is like a win for all of us. First race and here we are, P6. A happy day.”
Team mate Esteban Gutierrez started from 20th, but was struck from behind and hit the barrier after McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso ran into the back of his car on lap 17. The result was a spectacular crash which saw Alonso hurtle over a gravel trap and into the barrier at terrific speed. Both drivers were out and emerged unhurt, with Alonso later remarking he got out of his car not knowing where he was on the track. The race was stopped as a result, with all cars coming back into pit lane.
Preparation met opportunity while the cars were stopped, and the only work allowed to be performed by the teams was a change of tires before the restart of the race. After starting the race on Pirelli soft compound tires, Grosjean’s car was then fitted with medium compound tires, whose lack of traction but increased wear rating gave him the ability to skip a second pit stop – if he could make his tires last.
Holding off his rivals from much more seasoned teams, 39 laps later, Grosjean crossed the finish line to win 8 points for both himself and the team. This makes Haas F1 Team the first new constructor in Formula 1 to win points on their debut race since Toyota’s win in 2002, and the first American Formula 1 team to compete in 30 years.
Team owner Gene Haas was also pleased with the result after a spectacular debut, with aims to finish higher in the points in the future:
“We didn’t win it, but finishing 6th I think validates the fact that we have a team that can compete with the big dogs.”
America is certainly back in Formula 1, and has taken on the challenge head on.
“At the end of the day I think we can compete with these guys, race with them. It says a lot about American know-how, by putting something together we can compete with anybody.”