Haas F1 Team enters the third round of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship an impressive fifth in the constructor standings thanks to back-to-back point-scoring finishes by Romain Grosjean. Not since Shadow Racing – another American team – debuted in 1973 with consecutive point-scoring finishes by Californian George Follmer has an organization earned two top-six finishes in its first two races.
Now Haas F1 Team – the first American F1 team in 30 years – has the opportunity to create even more history when it arrives in Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix. Sunday’s 56-lap race around the 5.451-kilometer (3.387-mile), 16-turn Shanghai International Circuit will mark Haas F1 Team’s third career start, and beyond Grosjean earning another point-paying result, the ultimate goal is getting his teammate, Esteban Gutiérrez, to the finish and into the points as well.
While Grosjean earned a sixth-place finish in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and then backed it up with a fifth-place effort in the Bahrain Grand Prix, Gutiérrez has seen bad luck derail his chances to contend in similar fashion. Despite a pace in line with that of his teammate, Gutiérrez was collected in an accident not of his making in Australia after 16 laps, and in Bahrain, a mechanical issue sidelined him after only nine laps.
A glimpse of Haas F1 Team’s collective strength was seen in qualifying at Bahrain, with both drivers advancing out of Q1 and solidly into Q2, with Grosjean qualifying ninth and Gutiérrez qualifying 13th. It was the first time in Haas F1 Team’s history its drivers advanced to Q2 – another milestone achievement in the team’s nascent season.
Achievement in China means solving the conundrum presented by Shanghai’s “snail corners” and its massive backstraight. The snail corners both look like a snail and force drivers to take a snail’s pace around them – at least by Formula One standards. These corners, which comprise turns 1-4 and turns 11-13, are juxtaposed with the 1.4-kilometer (.869 of a mile) backstraight – the longest in Formula One. There, drivers eclipse 200 mph before heavy braking into the turn-14 hairpin. Securing the downforce needed to maximize these vastly divergent elements, along with the other in-between aspects of the track, is akin to balancing on a razor blade.
With the 13th Chinese Grand Prix serving as Round No. 3 on this year’s Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team eyes a third-straight point-paying finish in its third race of existence. For Grosjean, the opportunity to score more points comes on his 30th birthday. And for Gutiérrez, a point-paying finish would come in his third career Chinese Grand Prix.
The numerology bodes well for Haas F1 Team, as three is an important number in Chinese culture. Pronounced “sān”, it is similar to the character of birth. Of course, immediately after birth comes growth, and since debuting in Australia, Haas F1 Team’s stature has grown at a considerable rate – a rate it plans to continue in China.
What are the odds for a startup Formula 1 team, let alone an American F1 team, could be writing some history this weekend!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!