The 2021 season is just behind us, but the winter break will be over before you know it. In order not to overwhelm Formula 1 fans in the final phase of the winter break with one preview after another, F1Maximaal.nl will start in January. series logically ends with Haas closing in. Will Günther Steiner’s team be able to get their affairs in order after years of toil?
No, Steiner has not had the easiest seasons of his Formula 1 career in recent years. After its inception in 2016, Haas F1 Team got off to a pretty good start in its term in the sport. Twice an eighth place followed the race stable from America, now with considerable Russian influences, with a fifth final classification in 2018. That also turned out to be the best result that was possible in the hybrid era. In 2019 and 2020 it went downhill. Ninth place could be secured two more times, but what little momentum the team still had was lost.
Time for a big clean-up, thought Steiner and team owner Gene Haas. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were shown the door and made way for two rookies: Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher. Haas had a tough year ahead, with inexperienced guys behind the wheel, and tough is exactly what it turned out to be. The mediocre material proved to be capable of little. Only Schumacher sometimes knew what to do with the relatively slow car, such as during the Hungarian Grand Prix, in which he fought bravely against the onrushing George Russell and Max Verstappen. At the Hungaroring, the best result of 2021 was also immediately achieved, namely a P12, logically by Schumacher. Mazepin had retired earlier that race.
Haas does not develop
What was behind Haas’ sad season? The simplest answer is that the car was not nearly fast enough. As mentioned, Haas had been lagging behind for several years. As the coronavirus crisis emerged, the situation only became more dire for the rearguard team, who are struggling to get by even in a healthy financial climate. In 2020 the budget was very limited and prior to 2021 it was already made clear that one should not expect too much.
The rest of the teams speculated on what the development tokens would be spent on, but Haas indicated before the winter break of 2021 that they would not be used. There was no money and the drivers had to make do with the existing material. No wonder that last year tenth place was the maximum achievable. Improvements were made to the existing material, but the improvement did not yield any World Cup points. What kept the team going was a promise.
As the end of the season approached, the moment came closer when Haas could compete for points again, at least, that is the expectation that has been created. The white-red-blue racing stable wants to use all the money saved in 2021 to stimulate development for 2022. In this way, Haas hopes to put a car on the asphalt next year with which the midfield teams can compete. In 2022 it will be a question of whether that long-term investment pays off.
Can Schumacher already leave his mark on development?
After 2021 it is clear that Haas must have more of Schumacher than Mazepin. It was all the more interesting to hear that Schumacher is seriously interested in the technical side of the sport. Not only does the young German want to know everything, he has also interfered in the development of the new material. This could be the perfect baptism of fire for the youngster to see if he would also look good on a better team. If he manages to build the Haas car around himself, you can argue that he has more feeling for the sport than his 2021 results suggest.
Schumacher and Mazepin, but now with experience
The most inexperienced duo of 2021 can try again after a year of struggle. Schumacher and Mazepin invariably rode in the back, and really only fought it out with each other, with the necessary exception, such as at the Hungaroring. It was Schumacher who often drew the longest straw in the past year. For example, Mazepin only managed to finish three times above his German colleague in qualifying, and Schumacher sometimes did not even participate in qualifying due to crashes. Will it be a monotonous story at Haas again? We asked the 11-member F1Maximum panel, made up of editors and executives.
The prediction of the duel between the drivers of the F1Maximum panel for 2022. (Photos: Haas F1 Media)
It should be clear, the dominance that Schumacher had over his teammate in 2021 will also be seen in 2022. Editor David Ruiter is the first to give his argument: “With the Haas drivers, I have no doubt that Schumacher will wipe his teammate off the mat. In my view, the Russian falls short in all areas of racing, while Schumacher proved in every class that he needs some time to really get to the top level. Now that the German has warmed up to a season, I have every confidence that he will pull the longest straw in this head-to-head duel.’
Editor Wim G. Vandebilt also thinks that it is the son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher who will be the better Haas driver next year: “It was clear last year that Mazepin is a very aggressive driver, who can steer a game, but with that is actually at F2 level and not at a level that is necessary for the F1 grid. On the other hand, Schumacher is someone who starts off slowly and calmly, and who is also a very hard worker.’
“Given his history, he does very well every time he drives in his second year of a new motorsport class, and I believe that will be the case again in 2022. Of course the cars are completely different, and we may have to see it as a new class for Schumacher, but that doesn’t mean that even with the piracy that Mazepin has shown over the past year, he should easily have the upper hand, and therefore easily should be able to beat him in the final standings for the World Cup.’
Moderate confidence in the year of Haas
Haas experienced her first year as the last year, and according to most editors of the panel does not seem to be able to get rid of that in 2022. Of the participating editors, only three think Haas will outwit one of the other teams. The primary candidates that would then fill the last place are Alfa Romeo and Williams. According to three men, Haas’ step is therefore larger than that of the direct competitors, while there are seven participants who expect that more than a tenth place for the American outfit is not in it.
The F1Maximum panel’s prediction for 2022. (Photos: Haas F1 Media)
First of all, Vanderbilt shines a light on the matter: ‘With the generic parts used by Haas for their chassis, there is little chance that they will do so much better next year than last year. If Schumacher can get out of qualifying a few times in Q2 in 2022, that can be called very special. It may be possible that he even manages to score a point here and there, if all the cars are really a lot closer together, but that chance is not great. Since Mazepin will not succeed given his lack of talent compared to the other drivers in F1, it is inevitable that Schumacher will again finish above Mazepin in the final classification, just like last year.’
Christian Moerman is also of the opinion that Haas will not come out of tenth place. His reasoning is as follows: “Sure, Haas has decided to invest its money mainly in the 2022 season, but we must not forget that compared to seven out of ten other F1 teams to date, Haas had a relatively small budget. Only Williams and Alfa Romeo have operated with such limited financial support in the recent past. People now work with a budget ceiling, but those years of investments in personnel and infrastructure are not just wasted. Haas will therefore never be able to compete against the top seven. Every F1 team has smart minds, but some minds are just a bit smarter than others.”
‘Then it will be eighth, ninth or tenth place anyway. Williams has found a lender in the form of Dorilton Capital. This partnership paid off in 2021, with points for the team from Grove and an eighth place in the world championship. With the arrival of Alexander Albon, I think points in 2022 will once again be an option for Williams. Then only Alfa Romeo remains as a direct competitor. Technically, this is a fifty-fifty story. There’s no telling which team will produce better material, so the only factor I can determine which of these two will come out as the winner is by looking at the drivers. Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou will in my view be able to score more points than Schumacher and Mazepin, so it will be another desolate P10 for Haas.”
By: Christian Moerman | Twitter: @Christianmoerm1