Uralkali Haas F1 Team was always going to have a challenging 2021 season to say the least. The team announced early on that they would freeze development on their 2021 car. This decision was made, so that the team could focus all of its attention and resources on 2022 and F1’s effective reset button. As such, the team was prepared to find itself at the back of the grid at every race. However, Team Principal Guenther Steiner has commented recently at the delight he has had seeing his cars start closer towards the front as a result of engine penalties to their more illustrious rivals.
In Formula One, much like in life, when opportunity comes knocking you must be ready to answer. Due to penalties in recent weeks for Scuderia-Ferrari, Aston Martin and current Constructors’ Champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team for taking new parts, Uralkali Haas F1 Team is relishing being closer to the front of the grid when the lights go out on Race Day.
In the team’s official press release ahead of this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, Team Principal Guenther Steiner was asked whether he has seen an improvement in the confidence and ability of his rookie drivers – Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher - as they get used to the chaos that can come with the first corner and opening lap drama?
"It is a very good thing for our drivers that this is happening at the moment, so they're not always starting last and second last, or at best, 17th and 18th. It's a little bit more forward. We're still hoping that at some stage with everybody having to change their engine, we will end up on pole position but I think we're running out of time for this year.” Steiner explained.
Although the final remark was one in line with the style which has made Guenther Steiner a fan favourite on Netflix Drive to Survive, the team has certainly found itself in situations it had not been expecting.
“Starting in these positions trains them more for next year, when we hope to start from these positions by our own means, with a better performing car. It's a big opportunity for them to learn and take stuff in, as every time they do one of these starts, they learn a lot about how they have to behave and how to get the best out of it." Steiner concluded.
The first thing that Haas F1 Team’s rookie drivers will be taking in this weekend, is whole new surroundings.
This weekend the Uralkali Haas F1 Team heads to the Autódromo Hermanos Rodriguez, for Round 18 of an as yet ‘pointless’ F1 season. On a track featuring two lengthy straights, the slowest car on the grid will no doubt struggle once again. Nevertheless, at over 2,200 metres above sea level, the air has less density. As such this track can become a war of attrition in that it affects both aerodynamic and power unit ability. All of these variables will be quite a challenge for rookies Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher experiencing the circuit for the first time. Steiner just hopes that his drivers enjoy the experience as he knows expectation is low.
"Going through that stadium, for a driver, must be a fantastic feeling - it's like being a football player in a full stadium. It's nowhere else than in Mexico so I think when they experience it for the first time, they will be saying "wow" and after that, they will never forget about that first time. "
Many a critic may feel that motivating a team with so little chance for success may be a thankless task but Guenther Steiner is aware that with a triple header on the horizon, keeping team morale up is huge and also would impact 2022.
"It's tough but it's also a period of time you get used to in some ways, and I think we'll go into that at one stage and it will be normal. We will adjust and always do our best for our employees to make it as comfortable as possible. We keep morale up, which I think it is now, as we can all see the end of the season and we're all looking forward to the 2022 car. That's the biggest motivator at the moment over the last five events."
With three DNFs to rivals at the last Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team crossed the line in 16th and 17th and this showed again the reliability of the team’s supposedly underperforming car. With 5 races to go of a challenging season, they may yet profit from a highly unlikely P12, P11 or even P10 starting place if all these penalties continue – though Steiner would not bet on it and nor would I.
Nevertheless, with a much-loved team principal, a fan-favourite in Mick Schumacher and a growing fan base across the world, 2022 could very well be the year that all the pieces fall into place for the Uralkali Haas F1 Team.