Mid-Season rating: four out of ten.
Going into the 2021 Formula 1 season the Uralkali Haas F1 Team knew they would be up against it, after the team decided not to put any development into their 2021 car and instead focus on 2022. Team Principal Guenther Steiner would have been fully aware of the difficulties that lay ahead. The season so far has perhaps been even more difficult than the team could have imagined, with rookie drivers Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin being the only drivers on the grid to have failed to score a point. However in what was predicted to be a challenging season for the Haas team and both drivers, there have been some positives to take from the season so far.
The biggest positive of them all is the stellar job being done by 2020 Formula 2 world champion Mick Schumacher, son of the great Michael Schumacher. The German driver has quickly become recognised as Haas’s number one driver after out-performing his team-mate at every race. The rookie has amazingly finished every race so far this season in what is an incredible feat, considering he is driving the most challenging car on the grid. His performances have even caught the eye of Scuderia Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto, who is eager for Schumacher to remain at Haas for 2022.
Schumacher’s best finish so far this season was an impressive twelfth at the chaotic Hungarian Grand Prix, where he showed that he isn’t afraid of battling with the best after going up against a wounded Max Verstappen. He has even made an appearance in second qualifying, sort of! The German crashed on his final qualifying one lap at the French Grand Prix, meaning his car was unable to take part in second qualifying. Overall plenty of positives to take from the opening half of the season for Schumacher.
For Nikita Mazepin, his biggest positive from the season so far comes off the track rather than on it. The Russian went into the season on the back of a social media meltdown, all caused by a video posted by himself containing behaviour not acceptable by anyone, especially someone in the privileged position which he is in as a Formula 1 driver. There was demands from the Formula 1 community for Mazepin to be dropped by Haas, with plenty of negativity directed towards the team through social media comments.
Despite this, Steiner stated the team would stick with Mazepin and give him the education needed for him to improve as a person, and understand how to behave on social media. It appears that the team have stuck by their word, either that or the Haas marketing team deserve a raise! Mazepin has gone from a fan’s worst nightmare, to a fan favourite for some. It does seem that the Russian has had a change of attitude, the don’t care mentality Mazepin demonstrated in Formula 2, has been replaced with a friendly, funny character who is appearing on the team’s social accounts and in broadcasters pre-race productions, much more often.
Mazepin may be becoming more popular off the track but on the track is a different story. The Russian rookie has definitely not made himself popular amongst his fellow drivers so far this season after disobeying blue flags on multiple occasions. The most notable coming at the Spanish Grand Prix, the Russian held up eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton during his pursuit of Verstappen. He also held Sergio Pérez behind at the Portuguese Grand Prix, to the frustration of the Mexican.
It has clearly taken Mazepin longer to get up to speed in Formula 1 compared to his team-mate, however he has shown some signs of improvement, especially in qualifying. At the opening round of the championship at Bahrain, Mazepin qualified 4.2s behind pole-sitter Verstappen, at the most recent round at Hungary he was only 3.5s behind the pole-time. The rookie is clearly stepping in the right direction, on a Sunday though is where it counts and his best race finish to date is fourteenth at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Similar to his team-mate, Mazepin can take plenty of positives from the season so far.
So despite having the most difficult car to manage on the grid, there are plenty of positives for the Haas side, however as the four rating suggests there is also an abundance of negatives.
The biggest problem the team has faced this season is just how poor the car is, Haas are now the only team this season to have failed to score a point after Williams Racing’s huge points haul at Hungary. It leaves the team on the verge of being left behind this season, with Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN now being the next closest team to Haas on three points. The team will be hoping for more chaotic races in the second half of the season, like the race that unfolded at the Hungaroring. If not then it will result in the teams worst finish since joining Formula 1. With no development put into the 2021 car, could they really have expected anything less?
Finishing last in the constructors does of course mean that Haas would receive the lowest amount of money awarded at the end of the season, the one thing they don’t want their drivers to be doing based on this highly likely outcome is crash. Unfortunately for Guenther Steiner, the rookies have done this a lot. Mazepin crashed out of the opening race in Bahrain and has had several spins and collisions with the barrier since. Schumacher on the other hand, apart from a collision with the wall at Imola, has made it through the races themselves relatively cleanly, unfortunately for Schumacher the same can’t be said about his free practice three performances.
The German has failed to take part in two qualifying sessions this season, most recently at Hungary and also at Monaco after heavy crashes late on in the final practice session, leaving the team with insufficient time to fix the car. Both drivers perhaps need to learn when the right time to push is, especially when they are behind the wheel of not only the slowest but also the most difficult car to control this season. Steiner too hasn’t dealt with the crashes well, the team principal has recently told the press that he is reaching his tolerance levels. Haas aren’t the richest team in the paddock by a long shot, meaning that each crash is a very costly one for the team’s budget.
Overall, it’s been a challenging start to life in Formula 1 for Schumacher and Mazepin, however amongst all the negatives they both do have reasons to be somewhat happy going into the second half of the season. With so much focus being put into 2022 development by the team, they should be back into the midfield next season where they belong giving the team and the drivers something to look forward to.
They still have plenty of races before that though and with Alfa Romeo only sitting on three points despite having a much stronger car, Haas still remain in with a shot of not finishing last which could be crucial for the teams budget and also a huge shock. Both drivers need to keep their head down and most importantly keep their car out of the wall, unless they want to face the wrath of Steiner!