If there was an award for the most frustrating F1 season of 2019, Haas would win it hands down.
The team finished fifth in 2018 with 93 points. Romain Grosjean scored a fourth in Austria.
This time, a sixth from Kevin Magnussen in Australia was the best result all season before its downward spiral and the drivers making the top-10 just seven times. They finished with just 28 points.
The start was promising. The VF19 flew in pre-season testing at Barcelona. But, importantly, in cold February conditions…
At the first race in Melbourne it was okay too. But, next time out in Bahrain, after qualifying sixth, Magnussen plummeted down the order in the race.
While the car could do a strong qualifying lap, in the race it would overheat the rear tyres, start sliding, and go rapidly backwards.
At first, the team thought it was all about the narrow operating window of Pirelli’s thinner gauge 2019 tyres. Their problems being exacerbated in hotter temperatures.
What puzzled them was that as they brought updates, their problems worsened. While Magnussen wasn’t sure, Grojean was adamant that the Melbourne-spec car was better and wanted to return to it and in the end was proven right.
The problem was an aero stall at the back, which led to a loss of downforce and grip, causing the tyre issues. The more Haas improved the front-end aero and strengthened the flow of air, the earlier the rear stall, making the car even slower.
“Romain was right all along and full credit to him,” admitted team principal Guenther Steiner. “This is the strangest car I’ve ever worked with. You can qualify sixth and then in the race you drop off to second last. It’s amazing.”
Without the resources of the big teams, Haas was unable to design its way out of the conundrum. It is left hoping it can do so before March 2020...