At the beginning of any racing season, teams have great expectations. After all, they all have the same amount of wins and are equal in the championship standings. But for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team, perhaps no expectations are greater than they are in this 70th Formula One season.
As the American team embarks on just its fourth year competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship, it does so coming off its best season. Rich Energy Haas F1 Team ended 2018 with a strong fifth-place finish in the constructors’ standings, outpacing McLaren (sixth), Racing Point (seventh), Alfa Romeo (eighth), Toro Rosso (ninth) and Williams (10th). The 93 points Rich Energy Haas F1 Team earned were nearly double the 47 points earned during its sophomore campaign.
But racing is a lot like business in that you’re only as good as your last sale, and as Alec Baldwin’s character in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross expertly delivered, salesmen must “Always be closing”.
With the close of preseason testing comes the opening of the 2019 Formula One season. Rich Energy Haas F1 Team wrapped the test at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya with a total of 871 laps (4,054.505 kilometers/2,518.932 miles) during the eight days of track time spread over 12 days (Feb. 18-21, Feb. 26-March 1). It was Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s highest mileage total in preseason testing since the team’s debut in 2016, besting its previous high of 715 laps (1,717.695 kilometers/1,067.326 miles) earned in 2017.
With an updated rules package for 2019 where cars sport a simplified front wing with a larger span, simplified front brake ducts with no winglets, and a wider and deeper rear wing to accentuate DRS usage, all with a 10-kilogram (22 pounds) weight increase, the test – and the laps tallied – held significant importance.
That’s because the season-opening Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is now upon us. On March 17, the green flag waves on the first of 21 races in 2019, with the 5.303-kilometer (3.295-mile), 16-turn street course inside the city’s Albert Park serving as the first true indicator of where teams stack up in relation to one another.
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have proven to be quite adept at navigating the track’s layout, which is comprised of public roads encircling Albert Park Lake, a man-made body of water just south of Melbourne’s central business district.
The roads were rebuilt prior to Formula One’s debut at the track in 1996, but because the surface only sees racecars about once a year, grip is hard to come by, especially in the initial practice sessions. It’s a street circuit that behaves more like a natural road course. It’s quick too, with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton setting a track-record time in qualifying last year with a blistering lap of 1:21.164 to take the pole.
Magnussen made his first career Formula One start in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. It was an incredibly stout performance as he started fourth and finished second. The 18 points Magnussen earned for that runner-up effort put him in the Formula One record book for the most points scored in a debut. And unless a new driver wins in his first race, it’s a feat that won’t be beat. (Next best is Felipe Nasr, who scored 10 points in his debut via a fifth-place finish in the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.)
With his second-place finish, Magnussen joined an exclusive group of drivers who claimed a podium in their Formula One debut. Jacques Villeneuve did it in 1996 (second) and Hamilton did it in 2007 (third). Both accomplished the feat in the Australian Grand Prix. Villeneuve went on to win the Formula One title in 1997 and Hamilton is now a five-time champion (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2018).
Not to be outdone, Grosjean added his own piece of history when he finished sixth in the 2016 Australian Grand Prix. That was Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s first race, and it stands as the best debut for any Formula One team since 2002 when Mika Salo finished sixth for Toyota, also at the Australian Grand Prix.
There is a new chapter that will be written in this 35th Australian Grand Prix – and the 23rd held at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit – and Rich Energy Haas F1 Team enters the race enriched with great expectations.