MIAMI GARDENS — The sole all-American owned Formula One racing team consists of a popular Danish driver, an up-and-coming second generation German driving star and an Italian team principal whose wit, smile and demeanor have made him a Netflix superhero.
That combination at Haas F1 Racing is a feel-good story in the paddock and an increasingly competitive on-track product that makes it easy for Americans to cheer them on this weekend at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix – the first of two F1 races stateside this year.
The opening two rounds of free practice on the 3.363-mile, 19-turn Miami International Autodrome around Hard Rock Stadium are slated for Friday. Opening practice is at 2:30 pm, followed by a second at 5:30 pm Qualifying is slated for 4 pm on Saturday and the Miami Grand Prix gets the green light Sunday at 3:30 pm
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“It’d be great to have a good result here because it’s America and I don’t feel like we’ve had that great result in the US yet,” said Haas driver Kevin Magnussen. “We owe the team that and we owe the US fans a good result in the US and we’ll try to do that this weekend.”
The Dane, Magnussen, 29, is especially motivated having rejoined the team weeks before the season-opening grand prix in March, replacing Russian driver Nikita Mazepin when world tensions suddenly made it untenable for Mazepin to remain with the team.
Magnussen, who also drove for Haas between 2017-2020, answered the call for a Second Act with a fifth-place finish in his first race back at Bahrain – scoring only the team’s fifth Top-5 grand prix finish – two weeks after accepting the new job.
He’s now scored points in three of the season’s four races – a fifth place and two ninth-place finishes – including the last grand prix, April 24 at Imola in Italy.
Michael Schumacher’s son had rough rookie season
Mick Schumacher, 23, has answered a rough rookie season with a promising start to 2022. The son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has been close to scoring his first points of the season and is encouraged to have a veteran teammate for his second -year campaign.
Schumacher nearly scored his first career grand prix points, finishing a career-best 11th at Bahrain. He was 13th at Australia. The Top-10 drivers score points at each race.
“I think it’s great,” Schumacher said of the team’s new driver line-up and encouraging early results. “Obviously he’s got a lot of experience in Formula One and being able to compare myself to him [Magnussen] and work with him is something which is very different compared to last year, but it is very positive. So I’m very happy about it.
“Those are the days when your character gets shaped,” Schumacher added of his frustrating 2021 rookie campaign.
Magnussen, a new father, is also the son of a racing great – sports car legend Jan Magnussen. He smiled when talking about the younger Schumacher and the opportunity to give guidance, to be an impactful teammate.
“It’s very relaxed,” Magnussen said of his relationship with Schumacher. “Mick is a nice guy. He knows what he is doing. It’s very easy to be very open with him because he is very open himself. He’s not someone who makes excuses.
“He’s honest with the team, honest with himself and I think he’s very easy to work with. The team likes him. He’s a great driver. He’s won in F3 [Series]. He’s won in F2 [Series] prior to getting to Formula One. So he’s earned his place here and he’s going to do well.’
That kind of positive energy for the Gene Haas-owned team was evident Thursday circuit-side; lots of smiles, a busy paddock area and most telling, an unmistakable uptick in expectation.
“They’ve had two very tough years and I think it [an improved 2022) was part of the strategy,’’ Magnussen said. “I think they realized in ’19 they’d gone off track from where they wanted to be. And doing 2020 probably shifted focus very early to this new generation of cars. A lot of effort has gone into this year’s car at the expense of the development of the last couple of year’s cars. I think that’s why you’ve seen some very big lows for Haas in the last two years and why you’re seeing a comeback for the team.’’
Guenther Steiner’s body language would indicate as much. The team principal, regaled for his sharp wit and competitive zeal, was smiling as he made his way around the paddock area as teams and drivers got settled for the weekend’s competition. He could barely walk 10 feet before being stopped for a quick chat or to pose for a photos with a fan.
Steiner, who holds duel citizenship in the United States and Italy, and resides outside Charlotte, N.C. and in Italy – is visibly encouraged by the performance of his team in 2022. Especially after not scoring a single point in 2021.
“I think we will get there. In Bahrain our race pace was actually equal to our qualifying pace,’’ Steiner reminded. “There are some things we can always get better at.
“Once he scores his first point,’’ he spoke of the young Schumacher, “normally things get easier because you’ve overcome a hurdle and then you’re motivated to get on to better things.’’
Guenther Steiner star of ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’ on Netflix
In the meantime, Steiner will carry on – backslaps with his friends, waves across the garage and most importantly for Haas F1, handshakes and “well-dones” after the races as they pack up and carry on for the next stop. Feeling more confident than they have in years.
The Haas upswing also delivers great expectations for the hugely-popular Netflix series “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” – which announced Thursday plans to film two more seasons with the series. Steiner is arguably the most popular of the documentary’s subjects. Judging from the reception he got Wednesday night at the track during a special fan welcome event – Steiner is as beloved as he is respected.
And although the Haas F1 Team is still looking for its first win on-track, this series has already delivered a big victory for the team away from the track.
“I didn’t hear it, I didn’t realize it,’’ Steiner insisted when asked about the crowd reaction when he was introduced Wednesday night trackside. “You don’t hear a lot up there [on stage]. It is what it is, what can I do, they [Haas drivers] should get more cheers. They should get more cheers than me.
“I appreciate it, but have I changed? No,” Steiner said of his increasing celebrity status, adding, “More people may recognize you but I think it’s good for everybody, good for the team, good for Formula One. There aren’t many negatives.”