By Michael Cords
Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article.
HAAS F1 seeks return to form at the majestic Spa Francorchamps circuit
Forty-nine years ago Dan Gurney guided his gorgeous Eagle-Weslake V-12 around the public roads connecting the towns of Spa, Francorchamps, and Stavelot. Finishing more than a minute ahead of Jackie Stewart, it marked the only victory of an American driving an American-made Grand Prix car. While it was not the last time an American team climbed the top step of an F1 podium, it remains the most iconic.
This weekend, the Haas F1 Team comes prepared to get its season back on track. While no one seriously expects the freshman Amercian team to claim victory, the classic track nestled in the Ardennes could provide the venue for the team to continue its early season form. Lead driver Romain Grosjean took three points finishes from the first four races, but has only added one more from the remaining eight. The Frenchman did stand on the bottom step of the podium last year and he speaks with excitement at the prospect of facing one of his favorite tracks with the new team. “It’s just a great track. There are very high-speed corners and there are a lot of turns, different types, some high speed, some low – just a good variety overall. It gives you a good feeling to drive.”
Grosjean’s third place came as the result of some strategic decisions. Team boss Geunther Steiner recognizes that strategy, especially with the prospect of a safety car, is their best hope. “The strategy depends on what lap the safety car comes out on, which tire we are on, and if we should come in or stay out.” Wet weather, Mercedes driver shenanigans, or a merciless Eau Rouge could all deliver such an opportunity to take advantage of the safety car. Truth be told, Haas is in a bit of a slump. The pace of development in F1 is relentless and the improvement of Force India and McLaren have left Haas reeling and dropping down the constructor’s list. Those early races now seem like a distant memory. An opportunistic race is more likely than one of outright pace.
Will the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix be remembered in the same historic sense as 1967? Certainly not, though it will be important for Haas F1. They must get their second half of the season off to a good start. A solid points finish is not exactly an historic win, but it will be welcomed by the American team all the same.