fbpx

Haas F1 Team: Same As It Ever Was

The refrain “same as it ever was” in Talking Heads’ 1981 hit “Once In A Lifetime” resonates 37 years later within Haas F1 Team. The only American team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship returns for its third season with the same driver lineup it had in 2017 amid relatively unchanged technical regulations.

Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen find themselves in another part of the world behind the wheel of a large automobile as preseason testing begins at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The two pilots will take the wheel of the Haas VF-18 during eight days of testing stretched over two weeks from Feb. 26 through March 9 at the 4.655-kilometer (2.892-mile), 16-turn track.

Grosjean has been with Haas F1 Team since its debut in 2016, and 2018 marks his seventh full season in Formula One. Magnussen returns to the same team for the first time in his career after spending single seasons with McLaren (2014) and Renault (2016), respectively.

That continuity behind the steering wheel extends throughout the racecar, as the VF-18 is an evolution of the team’s second car, the VF-17, which shepherded Haas F1 Team to an eighth-place finish in the 2017 constructors standings. Forty-seven points were scored by the VF-17 during Haas F1 Team’s sophomore season, 18 points more than the total earned in the organization’s inaugural 2016 campaign.

The lower and wider car of 2017 carries over into 2018, but with the significant addition of the halo cockpit protection device and a drastic reduction in the sharkfin. The added weight and higher center of gravity created by the halo, along with a change in the car’s overall aerodynamics, will be repeatedly analyzed by engineers as Grosjean and Magnussen turn lap after lap at the home of the Spanish Grand Prix.

Teams use these two weeks to prepare for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, where in a month’s time the 69th Formula One championship begins. While the title fight will likely be among the big-three teams of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, the midfield will be as stout as ever, with seven teams seemingly neck and neck as Haas F1 Team battles against Force India, Williams, Renault, Toro Rosso, McLaren and Sauber.

Every team seeks to improve, and after an offseason of CAD/CAM software engineering where theories are vetted on a 60-percent scale-model car in the wind tunnel, testing means real-world application.

With Haas F1 Team founder and chairman Gene Haas wanting to be within a half-second of Ferrari, with whom his team shares a power unit, gearbox and overall technical support, testing is where the rubber literally meets the road.

Born To Run

On Monday, Feb. 26, Haas F1 Team will perform a physical unveil of the Haas VF-18 at 7:40 a.m. CET on the pit lane outside of its garage stall at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The simple and straightforward offering will feature Grosjean and Magnussen in their Alpinestars firesuits pulling the cover off the Haas VF-18. They’ll pose for photographs with the car for approximately 10 minutes before heading back into the garage, where they’ll join crewmembers in preparation for the track going hot at 9 a.m. CET.

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal:

From the time the car first turns a wheel during the team’s production day to the first week of testing and then the second and final week of testing, what are you looking for and, more specifically, building toward?

“In the beginning, you just try to find the balance in the car. You learn what to do to find the balance to put the drivers in a spot where they like the car. Then you work on reliability. It’s stating the obvious, but when you have reliability, you learn more and you get more done.”

 

Explain the protocols for a day of testing. What do you need to do to ensure accurate data capture?

“Everybody just needs to do their job. Formula One is so specialized and it operates at such a high level that focus and attention to detail are very important. Everything needs to work and, particularly, all the sensors on the car need to work. That’s where you get a lot of your data.

 

“All our protocols and methodologies are running pretty smoothly. This is our third year of doing this. What we’re trying to do is get better prepared for the racetrack so we’re not having the ups and downs like we had the last two seasons. We are trying to stabilize that. It’s one of our biggest goals this year.”

 

What are your expectations for this year’s test?

“The expectation is always the same. We want to run as much as possible and to learn as much as possible. We’ve now got more people working back at the factory that can analyze data. Before, this was an area where we were perhaps a little weak. We’re growing. We’re always getting better, and to get better you need time. With having more people, we can do more to get prepared for the first race.”

 

For the first time in team history, you’re going into the season with the same driver lineup you had last year. How helpful is it to have that continuity?

“You don’t actually realize how helpful it is because you don’t have a worry. You know the guys, you speak to them, and everything is very smooth. It’s a good feeling.”

 

Brakes have been the team’s nemesis in its two years of existence. How much focus have you put into the car’s brake package this year to hopefully eliminate the kinds of problems you’ve experienced?

“We started last year working with another brake manufacturer. For this year, we should have a package that we’re all comfortable with. That was one of our goals. We haven’t tested on the car yet, but we’ve had dyno tests. When we go out in Barcelona, we’ll know what we’ve got. Our aim is to run just the one manufacturer everywhere. I hope we’ve achieved that.”

 

Grosjean has been with the team since its beginning, so this is the third car he’ll help develop. When it comes to brakes, and knowing how particular he is with his brakes, how important is his history with the team to find the feel he’s looking for?

“When you know somebody for three years and you respect him, it’s good because you don’t doubt. You know his strengths and his weaknesses. I think the combination of our two drivers is very good. With Kevin being here the second year, the same applies to him. We know his strengths and weaknesses. We’ll go into the first race better prepared than we were before. We can make a step forward this year.”

 

Grosjean’s feel for the brakes is different than Magnussen’s. When you have such a difference between driving styles, how do you find a brake package that suits both drivers?

“If the brakes are good for Romain, then they’re good for Kevin. It is not a worry for us. If the brakes work and Romain is happy, Kevin will be happy too.”

 

The car build is an arduous, stressful process, and it’s immediately followed by an arduous and stressful two-week test. How do you manage personnel to stay sharp and avoid burnout before the season even starts?

“We’ve gotten a lot better over the last two years. We’ve learned from past experiences. The first year everybody was there a long time. Last year, everyone was there a shorter time. This year, some of the people are there an even shorter time. You learn, and there’s less risk involved as you know more and how to work with your suppliers. We can narrow it down so when people get to Barcelona, and because we build our cars in Italy, they’ve at least not been away from home for three weeks already. They’ve been away the least amount of time as possible. We fly them home for the weekends. When they get to Barcelona they shouldn’t already be worn out like maybe they were in the first year. Barcelona is tough for everybody. We’ve got more staff onboard now. We’ve got a nightshift going. We’re just better prepared for our third year. We always try to learn from what we’ve done in the previous years and better it.”

 

Can you compare this year’s car build to last year’s, and what did you learn from last year that you applied this year?

“We have more confidence. In the first year, there were more risks. We didn’t have the experience to know what was truly needed, so we planned for a variety of contingencies. You have to provide for them even if they’re not necessary. Now you know how things happen, so you can just refine all your processes to get the result you want. That’s the biggest thing you can do with time. Next year, we’ll be even better.”

 

Change is a constant in Formula One, and a change at testing this year is a repaved circuit. How will Barcelona’s new surface affect your learning curve, specifically when it comes to tires?

“There’s a lot of talk about how it will be, but nobody actually knows. As I understand it, they’ve developed a very good surface from experience with other tracks. They’ve tried to run as many cars over it as possible before we get on track. We’ll just see when we go there. On the first day what you see will not be what it will be. I don’t know what day it’ll set in – when the track stabilizes. In fact, I don’t think anybody knows yet. What they did is for the benefit of everybody. It’s apparently a good, grippy surface, so it should make the racing more interesting.”

 

What is your measure of a successful test? Mileage? Speed? Reliability? Consistency? All of the above?

“You look at reliability, then you look at how fast you can run the car. Then it’s what you need to do to get it ready for Australia. It’s a combination. You just dig in there and keep on going. You try to do as much mileage as possible. If you do a lot of mileage, you learn about the car, you get data, and then you can better the car.”

 

When the test is over, where do you want to be?

“Hopefully, we are reliable. I hope we don’t have a lot of issues. That always helps and it gives you confidence for going racing. This year we only get three engines, so basically every engine has to last an average of seven races, which is quite a lot and demanding. Then we need to collect as much data as possible so we can analyze and get prepared for the first race.”

 

It’s called winter testing for a reason, and that’s because it’s usually cold. Australia, home of the season opener, is typically warm. What can you take from Barcelona and apply to Australia?

“There are a few elements you need to refine for Australia but, normally, what you learn in Barcelona you can take straight to Melbourne.”

Roman Grosjean – Driver No8

You and your wife, Marion, welcomed your third child, Camille, back on Dec. 31. As a result, has there been any “off” in your offseason?

“There hasn’t been a proper holiday, but we’ve had a very good time at home. We’re fortunate that we live in a beautiful place in Switzerland. I can go up the mountains and I can ski and train. So, no real time off, but some really good time at home, which is as good, if not better.”

 

Have you found that fatherhood has made you a better racecar driver as a result of being more prepared and organized?

“Kids help you to put things into perspective, in general. Whenever you have a good or a bad weekend, it doesn’t matter, as you just think about them and when you come back home, you’re always a superhero.”

 

Raising small children, especially newborns, takes a lot of time. How have you balanced what you need to do as a husband and father with your preparation for the upcoming season?

“A new baby is always a new challenge in the house. We’ve got a good balance and I’ve got all the time I need to get ready and prepared for the season.”

 

You participated in a cross-country ski race, La Transjurassienne, in the French Jura Mountains for the second straight year. How did you do and can you describe the experience?

“It was tough. It’s a really good event with a lot of people taking part – I think it was around 4,000 people. I was a bit too much of a Formula One driver. I started too quick. I was good for two-and-a-half hours, and then the last hour and a bit was a lot trickier. I didn’t get my nutrition right. This is obviously something we don’t have in Formula One because the race is only an hour-and-a-half to two hours, and we can’t eat in the car anyway. It was interesting. My fitness level is higher than it’s ever been and I’m ready to enter again next year and finish on a better note.”

 

Haas F1 Team was the first to unveil its 2018 racecar. What do you think of its look and what are your expectations of the car?

“It looks great. I like the colors. I like the fact that we’re back to something a bit more similar to what we had in 2016, which is very much the Haas Automation identity. The car itself, it’s pretty much the same philosophy. It looks like last year’s in some places, but there’s much more work behind the scenes. Everything’s been better prepared and I can’t wait to get out there and drive it.”

 

It’s your third year with Haas F1 Team and your second year with Kevin Magnussen as your teammate. How helpful is to have that continuity as Haas F1 Team continues to mature?

“It’s key for the team to be able to keep growing. Having the same driver lineup always helps. It’s what we need right now. There’s a lot of work still to be done to improve and to grow as a big team. I’m very much looking forward to working with everyone again and going for it.”

 

Change is a constant in Formula One, and a change at testing this year is a repaved circuit. How will Barcelona’s new surface affect your learning curve, specifically when it comes to tires?

“We just need to go out there and see what it does for us. We’ll see how the car behaves, along with the tires. We’re doing some simulator work, but every time we need to get that correlation with the track. It’s going to be very interesting to get out there on track and see how the car goes, then go back on the simulator and see how we can improve the car for the early part of the season.”

 

What is your measure of a successful test? Mileage? Speed? Reliability? Consistency? All of the above?

“It’s a little bit of everything. It’s mileage, it’s speed and it’s consistency, which is what you need in a race. You need to be reliable and you need to be fast. You need to have a car that allows you to go fast every single lap. It’s difficult to pick just one thing.”

 

When the test is over, where do you want to be?

“Ideally, within a second of the fastest car on the track. Even though testing is always a little unclear, you never know what people are doing with fuel loads and tires and so on. We generally have a pretty good idea of where we are. I want to be happy with the car and I want to be able to know where we can improve. I want a good early setup for Melbourne.”

 

It’s called winter testing for a reason, and that’s because it’s usually cold. Australia, home of the season opener, is typically warm. What can you take from Barcelona and apply to Australia?

“Well, that’s the difficult one and probably where we can work a lot with the simulator. First we need reliability, but that’s the same thing for every track. Then we need performance. If the car is feeling good and we know how to drive it, then we should be able to apply that to different tracks. We also now have the data from the previous years. We need to find a good setup to take to Australia.”

 

With the new regulations last year that resulted in much faster speeds, how did it change the way you make a lap around Barcelona?

“I think we all got used to how the new-generation cars are. Now they just feel like normal speed. Barcelona will just be Barcelona. Obviously, the car will be a bit faster because we’ve normally got more downforce in the second year of a new generation. It’s not like it’s going to be a big change though like it was from 2016 to 2017.”

Kevin Magnussen – Driver No20:

How did you spend the offseason?

“I spent most of it in Denmark with friends and family. It was nice to see everyone after a long season being away all the time. Now I’m ready to go again.”

 

You obviously kept up your training. Are there certain elements of your training that you prefer over others?

“I enjoy the weight training more, but everything has to be done. I can’t only do weights as it would make me too heavy.”

 

Haas F1 Team was the first to unveil its 2018 racecar. What do you think of its look and what are your expectations of the car?

“I think it looks good. There are some nice new bits on the car. My expectations are that we will improve. We need to not only improve on ourselves, but improve further to our competition as well. It’ll be exciting to see if we’ve done that. I have a positive feeling.”

 

It’s your second year with Haas F1 Team and your second year with Romain Grosjean as your teammate. How helpful is to have that continuity as Haas F1 Team continues to mature?

“It’s great. It’s my first time being with the same team for a second year in any series I’ve ever competed in. It’s a nice feeling going into a second season knowing everyone and having influenced the car development. I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Change is a constant in Formula One, and a change at testing this year is a repaved circuit. How will Barcelona’s new surface affect your learning curve, specifically when it comes to tires?

“A new surface is not just a new surface – there are all sorts of different tarmacs. Is it a rough surface? Is it soft? There’s all sorts of variables in different tarmacs. We’ll need to analyze that and try to understand it as it could very well change the behavior of the tire wear.”

 

What is your measure of a successful test? Mileage? Speed? Reliability? Consistency? All of the above?

“It’s the whole thing. If you have a fast car but it’s not reliable, you’re not going to have success. Likewise the other way, if it’s reliable but slow, that’s no good either. We need both.”

 

It’s called winter testing for a reason, and that’s because it’s usually cold. Australia, home of the season opener, is typically warm. What can you take from Barcelona and apply to Australia?

“Well, that’s the tricky thing. What you learn at Barcelona is not necessarily relevant for every track, actually very few of the tracks. At least with the old tarmac, it was very tough on the tires. You couldn’t really learn much, especially on the softer tires. We’ll see how the new surface is and what we can learn.”

 

With the new regulations last year that resulted in much faster speeds, how did it change the way you make a lap around Barcelona?

“You go flat out at a lot more places.”

 

Walk us through a lap around Barcelona, specifically in regard to where you’re flat out, what gear you’re in and where you now have to brake.

“Turns one, two and three – they’re pretty interesting. Turn two is now the important bit because the earlier you can get on power there, the better you’re going to be in three, which is a flat-out corner. You have to get on the power as early as you can in (turn) two. That section has changed quite a lot. Turn nine is pretty different as well – the uphill corner in the middle of the track. It’s a very fast corner, very nearly flat. I think I was on 98 percent throttle on one lap last year in winter testing. It’s very much close to flat, but not quite. That’s very cool. Those are the two main areas that are significantly different.”

 

User Login

Reset password or Register

Join

Contact us

Be part of Enzari

Sign up to our newsletter and receive your free copy of the “A brief history of Italian cars”