F1: The risks and rewards of Haas’s young line-up
Haas F1 endured a miserable 2020 season which marked the outfit’s worst performance ever since they joined in 2016. With fresh new faces in the form of rookies, how will Haas fair this season with such an inexperienced line-up?
Haas has gone from one of the most experienced and longest driver partnerships in the sport to a brand new line-up of drivers who haven’t even started a single race.
Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, who were team-mates at the American team for 77 races, which is seventh on the all-time list of most races as team-mates, have been dropped in favour of change.
With a combined age of 44, Haas’s 2021 line-up of F2 Champion Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin, both set to become 22 before their debuts, is the 11th youngest driver pairing the sport has ever seen.
TEAM-MATES: Mazepin leads Schumacher during an F2 race at Silverstone last year with Mazepin staying ahead until the chequered flag.
Mick Schumacher, son of Seven Time World Champion Michael, won the junior series to F1 last year and with his close ties to Ferrari, he’s continuing to follow in his father’s footsteps. There’s a lot of hype around Mick and expectations of him to achieve glory in the sport are very high.
Schumacher’s team-mate, Nikita Mazepin, hasn’t even stepped foot into the car yet and has already caused Haas a massive headache with huge backlash from the F1 community.
On the 9th of December last year, the Russian driver posted a video on his Instagram story of him inappropriately touching a woman’s breast whilst travelling in a car.
The video was deleted from his account and he immediately apologised for his "inappropriate behaviour”. Haas conducted and investigated the issue internally and are working with Mazepin to improve his behaviour.
With a limited amount of testing of only three days, it’s very likely that both drivers will initially struggle with the car and the handling of it. Not knowing what the car is going to be like at every single moment could lead to both drivers making mistakes and could leave Haas with a costly repair bill.
Mazepin is without a doubt a quick driver but his behaviour will be a big determining factor in how his overall season plays out and how it will affect Haas’s reputation. Earlier in his career in 2016, Mazepin was given a race-ban after punching a fellow driver in the face. The Russian, despite being quick, has yet to win a title in his career.
Schumacher on the other hand is the ‘real deal’ but his racing career has shown to date that in the first year of a new series, he struggles and it’s only in the second year where results start improving. Given Mick’s surname, alone brought a lot of pressure on the young German in his early racings days and that pressure is going to mount once he starts racing in F1.
With Haas’s weak 2020, points for both drivers will be seemingly hard to come by this year so a good working relationship between Schumacher and Mazepin will be essential. However, evidence already shows that Mazepin generally doesn’t have a good relationship with his past teammates and that Schumacher likes to focus on himself more.
What Haas will lose in experience and quality of driver feedback, they will gain in that both drivers are young and hungry for success. They are looking at the long-term impact this driver line-up will have.
In addition, both drivers come will heavy financial backing; something that Haas has been lacking over the past couple of seasons. Mazepin is the son of a Russian billionaire and will be pumping quite a lot of money into the team. This is where the term “pay driver” comes about where a driver is in the sport because of his financial backing, not because of his talent. Nevertheless, Haas will be happy that there will be money coming into the team.
With many teams carrying their 2020 challenger over in this season in order to reduce costs, Team Principal Guenther Steiner said that this year would be the “perfect time” to field a line-up of rookies.
This season of racing is being earmarked as a “transition year” with the new aerodynamic rules set to come into force in 2021 so this year’s car will not receive much development. Both drivers don’t have to stress about developing the car and will be focusing on understanding the car but also learning about the sport.
Both will undertake more press conferences, interviews and generally more time with the media more than at any other point in their careers so far.
This season will be a one of learning for both drivers and while the spot-light will be brightly shone on Schumacher, it may be Mazepin who will receive more attention for his actions. Haas probably won’t see the benefit of their strategy till 2022 but in the meantime, they have to get both of their drivers up to speed and make sure that they are ready for the world of F1.