Mixed emotions for Haas F1 in Oz qualifying

It was a case of mixed results for the Haas F1 Team this morning in the first qualifying session of the season as Formula 1 kick started the season in Australia. Haas F1 drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen qualified sixth and 17th, respectively, for the Australian Grand Prix Sunday at the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne.

Grosjean’s performance gave Haas F1 Team its best qualifying effort to date, bettering its previous best of seventh earned by Grosjean in last year’s Brazilian Grand Prix. The Australian Grand Prix is the season-opening race of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship and it marks only the 22nd start for Haas F1 Team.

Grosjean set the 10th-fastest time in Q1 with a lap of 1:25.419 around the 5.303-kilometer (3.295-mile), 16-turn circuit to handily move into Q2. There, he set the eighth-quickest time with a lap of 1:24.718, solidly placing him among the top-10 and advancing him into Q3.

Q3 featured the heavy hitters of Formula One, with three-time and reigning champion Mercedes, four-time champion Red Bull and 16-time champion Scuderia Ferrari all represented. Grosjean held his own among these giants, qualifying sixth with a lap of 1:24.074.

Magnussen, meanwhile, ran wide at turn 12 on consecutive laps in Q1. His best lap was a 1:26.847, placing him 17th. Only the top-15 drivers move on to Q2.

Both Grosjean and Magnussen ran exclusively on the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire throughout qualifying.

Taking the pole for the Australian Grand Prix was Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. His fast lap of 1:22.188 set a new track qualifying record and was .268 of a second better than runner-up Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari. It was Hamilton’s 62nd career Formula One pole and his fifth straight, dating back to last year’s United States Grand Prix.

Before Grosjean, Magnussen and the rest of their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, they had one final practice (FP3) to dial in their racecars for a quick lap around the track.

Grosjean tallied 11 laps and set the seventh-fastest time with a 1:25.581 on his 10th lap. Magnussen also ran 11 laps and earned his best time on his final lap – a 1:26.138 that put him 10th overall. Both drivers secured their quick times using the Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tire.

Quickest in FP3 was Vettel, whose fast lap of 1:23.380 was .479 of a second better than his nearest pursuer, Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas. Vettel broke the all-time lap record at the Albert Park Circuit in the process, bettering it by .149 of a second. It was Vettel who held the previous record – a 1:23.529 set during qualifying in 2011 when he was with Red Bull. Of course, the record was short-lived as Hamilton’s pole-winning mark obliterated Vettel’s FP3 time by 1.192 seconds.

Roman Grosjean was naturally pleased, “Happy day. It was quite an unbelievable qualifying session for us. It’s a shame that we didn’t get Kevin there, but the car is looking good, even better than what we’ve seen recently. We’ve made some good progress over the weekend. There’s a lot more we can understand and analyze but, generally, it’s a great start for us.

“It’s always good to start with a strong qualifying session. It tells you that if you keep improving the car, you could be in a good place very soon. If that’s our baseline, and you can fight between sixth and 10th position, where it’s so tight, it would be great to be there most of the time and enjoy some good times.

“Tomorrow’s start is a big unknown. We’ve been practicing and some have been good, others not so much. Hopefully, we’ll get the first one right tomorrow.”

In contrast Kevin Magnusson wasn’t quite as pleased, “Went off the track in turn 12 on both of my laps – really annoyed with that. The car was there in qualifying. My lap was good until I went off. Both times my lap was good. I’m disappointed with that. We should’ve been a lot further up the grid. Now, I have to fight quite hard in the race. There’s still a lot that can happen and I will give it my best tomorrow.

“The good thing is the car looks competitive. Romain made it to Q3, which shows the potential of the car. I’m pretty sure I could’ve been very close to that if I hadn’t messed up and got off the track. I think I was just too keen to make up for my slow start to the weekend. I had a few places that I knew I had to sort out, and when you’re in qualifying trying to sort out things like that, it’s not optimal. It would’ve been nice to do that in practice, but that’s the situation I was in and I messed up by going off the track two times.

“I went for it and twice it went wrong. The first time I did it flat out to see where the limit was and I went off. The second time I asked for a little bit more front wing and I went a bit slower to get it right, but I didn’t get it right. It’s very annoying when you see how good the car is. I’m gutted not to be up there and give myself a better chance at some points.”

The team is showing good potential for tomorrow’s race, Team Principal Guenther Steiner confirmed “It’s been a great weekend for Romain. Not the same for Kevin. We had issues with his car. We couldn’t find a balance, so he didn’t run properly in the free practice sessions. He never tried the ultrasoft tire over the weekend, so he went into qualifying with an unknown. It didn’t work out. I think we made good progress in FP3 and it will come.

“Again, great for Romain. He put a lap down, second to none, I would say. Thanks to all the time again because what they did was fantastic. It’s our best qualifying – sixth-place behind the big ones. That’s great for the youngest team on the grid.

“I hope we have a good race tomorrow. We are ready for it. The car seems to be on a good pace, on the long runs as well. Hopefully, we can get Kevin further up the field in the race. I think even where Kevin is we can still go for points. If we get a good start, everything is possible for both. The start is new for everybody and I hope we get a good one. You don’t know but we’ll try our best.

“It’ll be an interesting day at the front end. It seems like it’s closer than it’s been in a long time. So, let’s see what happens.”

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