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Haas F1 Team Bullish on Prospects at Red Bull Ring

With an upgraded Haas VF-18 that has proven quick since its introduction two races ago at the Canadian Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team is bullish on its prospects for the Austrian Grand Prix Sunday at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, where the third-year American outfit will make its milestone 50th grand prix start.

The Haas VF-18 wielded by drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen has been fast all season long, and it’s at power circuitswhere the car’s attributes come to life, as evidenced by the team’s fifth-place finish in the second race of the year at Bahrain which has since been augmented by two sixth-place drives – May 13 in the Spanish Grand Prix and last Sunday in the French Grand Prix.

The man delivering these performances is Magnussen, who is enjoying a breakout season with 27 points scored eight races into the 21-race calendar. To put his point tally in perspective, it eclipses his point total from the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined. As a result, Haas F1 Team is in sole possession of seventh in the constructors’ standings, one point behind sixth-place Force India with an eight- point margin over eighth-place Toro Rosso.

Still shy of the season’s halfway point, the midfield battle in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship remains compact, so it’s fitting that the series heads to the compact Red Bull Ring.

The 4.318-kilometer (2.683-mile) track in the foothills of the Styrian Mountains operates on a condensed version of the Österreichring, which held Formula One races from 1970 until 1987. It is a relatively short circuit with only Monaco, Mexico City and Interlagos (Brazil) being shorter. It has just 10 turns – the fewest in Formula One – but covers a wide range of conditions.

The Red Bull Ring is essentially made up of four straights, each ending in tight corners. This puts a premium on traction and strong, straight-line speed. The prime overtaking zone comes at turn three (Remus), where after heavy braking drivers navigate the sharp corner in either first or second gear. Juxtapose that section with the high-speed turn nine (Rindt), which drivers take at sixth gear, pushing the limits of their car and their resolve.

Resolve is in abundant supply at Haas F1 Team, with the scrappy American squad successfully vying for best-of-the-rest status behind the behemoths of Formula One – Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. A win remains coveted, but reality dictates that points- paying finishes inside the top-10 are the true goal of Haas F1 Team and its midfield counterparts.

That being said, the Red Bull Ring is the site of the last Formula One victory by an American team. It was 1976 which, coincidentally, was the Unites States’ bicentennial celebration, when Irishman John Watson drove a Penske PC4 to the win over the Ligier ofFrance’s Jacques Laffite with a convincing 10.79-second margin of victory.

Speeds in the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix eclipsed 220 kph (136 mph) while speeds in last year’s Austrian Grand Prix breached the 240 kph (150 mph) mark. It’s a clear illustration of the decades-long arms race that continues in Formula One today.

Despite being the youngest team on the grid, Haas F1 Team is battling head to head with the Formula One establishment, some of which competed at the previously known Österreichring 42 years ago. And armed with an upgrade that made an already fast Haas VF- 18 even faster, Haas F1 Team comes into the Red Bull Ring ready to ring up another round of points.

Romain Grosjean:

Much is being made of this unprecedented three-race stretch of consecutive races. But for someone who makes his home inGeneva, does this slate of races actually work well for you since they’re all relatively close to home?

“I think it doesn’t change much, to be fair. If you’re living in Europe, wherever we’re going, it’s the same.”

You predicted that the pace you had in Canada would carry over to France. That seemed to be the case, and it seems to have given you a more real-world understanding of the updates the team brought to the Haas VF-18 in Canada. How has the car performed and what do you think that portends for the Austrian Grand Prix?
“At the Austrian Grand Prix, we were fast last year, so I’m very much looking forward to going back there this year. It’s a cool circuit, nice location, and the car was working very well in France, so I’m very happy with that. Hopefully, that’s going to keep being the casein Austria, and at Silverstone, and some more, because I think we’ve got the potential to do that.”

You come into Austria with back-to-back top-10 finishes in the Austrian Grand Prix, specifically, sixth last year and seventh in 2016. While past performances aren’t always indicative of how you’ll perform in this year’s car, does it at least provide amental advantage in that you know what you need out of the car to be successful at the Red Bull Ring?
“I think we always know what we need from the car. The last two years have been good in Austria. It’s a circuit I quite like, and it’s anice place to be racing. Hopefully, it’s going to be the same case again, and we can really score some big points and come back andfight in the constructors’ championship.”

How helpful is it to have back-to-back grands prix where the same tire compounds are being used? Or in this case, is there carryover in tire data between France and Austria since the tires used in France were thinner compared to the ones you’ll usein Austria?
“The tires are going to be a bit different with the different tread size. We now have a much better understanding of the tires in general.It’s clearly a key to performance, and the guys are doing a great job helping us find what we need.”

The Red Bull Ring is a relatively short circuit, but its layout covers a wide range of conditions. Is it akin to some other tracks in Formula One or is it unique?
“It’s a funny place to race being in the middle of the mountains. The circuit is very short. The lap time is almost like Monaco. There are some overtaking opportunities. I like going there, and the surrounding area looks a lot like Switzerland.”

Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at the Red Bull Ring?

“The first time I raced the Red Bull Ring was in Formula One in 2014. I have no moments there from my time in the junior categories.It’s a track I quite like and I’m very much looking forward to it.”

What is your favorite part of the Red Bull Ring?

“The two last corners. It’s very high speed going down the hill. There’s the compression halfway through the corner and it gives you alot of grip, and that’s really nice.”

Explain a lap around the Red Bull Ring, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.

“The biggest difference is the high-speed corners – five, six, seven, eight and nine – the whole of the last sector. You carry much more speed and it carries such a good feeling. With these cars, it’s faster and even better. I’m very much looking forward to going there and racing.”

Kevin Magnussen:

Much is being made of this unprecedented three-race stretch of consecutive races, but you’ve said you love to race as much aspossible. Does this slate of races actually play to your strengths since there is no let-off and you’re able to be in your racecar and with your engineers on a very consistent basis?
“I don’t really think about these three races being consecutive races. We just get on with the job and do our normal thing. Of course, it’snice to be in the car often, and probably by the end of these three races, you might feel like you’re in a good rhythm, but we’ll see.”

You predicted that the Haas VF-18 would perform better in France and at other power circuits on the Formula One schedule. That seemed to be the case, and it seems to have given you a more real-world understanding of the updates the team brought to the Haas VF-18 in Canada. How has the car performed and what do you think that portends for the Austrian Grand Prix?

“We’ve shown that the car is good at the higher-speed circuits. We’ve shown our weakness is the lower-speed tracks, like Monaco and Canada, and probably Singapore will be challenging as well. We’ll just have to work on those weaknesses. The car is working well at most of the other circuits.”

How helpful is it to have back-to-back grands prix where the same tire compounds are being used? Or in this case, is therecarryover in tire data between France and Austria since the tires used in France were thinner compared to the ones you’ll usein Austria?
“We’re obviously learning every weekend, and trying to use what we’ve learned at the next race. Each track is different, and you’re going to have to learn about the tires every time.”

You’ve described the Red Bull Ring as a short, roller-coaster ride? Despite its relatively short length, you’re able to generatesome significant speed. Is the Red Bull Ring kind of your ideal track, where you can push the limits time after time in search of more and more speed?

“The Red Bull Ring is a good little circuit. It’s a little bit unique. It’s a very small area. It kind of reminds me of a go-kart track in that you can basically see the whole track from the grandstands. It’s quite nice and compact, but still with some fast corners and longstraights, giving some opportunities to overtake. When I’ve raced there, it’s been entertaining. It’s a fun little track.”

What is your favorite part of the Red Bull Ring?

“I would say turns eight and nine – the last two corners of the track, they’re cool. They’re challenging with the off-camber, then the on-camber. First, in turn eight, the track leans to the outside, then at turn nine, it leans to the inside. It’s pretty challenging.”

Explain a lap around the Red Bull Ring, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.

“It’s like a short rollercoaster ride.”

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal:

Austria marks Haas F1 Team’s milestone 50th grand prix. Considering this team was built from scratch and there were doubts by some that it would actually make it to the grid in 2016, how satisfying is it to hit this milestone while also fighting among the top teams of the midfield?

“You don’t realize it’s already our 50th grand prix with Haas F1 Team. Time goes by quick in life in general, but in F1 I think it goeseven quicker. We can be proud with what we’ve achieved. We just need to get more points from this season. We have a very good car where we can be the best of the rest, and we need to convert that into points so that at the end of the season, we are the best of the rest.”

You predicted that the pace you had in Canada would carry over to France. That seemed to be the case, and it seems to have given you a more real-world understanding of the updates the team brought to the Haas VF-18 in Canada. How has the car performed and what do you think that portends for the Austrian Grand Prix?

“We saw the potential of the upgrade in Canada, but we literally just couldn’t use it at its full extent because of the start positions. Onthe data though, we saw that the upgrade was working and, obviously, we proved that in France by qualifying with both cars in the top- 10 and in the race with Kevin (Magnussen) finishing sixth. Going to Austria, we are confident that it will work like it did in France.”

How helpful is it to have back-to-back grands prix where the same tire compounds are being used? Or in this case, is therecarryover in tire data between France and Austria since the tires used in France were thinner compared to the ones you’ll usein Austria?

“Back-to-back races with the same tires –it’s difficult to say it’s an advantage because the track surface is different and you use the tires differently. We use the tires we get as best as we can and try to get the most out of them.”

The Austrian Grand Prix marks the middle of an unprecedented three-race stretch. What are your thoughts on this batch of races, and how do team personnel balance the travel and time at the track with their home life?

“It’s difficult to balance for them. We try to get some of the guys home between races. The good thing is that the third grand prix is Silverstone, so for our race team, it’s close to our Banbury base. It’s different for the teams based in mainland Europe – they’re awayfrom home. Most of our personnel who work in England live somewhere near the factory, which is near Silverstone, so they can atleast see their families. Otherwise, it’s not easy to handle, but we will see. We’ve never done it before, so we’ll see how it comes out. I think because we are a small team, if not the smallest, we are the easiest to move around with all of our equipment. The bigger teamshave the big motorhomes, and for them it’s even more difficult than for us. Nevertheless, we will know more in about two weeks and how it impacted our personnel.”

There is talk of increasing the number of races on the Formula One calendar, exceeding the current slate of 21 races. What is your take on the amount of races in Formula One, and do you have an ideal number in mind?

“I don’t think there is an ideal number, and I don’t think the plan is to increase it a lot. I don’t think we should increase it if there is nofinancial gain for it. If there is a financial upside to it, we can plan better with exchanging people, or send them home after, or send some people out earlier and home later, or something like that – we can deal with it. But if we have the same amount of money and wejust do more, we are working a lot more for the same amount of money, which means you’re getting less. Nobody is striving hard to get less, so we need to keep that in mind. Also, I think we need to be careful that we’re not oversaturating the people which are interested in Formula One. If we have a grand prix every weekend, it’s not news anymore. Liberty Media is well aware of these elements of it, and they will handle it accordingly.”

There is also talk of tweaking the format of race weekends. What have you heard, and how would any kind of change impact the current processes you have in place to prepare the car and team for practice, qualifying and the race?

“Different parties have different opinions and objectives. The promoters like to have us at the racetrack on a Friday running around because the people show up and want to watch us. If we just do a Saturday and Sunday event, somebody will not be happy – maybe the promoters, which I understand. Otherwise, it’s very difficult to tweak the weekend. To cut a day out, it’s the only saving you couldmake. It was mentioned to have a sprint race on Saturday, but I think that’s an idea that’s already in the past. Qualifying is still a very integral and interesting part of Formula One on a Saturday afternoon. If we just start on Saturday, and maybe have two sessions then qualifying in the afternoon, we could go racing on Sunday.

“I cannot comment if a sprint race is off the table completely, but I don’t favor to race on Saturdays. First of all, it eats into our race on Sunday. If we have two races, it has a diminishing effect on the Sunday race because you’ve already had one on the Saturday. That’s why qualifying is an event in itself. It’s a very exciting, emotional event, and a very good one. It’s also not only that you could have damage, you need to have double the amount of spare parts around, and you need to have them as you’re doing two races. The chance of having damage is much higher. It’s double than just having one race. You need to make sure you’ve got enough spares for tworaces. The transport costs would be huge, to just send around all the material, and all the investment in parts would be a lot higher. Idon’t know if it is off the table, but it’s not something I’m in favor of.”

The United States is on track to have two Formula One races in 2019 with the potential addition of the Miami Grand Prix. What are your thoughts on a second Formula One race in America? Does it help Haas F1 Team in the sense that Americanscan see more of their home team, and does it also help grow Formula One’s global footprint?

“I think it’s good for the sport to have a bigger North American presence because it’s still the biggest economy in the world. I think we’ve got a little bit more interest in Formula One in America now. I don’t know how much of that we’ve contributed to and how much Liberty Media contributed to, but Formula One in America seems to have a little bit of traction at the moment. A second race would be great, especially at a place like Miami, which should attract international guests and travelers. That’s always good foranybody, having people come from outside. By boosting the overall interest in Formula One in North America, Austin will benefit as well, because people who go to Miami also go to Austin, or people who cannot go to Miami, will go to Austin instead of Miami. Ithink it’s a very good thing to have two races in North America, and it would be fantastic for me. It would be a second race for me inthe same time zone I’m living in.”

The Red Bull Ring in Spielberg is relatively close to your hometown of Merano, Italy. Do you view it as a home race of sorts?

“Yes, of sorts, but I’ve got many home races in my life. I have one in Austria, one in Italy, which is Monza, and one in the United States. Red Bull Ring is relatively close to where I come from and is only about a five-hour drive from my hometown.”

 

 

 

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