After three years spent fighting at the back of the F1 grid, Haas now look to have built a car capable of being crowned the best of the rest in 2022. Kevin Magnussen brought his VF-22 to the chequered flag in fifth during Sunday's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, behind only Ferrari and Mercedes and ahead of the entire midfield pack. Magnussen's stunning weekend - his first back in the sport following a 12-month hiatus - saw him qualify in seventh and hold position heading into the final laps, allowing him to capitalise on a Red Bull's late reliability issues. Post-race, Haas boss Guenther Steiner described the return of his Danish driver as Viking-esque, but he could so easily have been directing his passionate comparison at Haas' return to the front half of the grid, as they picked up more points in one race than they had managed in last 49 combined.
Haas confident Bahrain result won't be a one-off
There was understandable celebration in the Haas garage following the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the team are confident that the result will be no one-off. Mick Schumacher, Magnussen's younger teammate, was himself unlucky not to find his way into the points after being turned around by Esteban Ocon. Their car showed impressive pace all weekend and, with the Ferrari power unit looking a powerful ally, Saudi Arabia's high-speed street course is a track that should suit their package well. "I'm pretty confident, because we have still a lot to learn about this car," explained Steiner, speaking to members of the media in Bahrain, including RacingNews365.com . "We didn't do a lot of set-up work because we just didn't do the running at the two tests, so we had a lot to catch up on there. "Obviously, now we're going to race tracks where, with this bouncing, we won't have the time we had here and in Barcelona to fix it. "We go to Jeddah and in FP1 we need to be ready. If we mess around with that one, we are nowhere."
What next for the Haas journey in Formula 1?
During their time in F1 so far, Haas have migrated between the front of the midfield and the very back of the grid. Their best season so far came back in 2018 when, in only their third year in the sport, they found themselves on the verge of scoring podiums with impressive finishes in Bahrain, Austria, Spain and Germany. Their choice of title sponsor has often left the team at the centre of controversy and, despite Steiner making clear that there is plenty of interest from a number of parties, they are yet to find a replacement for ousted backers Uralkali. But having pocketed 10 points on race day one, 2022 is already their best start to a new season, and Haas have high hopes of closing the gap between themselves and the sport's three big teams in the years to come. "I think we are a little bit away from that," explained Steiner, on the subject of Haas taking the next step. "I always said, even with a budget cap and the new regulations, the three big teams have got such an advantage of data, of knowledge from the past, that it will take a few years until the midfield catch up properly. "I think the gap is closer now, but we still need a few years to get there."
"We told you we would be back!"
While Haas have a long way to go before they get to where they want to be in Formula 1, the team can be proud of what they have achieved thus far. Steiner admits that he knew a competitive 2022 was coming after Haas abandoned their 2021 season to focus on the sport's new regulations, but few could have predicted such a sudden leap. "I was hoping for this, expecting it – we worked for it," continued Steiner. "I always said that in 2022 we would be back and, you know, we actually did it. It's not down to me, it's down to the team. "Everybody believed in the mission, to let that 2021 go and concentrate on 2022, and most of the people stayed with us. That's now down to them. "I think we had the plan and we executed the plan, and I think everybody on the team can be proud of this."
Steiner keen to keep up the momentum
Amid the Bahrain jubilation, the big fear for Haas will be that their fine performance is not replicated at any of the remaining 22 races. That was the case in 2019, when Magnussen's sixth-place finish at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix proved to be the team's best result of the season. For now, though, the early signs are promising, according to Steiner. "I'm pretty confident that we can be competitive, maybe not just in Bahrain," he continued. "Alfa Romeo is very strong as well, I must say, so I don't take it easy now that we are where we are. "We need to work hard and keep on improving the car, also with upgrades later on in the year, but that is what we are doing and I'm pretty sure that we'll keep on scoring points."