WORDS BY ROB HANSFORD | PHOTOS BY HAAS F1
In the wake of Nikita Mazepin’s departure, Haas needed to quickly instill some security back into its Formula 1 team. And by re-signing Kevin Magnussen, Haas may have just made its greatest tactical move yet.
Having spent the last two years flailing at the back of the grid having made the decision not to develop its car so it could put all its resources into developing its all-new 2022 machine, Haas is fully aware that this year it needs to show solid progress. Anything other than that would be a total disaster and would have investors and sponsors questioning what the team have been doing.
Last year Haas fielded two rookies in Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, utilizing their positions to extract extra cash and assistance from both Uralkali and Ferrari. It was necessary to keep the team float financially, but there’s no denying that the lack of experience hindered car development.
But now, after what could have ended up in a full-blown disaster for Haas, without a driver at the eleventh hour, the team has played a masterstroke.
It would have been easy for Gene Haas to sign a driver capable of bringing additional funds into the team. It would have instantly plugged the gap left by the loss of Uralkali’s money, but he knew it wouldn’t necessarily have resulted in improved results.
By signing Magnussen there’s several things Haas can be sure of. First of all, Magnussen is a known quantity. The team knows how Magnussen operates and vice versa. There’s no time needed to get him fully acquainted with the team’s operations. It’s literally a plug and play situation.
Magnussen has only been away from F1 for a year and so he still knows most team members. It also shouldn’t be forgotten that the team were loathed to let Magnussen leave in the first place. They liked what he brought to the team, the mechanics wanted to work for him, and so by bringing him back there will be an instant morale boost around the whole garage.
There’s also Magnussen’s racecraft. Yes, he isn’t exactly the fastest driver over a single lap, but he is a gritty, determined driver who won’t give in. He’s proven that on so many occasions in the past, and it’s why the team likes him so much.
He’s not afraid to get involved, making bold overtakes, all the while, keeping the car on track and crucially not sending it to the barrier. That’s a quality neither Haas driver possessed last year as they both struggled to get to grips with life in F1 driving a difficult car.
Of course, it means that more will be expected of Magnussen. There’s no doubt that Guenther Steiner will be expecting Magnussen to get the car into positions that Schumacher can’t. He’s done it before, and now he needs to do it again.
Haas needs a strong year. It can’t afford to be stuck at the back of the grid. If it is, then it will bring into question the entire team’s future. Can they realistically operate as a legitimate team when they’ve invested two years’ worth of development into a new car only to find themselves in the very same position?
With Magnussen at the helm, they are hoping to avoid that, and given a consistent car, there’s no reason why he can’t grind out the odd top 10 result over the course of the season.
Magnussen will also provide the perfect yardstick for Schumacher. Last year Mazepin was so far off the pace on a regular basis that there was nobody to compare Schumacher to. Now, with a known quantity in Magnussen, a driver who has had a podium in F1, everyone can assess just how fast Schumacher is and establish whether he does possess the potential to be a strong contender in the future.
In recent years, Haas’ strategical business decisions off track has sometimes seemed questionable. But there’s no denying that through all the tough and potentially incorrect decisions the team has made, this is definitely one of its best moves yet. And it’s not unrealistic to believe it could transform their fortunes in 2022.
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