Haas F1 made history before and after the 32nd Australian Grand Prix Sunday in Melbourne. The organisation’s debut in Round 1 of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship marked the first time a US team had competed in Formula One since 1986. And after ending a 30-year drought for an American squad in Formula One, Haas F1 ended another drought for an organisation’s maiden F1 race.
After starting 19th, Romain Grosjean finished an impressive sixth, earning the team eight points in the constructor standings. The last time a Formula One team scored points in its debut race was in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix when Mika Salo finished sixth for Toyota.
The fortunate outcome was due in part by the misfortune of Grosjean’s teammate, Esteban Gutiérrez who was taken out of the race in a spectacular accident involving McLaren driver, Fernando Alonso. On lap 17 while entering turn three of the 5.303-kilometre (3.295-mile), 16-turn circuit, Alonso moved to the outside of Gutiérrez in an attempt to overtake.
Alonso’s right-front wheel touched Gutiérrez’s left-rear wheel. The impact launched Alonso into the air and sent Gutiérrez spinning into the gravel trap. Alonso clipped the outside retaining wall and then sailed over the gravel trap. His splintered car ended up on its side against another wall, whereupon Alonso climbed out. Gutiérrez quickly came to check on his fellow driver, and the two walked away unscathed from the harrowing accident.
With debris littering the track, officials displayed the red flag. The field came to the pit lane where the cars were stopped, and the only work teams could do to their cars was change tyres.
After starting the race on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow softs, the team took advantage of the red flag and changed Grosjean’s tyres to the Pirelli P Zero White mediums. While the mediums did not have nearly as much grip as the softs, they also did not wear out as fast. When the race went back to green, Grosjean was good to go the distance without pitting.
His strategy was to outlast and outrun as many of his counterparts as possible. He succeeded, with only five drivers finishing ahead of him, all of whom belonged to race teams with decades of experience. The sixth-place finish was worth eight points, placing Haas F1 Team fifth in the constructor standings.
F1 is back, and America is back in F1 in a big way.