KANNAPOLIS, NC (WBTV) - The first American led Formula One race team in thirty years made history before and after the 32nd Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.
The Kannapolis based Haas F1 team ended a 30-year drought for an American squad in Formula One, and Haas F1 Team ended another drought for an organization's maiden F1 race.
"A lot of people have contributed to this, so we have to thank all the people, starting with Guenther Steiner (team principal) who put all this together and kept pushing me to go out and try this,' said team founder and chairman Gene Haas. "The Ferrari people have been excellent. They've helped us a lot. Dallara helped us build the chassis. We've got a great sponsor in Haas Automation. It's all great."
After starting 19th, Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean finished an impressive sixth, earning the team eight points in the constructor standings.
The last time a Formula One team scored points in its debut race was in the 2002 Australian Grand Prix when Mika Salo finished sixth for Toyota.
"A very good day at the office. This feels like a win," Grosjean said. "For all the guys who worked so hard over the last few weeks, this is unbelievable. We were unlucky yesterday, but got a bit lucky today with the red flag. Still, we were able to hold off the Williams (Valtteri Bottas) and the Force India (Hulkenberg). We didn't have much set-up (time) on the car. It was a case of, off you go and see what happens. This is an unbelievable feeling. The guys did an amazing job and I told them, this is like a win for all of us. First race and here we are, P6. A happy day."
The fortunate outcome was due in part by the misfortune of Grosjean's teammate, Esteban Gutiérrez, who was taken out of the race in a spectacular accident involving McLaren driver Fernando Alonso. On lap 17 while entering turn three of the 5.303-kilometer (3.295-mile), 16-turn circuit, Alonso moved to the outside of Gutiérrez in an attempt to overtake. Alonso's right-front wheel touched Gutiérrez's left-rear wheel. The impact launched Alonso into the air and sent Gutiérrez spinning into the gravel trap. Alonso clipped the outside retaining wall and then sailed over the gravel trap. His splintered car ended up on its side against another wall, whereupon Alonso climbed out. Gutiérrez quickly came to check on his fellow driver, and the two walked away unscathed from the harrowing accident.
"It's not the race I was hoping for," Gutierrez said. "However, the most important thing is that Fernando and I are both OK. The car was handling well and the results show we can be very competitive. Romain did a great job for the team. To achieve points in our first race is fantastic. I'm now looking ahead and focusing on Bahrain. I can't wait to get back out racing."
With debris littering the track, officials displayed the red flag. The field came to pit lane where the cars were stopped, and the only work teams could do to their cars was change tires.
Opportunity knocked and Haas F1 Team answered.
When the race went back to green, Grosjean was good to go the distance without pitting. His strategy was to outlast and outrun as many of his counterparts as possible. He succeeded, with only five drivers finishing ahead of him, all of whom belonged to race teams with decades of experience.
The sixth-place finish was worth eight points, placing Haas F1 Team fifth in the constructor standings.
The race was won by Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg with his teammate Lewis Hamilton finishing second, and Sebastian Vettel taking third.
Round 2 of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship is the Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir. Practice begins April 1, qualifying takes place April 2 and the race runs April 3.