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F1 mid-season review part five: Haas F1’s successful debut and Renault’s return

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F1 mid-season review part five: Haas F1’s successful debut and Renault’s return
Aug 12, 2016, 3:07 PM

In the fifth part of our mid-season review of the 2016 Formula 1 season, JAonF1 examines the first 12 races of the sport’s newest squad and the r...

In the fifth part of our mid-season review of the 2016 Formula 1 season, JAonF1 examines the first 12 races of the sport’s newest squad and the return of one of its most famous manufacturers: Haas F1 and Renault.

Haas made its long-await debut at the Australian Grand Prix, two years after it was first announced that the American squad would be joining the grid, and Romain Grosjean sensationally finished sixth, which meant the team became first F1 constructor to score points on its debut since Toyota in 2002. In the other car, Esteban Gutierrez was involved in Fernando Alonso’s enormous accident when the Spaniard went flying over the back of the Mexican’s VF-16 under braking for Albert Park’s Turn 3.

Grosjean went one better and finished fifth under the lights in Bahrain. The then team had a torrid time in China before Grosjean made it back into the top ten with eighth place in Russia.

Romain Grosjean

Since then, Haas has only managed to score one more points finish, which came courtesy of Grosjean at the Austrian Grand Prix as the team has struggled with the crowded midfield and made an early switch to focusing on its 2017 machine.

Renault returned to F1 as a full constructor for the first time since 2011 and pledged to return to the podium within three years, while warning that 2016 would be a transition period as it restructured the former Lotus operation at Enstone.

Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen almost made it into the points in Australia – with the Briton driving a particularly feisty race – and the Dane was again just outside the top ten in Bahrain, where a hydraulic problem meant Palmer did not start.

Kevin Magnussen

Like Haas, Renault was towards to back of the pack in China, but Magnussen scored his first points since the 2014 Brazilian Grand Prix with seventh place at the next race in Russia. That remains the team’s best result of 2016 so far as it struggled with the set-up and development of the RS16.

But in the two races before the summer break Renault made a performance breakthrough and Palmer seemed destined to score points in Hungary before he spun that chance away. The manufacturer also made progress with its engine, which is slowly catching up with Mercedes and Ferrari, but was still exposed at the power tracks of Canada, Azerbaijan and Austria.

Pace comparison

A look Haas F1 and Renault’s best times from qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix – the first purpose built track F1 visited this season – versus the qualifying result for the recent German Grand Prix, shows how the American squad is still within touching distance of Q3 and Renault is slowly beginning to find its pace again after spending several weekend’s in the first half of the season getting eliminated in Q1.

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Team Driver Bahrain time Grid spot Difference to pole
Mercedes Hamilton 1m29.493s 1st N/A
Haas F1 Grosjean 1m31.756s (Q2 - under elimination qualifying) 9th +2.263s
Renault Magnussen 1m33.181s (Q1 - under elimination qualifying) 19th +3.688s

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Team Driver Germany time Grid spot Difference to pole
Mercedes Rosberg 1m14.363s 1st N/A
Haas F1 Gutierrez 1m15.883s (Q2) 11th +1.52s
Renault Palmer 1m16.665s (Q2) 16th +2.302s

Driver highs and lows – Romain Grosjean:

Grosjean’s performances in Australia and Bahrain rightly attracted many plaudits, as he gave Haas two points finishes its first two races, which appeared to vindicate his move from Lotus shortly before it was taken over by Renault last year.

XPB.cc Gene Haas Romain Grosjean

His 19th place in China is the Frenchman’s worst result of 2016 so far as he struggled badly with set-up problems and tyre wear issues.

Kevin Magnussen:

Many who felt Magnussen was unlucky to be dropped by McLaren at the end of 2014 greeted his return to F1 in place of Pastor Maldonado on the eve of the season with approval. The 23-year-old put in a battling effort to recover from a first lap puncture in Australia, but his seventh place in Russia is his standout drive of the season so far.

Magnussen had an incident-filled race in Monaco, but his penalty for colliding with his teammate late on in Spain was poor.

Esteban Gutierrez:

Esteban Gutierrez

Gutierrez has finished in 11th place four times so far this season without scoring a point, while his qualifying lap in Germany was almost good enough to give Haas its first ever Q3 appearance.

The Mexican, whose best finish in F1 remains his seventh place at the Japanese Grand Prix for Sauber back in 2013, has drawn much criticism from his fellow drivers for ignoring blue flags in recent races, with Lewis Hamilton memorably gesturing at Gutierrez as he lapped the Haas driver at the Hungaroring.

Jolyon Palmer:

Palmer’s best result of 2016 is still his 11th place in Australia where he displayed great defensive driving skills and showed he had not lost any sharpness in battle during his year on the sidelines in 2015 after winning the GP2 title in 2014.

Jolyon Palmer

He looked set to score his first ever F1 points in Hungary before a spin towards the end of the race dropped him down the order, an ending that he described as “painful to look back on”.

Looking ahead

Haas has the potential to grab a great result over the rest of the season, but the team has already focused much of its efforts onto its 2017 car, as F1’s new aerodynamic regulations come into force next year and it hopes to use that opportunity to climb up the grid.

Renault appeared to making progress in recent races and the team will want to build on that and return to the top ten again before the year is out. This season was always going to be about re-building, so like Haas, much of its attention will be on making a good performance step in 2017.

Renault Haas F1

What have you made of Haas F1 and Renault so far in 2016? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Romain Grosjean Shop Now , Kevin Magnussen