Romain Grosjean has described his and Haas' unexpected run to sixth position on its Formula 1 debut as 'unbelievable' after an astute strategic call saw it gather huge ground from 19th on the grid.
Making its much anticipated first F1 appearance at the Australian Grand Prix, though a bungled qualifying session saw Grosjean down on the penultimate row, he was showing positive pace in the VF16 as the American team focused on a long first stint.
Rising to ninth position as others peeled in ahead, Grosjean was preparing to make his stop – the last driver to do so – when the race was halted on lap 18. Essentially granting Haas its pit-stop for free given every team can change tyres for the restart, a switch to medium tyres would allow him to go to the end.
Resuming in ninth, Grosjean ascended up to sixth place at the expense of the retired Kimi Raikkonen, before benefiting from the pit-stopping Toro Rossos too. With Nico Hulkenberg unable to challenge in the Force India and Grosjean – who says there was no set-up work done on the car before the race - maintaining form, he would cross the line to complete spectacular result for the new American team.
“We had a good pace, we didn't do any set up work, we just put it on track. It stayed in one piece and went pretty quick, so quite impressive. We have confidence, we have a good baseline. It wasn't easy but with the limited amount of running this is unbelievable.”
Discussing whether he thought a sixth place finish could have been possible before the race, Grosjean said he was eyeing a possible point, but didn't expect such a haul so quickly.”
“I was thinking we could be between 15th and 10th and maybe scoring points. I said we will score points early in the season, but this is a lot of points early I the season. It feels like a win. It is a perfect day, we managed everything well, it is a beautiful day.”
Haas' result makes it the first all-new team to score on its F1 debut since Toyota in 2002, when Mika Salo finished sixth in Australia, albeit in a race with just seven finishers. Prior to that, only Sauber fared better with a fifth place on its 1993 debut.