F1 2016: New boys Haas should be competitive in maiden season


There will be a new team in the paddock when the 2016 Formula One season begins in Australia this weekend and, if Gene Haas can replicate the success he has enjoyed in NASCAR, the sport could be in for a shake-up.

Having postponed their entry until 2016, Haas F1 take to the grid for their first race on Sunday using a Ferrari power unit, and the North Carolina-based outfit - also operating out of Marussia's former Banbury base - will be hopeful of making an impact.

Mechanical problems dogged their second pre-season test in Barcelona, with Romain Grosjean also leaving the track twice after the team had racked up 281 laps in the first test.

The French driver and team-mate Esteban Gutierrez each spent long spells in the pits because of issues with Haas' VF-16 - a fuel pump problem and a pair of turbo failures among the setbacks to blight the final four days for Haas.

But in Grosjean and Gutierrez, Haas have assembled a pairing capable of delivering points finishes should the difficulties with the car be resolved.

Former Lotus man Grosjean has 10 F1 podium finishes to his name and, although Gutierrez's brief time in the sport has only yielded six points, his potential is big enough to justify Haas giving the 24-year-old a second chance.

While he largely disappointed with Sauber in 2013 and 2014, the Mexican has previously won a GP3 title and caught the eye in GP2. A season as Ferrari's test driver in 2015 should have provided him with valuable experience.

Despite the prudent driver hires made by Haas, any kind of significant short-term success will be tough to come by as teams try to find a way to end Mercedes' dominance.

Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are once again favourites to win the constructors' and drivers' championships but, in the long term, Haas will be eyeing similar results to the ones achieved by their founder's NASCAR team.

Since starting life in 2003 as Haas CNC Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing have recorded 30 Sprint Cup Series race victories, with Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick winning the cup in 2011 and 2014 respectively.

It remains to be seen whether Haas can - in time - compete for F1 honours but, providing they can shake off their pre-season reliability issues, F1's newest team should be looking to trouble the sport's midfield in their debut season.