Romain Grosjean – The right choice for Haas F1 and America?


Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Rich Walker (from America-land)

When the Haas F1 team begins testing their new car in March 2016, Romain Grosjean will be their lead driver. In Kannapolis , North Carolina yesterday, Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner (Team Principal) made the announcement, formalising the decision, which had been widely speculated was coming.

For many F1 fans, the move for Grosjean was a ‘no brainer’. Given the precarious nature of the Enstone team’s finances and the continued absence of an announcement from Renault, it was obvious Romain’s options to move teams were limited.

McLaren is strapped with two world champions and recruiting Grosjean would make no sense given the protegy that is Stoffel Vandorne.

Force India indicated and executed their driver contracts in a manner which assured their sincerity from the beginning of the season, though Perez to Lotus was thought a minor possibility for a short while.

Williams and Ferrari race drivers for 2016 have been nailed on since Ferrari decided against ditching Kimi.

So maybe this is how Romain saw his options?

“So there’s this American… from the North Carolina. Not only does this cat already own a big race team, he makes the machines that make the machines, Haas Automation. The owner of the team can not only read a micrometer, he makes the machines that make micrometers.

The building still has the smell of fresh paint, there is no existing culture, no baseline for performance, and most of the teams countrymen cannot even spell F1. I would be the first lead driver for a new team.  The pay check will clear, a world of marketing opportunities will open in a brand new market, and this is the country that put a man on the moon!”

That of course is the upside, but what about a downside?

Well Grosjean’s status with Lotus has seen him not awarded parity with Pastor Maldonado. On April 19th of this year Gorsjean had to vacate his seat to reserve driver Jolyon Palmer for testing.  His comment was “I think it’s unfair, but that’s life.”

The Haas team will be running as close to a Ferrari “customer car” as possible without crossing the line on ‘restricted parts’. And Gene Haas says he will facilitate every necessary resource for a winning car.

Despite pushing the boundaries of outsourcing the build of a Formula One car, the quality and accountability of the Haas machine will be in lockstep to Haas’s commitment to win the F1 World Championship. For Grosjean, the opportunity to be the lead driver for the team through testing, development and onto a championship battle, was just too attractive.

So for Grosjean there was really no downside.

But what about Grosjean?

Is he just the best available driver for Haas?

Driving the new V6 Turbo Hybrid cars requires ‘new skills’ and so it is natural for Haas to select its 2016 pilots from the available pool of those with experience. Grosjean therefore looks to be the best available option.

The new F1 engine formula was introduced in 2014, and Grosjean drove for Lotus who were powered by a Renault manufactured engine.

For 2015, Lotus switched to another engine manufacturer, AMG Mercedes. And despite a bad start Lotus is now 6th in the constructors and Grosjean currently in 9th position for the drivers championship. His team mate Pastor Maldonaldo by comparison languishes in 14th position.

So for the third year in a row Romain Grosjean will be driving with a new engine manufacturer and he can approach the March 2016 testing sessions with a sense of confidence, knowing he has done this twice before. Further, Haas have a driver who is armed with knowledge and experience of the drive ability of two other F1 engines, which may provide invaluable insight for them and Ferrari.

The Frenchman’s number one status within the team looks to be certain.

The next step for Haas F1 will be the announcement of the second 2016 driver. Earlier this season, the team suggested they would be taking one Ferrari reserve driver as part of their 2016 lineup.  If this is the case, then Esteban Guitierrez looks to the choice they will make.


Well perhaps the tweet from Guiteriez tweet...Esteban himself a few weeks ago where he hinted that the word from Haas was finalised.

Then there’s a small matter that Guitierrez is Mexican, and a Mexican driver in an American car given the current political environment is marketing dynamite!

And what about livery? Personally I’m pulling for Shelby Blue and silver. But it really does not matter, because when the green flag drops for the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, I believe the Haas F1 Team will hit the ground running, and hard!


15 responses to “Romain Grosjean – The right choice for Haas F1 and America?

  1. The other driver is Gutierrez. and he is probably already signed. When asked over the weekend in Japan about the driver announcement for Haas this week his answer was: “It won’t be this week for me”. When the commentator asked if they would wait to the Mexican GP weekend to make the announce he just smiled.

  2. I don’t think there was a better available option for Haas – I would also have considered Checo for the #1 role personally but they can only get one pot of gold from Carlos Slim so Guti at #2 fits that bill nicely.
    It would have been nice to see Vergne get another crack at F1, but its understandable that Haas wanted someone who had driven in 2015, and RoGro has already proven that he can deliver, Vergne has unfortunately just hinted.

    I am looking forward to how Esteban handles his second chance at F1, he showed promise before getting to F1 – hopefully he will grasp the opportunity.

  3. Good article, poor title. It’s not about America though; it is about a new team entering F1 and trying to do it intelligently. Partnership with Ferrari is smart. Hiring a lead driver like RoGro is excellent. Guti brings money if that comes through.

    Hope the livery is not red, white, and blue as it is time to lay the jingoism down. As an American I am tired of nationalistic BS.

  4. Will Haas be receiving the same engine as Ferrari on 2016 or are they offered the same deal as RBR currently is, ie 2015 engine spec? I wonder if the Haas cars will be pretty close to Ferrari in speed next year or if they will not be allowed to be faster than them. Anyway, it’s nice to see another team enter F1 but I hope they will be as competitive

    • Yes, I believe that Haas are getting the 2016 spec power units (same as the works team) partly because they are giving on of the race seats to Esteban G.

  5. nice article without being TOO biased 🙂
    RoGro is a great fit. I hope Esteban can step up to the level JEV would likely bring. I think the car will be pretty solid.

    the most difficult will be in timely team communication, strategy calls, pit work and the silly little “forgot to tighten that nut” or “we only brought 1 spare” sort of growing pains. assuming no teams leave F1 for 2016, the above issues will be the ones preventing point finishes. the only way to minimize that is by hiring visible experienced and likable but anal retentive pit bull department bosses! and they really need to be in place already…

    I have not tried to vet Steiner. it would be awesome if someone on staff were to research an extensive bio or even have him as a guest on a podcast (hint hint)…

  6. I remain skeptical that Grosjean will be better off driving Ferrari’s B-flat car and engine instead of driving Renault A-one car and engine.

    • I think Haas is going to show up ready to race. I see they are hiring technical people in the USA, Italy and the UK right now, so they are building the team. Money is not likely to be a problem, Haas is connected in America and understands raising racing sponsorship there. Twenty companies with $10 million to spend on international advertising isn’t a tall order in America, if they field a decent car.

      • We have heard similar stories before. For example the BAR-Honda and Lotus Racing. It will take them years to get up to speed IMHO.

  7. Interesting choice with Romain. Looking forward to more of America in f1. Hopefully he is fighting for points and not 16th. The real test is the US sponsors.

    Trump for President on the rear wing?

    Starbucks the official fuel of Haas F1.

    Fox news on the sidepods.

    McDonald’s along the nose.

    I think we are a fortunate country as we are successful in most sports. Take the Olympics for example. F1 is flawed in a way that may never work in America as turn around for success is slow like turning a big ship. We want our latte’s now. We want our iPhone 6s before anyone else.

    Almost a hippopotamus rant.

  8. I’m still thinking Rossi would be the second driver someday. An American driver in an American-designed car and an American-owned team. Add to this, he’s been freshly placed into a Manor car (aka Ferrari Kindergarten Team) to get experience in the last races of 2015. and last but not least, Rossi shares an Italian last name to cater the Ferrari side.

    Perhaps not for the 2016 season, but I’m positive he will be in a seat for 2017

    • I’ve been thinking that Haas may have had something to do with Rossi taking over the Manor seat. Buying him the seat would be a pretty low cost, compared to sponsorship potential of an American in the Haas car, to see if he has what it takes and get him up to date on Ferrari systems. Haas could pull together the price, of half a dozen weekends in the Manor, over breakfast. Rossi looks solid, it didn’t take him long to leave Stevens fading in his mirrors.

      • He did have Steven’s help in Japan. I’d really have loved to see a camera shot of what Rossi saw going into and thru the smoke of his spin.

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