Romain Grosjean returned the Haas team to the points positions at the Russian Grand Prix, but admits he is more encouraged by what is to come from the F1 newcomer.
After successfully navigating the second corner chaos, Grosjean jumped from his original 15th place on the grid to run eighth and, with only one pit-stop for tyres planned, remained in the points-paying places throughout the 53-lap encounter. Swapping Pirelli's supersofts for the more durable soft compound at his sole stop, the Frenchman made his rubber last for fully 36 laps, as the Sochi Autodrom's ultra-smooth surface allowed him to push without having to worry unduly about tyre wear.
This proved to be important, as Grosjean had to hold off the recovering Force India of Sergio Perez, who had been caught up in the opening lap melee and dropped to the very back of the pack after repairs, but charged up the order to finish ninth after being a constant presence in the Haas' mirrors.
“It's great to be back in the points, especially after a very difficult weekend where we were never very happy with the car,” Grosjean said, referring to handling issues that bedevilled his practice and qualifying efforts, “It was a good first lap to avoid all the incidents, and then I kept Perez behind to the end.”
Grosjean's third point-scoring result in the four races so far this year – and his sixth in his last seven outings across 2015 and 2016 – saw him to climb one spot in the championship standings to seventh, but he is more excited about what he believes is to come from the VF-16.
“There are still so many things we can improve on the car,” he insisted, “I'm still not a hundred percent happy with the behaviour but I think, for the next race, it's going to be so much better. It's very positive knowing that we have something that will become better.”
Grosjean's Sochi performance, along with his efforts at the season-opener in Australia and the year's second race in Bahrain - where he finished sixth and fifth respectively - means that Haas has scored more points finishes than any all-new programme this millennium, beating the two both Jaguar and Toyota managed in their entire 2000 and 2002 campaigns. The US-based team now sits fifth in the constructors' standings, just 29 points behind fourth-placed Williams and five ahead of Toro Rosso.
“It's a fantastic result for the team, being in the points,” team principal Gunther Steiner commented, “After the last two days of testing and qualifying, we didn't expect to finish eighth, but we were always aiming for the points and we pulled it off again. It was a great race from Romain to keep his position, fighting left, right and centre. It makes F1 interesting...”