Haas F1 Team Fifth in Standings Entering Season’s Halfway Mark at Hockenheim

Are they for real? Three years ago, that was the question many were asking about Haas F1 Team. The first American Formula One team in 30 years was still in the process of building its first racecar and eight months away from its racing debut in the 2016 Australian Grand Prix.

That year’s preseason test in Barcelona helped tamp down those queries at least a little bit when way down at the far end of the paddock, an immaculate trio of transporters sat with a large, red circle “H” emblazoned across shiny, gray paint. And behind those transporters was a sharp-looking entrance to a garage area, further emulating the colors of Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America. Inside that garage, attended to by a phalanx of crew members in uniforms matching the team’s branding, was the VF-16, Haas F1 Team’s very first racecar. It was tangible evidence that Haas F1 Team was, in fact, for real.

But testing and racing are two very different endeavors, so there remained some skepticism about how Haas F1 Team would fare in actual competition. The skeptics were silenced when Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean finished sixth in Australia – his best result since coming home third in the previous year’s Belgian Grand Prix. The performance earned eight points for Haas F1 Team in the constructors’ standings and it placed the new kids on the block an unfathomable fifth, buttressed by teams with decades more experience. The last time a Formula One team had scored points in its debut race was in 2002 when Mika Salo finished sixth for Toyota at the Australian Grand Prix, a span of 14 years.

In its inaugural year, Haas F1 Team scored a respectable 29 points to finish eighth in the constructors’ standings. It eclipsed that tally in 2017, earning 47 points en route to another eighth-place finish. Yet in its third year, Haas F1 Team has surpassed its entire point tally from last year before even hitting the halfway mark in the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship. Fifty-one points have been scored by Haas F1 Team 10 races into the 21-race marathon thanks to the efforts of drivers Kevin Magnussen and Grosjean. The duo has rung up points at six grands prix so far this year, including a double-points finish in the Austrian Grand Prix two races ago that netted an impressive 22 points.

Haas F1 Team is regularly battling for best-of-the-rest status behind the powerhouse trio of Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull, taking the fight to such established Formula One teams as Renault, Force India, McLaren, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Williams. Proof is in the team’s fifth-place standing in the constructors’ ranks where it is 19 points behind fourth-place Renault with a two-point margin over sixth-place Force India, a three-point gap to seventh-place McLaren and a 32-point advantage on eighth-place Toro Rosso.

The ultra-competitive midfield is as tight as ever, leading Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner to say, “There is not really a midfield anymore. It’s just the rest. There’s the top-three and then the rest. Everybody from fourth to 10th can be competing for points this year.”

Haas F1 Team aims to ring up another round of points at the series’ next stop – the German Grand Prix at the Hockenheimring. The 4.574-kilometer (2.842-mile), 17-turn track in Baden-Württemberg has hosted Formula One since 1970, with this year’s event serving as the venue’s 36th grand prix.

The Hockenheimring of today is very different from the one Formula One first visited in 1970. Gone are the incredibly long straights through the forest, consigned to history via a redesign in 2002. The current circuit, however, is still plenty fast, with drivers reaching speeds in excess of 335 kph (208 mph) in the opening section alone. Drivers are at full throttle for more than half of every lap, putting exorbitant stress on engines and the fuel they consume. Fuel management is of utmost importance, and with the right application, can be achieved without sacrificing lap time. Efficient corner approaches can lead to fuel efficiency and overtaking, particularly at the hairpin in turn six and the tight turn eight. The juxtaposition of speeds between the straights and corners gives this revamped Hockenheimring plenty of character and plenty of sight lines for fans in attendance.

With Renault in its sights and Force India and McLaren remaining large in its mirrors, Haas F1 Team plans to parlay this power circuit into another passel of points.

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal:

After three straight races, how did the team, in terms of personnel, hold up?
“We can’t forget that our team also had an additional test after Silverstone, so they’ve had three-and-a-half weekends of racing. They just finished on Wednesday with the Pirelli test at Silverstone. I’m sure everyone was tired, but the good thing is we scored good points over the three events. That makes the pain of having three events a lot easier. It’s something I personally feel is tiring. You cannot breathe between races because you have to keep on going and going. When you do try to relax, you know that you’ve been working three weeks in a row, and the same goes for the team. I hope they can recover and be fresh again for Hockenheim.”

In just its third year, Haas F1 Team is consistently fighting for best-of-rest status behind Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. Considering the history and resources available to other midfield teams, what does this achievement say about Haas F1 Team and its potential?
“I think we proved that it is possible to start a team from new and be competitive in the midfield. Obviously, we are very conscious that we cannot compete with the big three, but I think it’s testimony to a good plan and good people.”

If you were told back at preseason testing in Barcelona that Haas F1 Team would enter the halfway mark of the season fifth in the constructors’ standings, what would’ve been your reaction?
“After testing, we were cautiously optimistic that could be achieved, but it’s still a difficult task as all the other teams in Formula One are very good teams – there is nobody who is uncompetitive. There is not really a midfield anymore. It’s just the rest. There’s the top three and then the rest. Everybody from fourth to 10th can be competing for points this year, as we’ve all seen. Now, being fifth, it’s nice to be there. After testing it was realistic to think we could be there, but we were very conscious that it would be hard work, and it is hard work, actually.”

Now that Haas F1 Team is fifth in the constructors’ standings, what is possible for the second half of this season?
“I think with the potential of the car we have shown over the last three races, it is possible to aim for fourth. If we achieve it or not, that’s a different question. I don’t want to be arrogant and say we will finish fourth, because by no means is it a given. We are competing with three very strong teams for this position. We will try, we will give it our best and, hopefully, we end up fourth.”

Much was made about the unprecedented run of three straight races, but it was a stretch of races that worked pretty well for the team with a haul of 32 points across the French, Austrian and British Grands Prix? How satisfying was that run of three straight point-paying finishes?
“I would say it is satisfying, but it isn’t. We could have had a lot more points, and we missed out on them. We need to make sure that we are not keeping on missing points, because these are the points we will miss at the end to finish fourth.”

Can the pace and performance you had in France, Austria and England continue in Germany, or will the Hockenheimring’s array of tight corners prove slightly troublesome?
“We are a little bit worried about the tight sector of Hockenheim, as it’s very slow. Then again, we will work on it to do our best. For sure, the car is more competitive on high-speed corners. It’s actually very competitive on high-speed corners. We’ve had some issues on the slow-speed tracks. Let’s see what we can do on Friday to set the car up to get over our deficiencies on the low-speed portions. Maybe we’ll find a little bit of speed there and still be competitive.”

Haas F1 Team introduced significant upgrades to the Haas VF-18 in Canada, and while you felt there was promise after competing in the Canadian Grand Prix, it wasn’t really seen until we got to the power circuits of Paul Ricard, the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone. What makes the Haas VF-18 better at those tracks compared to tracks that are more compact with tight corners?
“It’s just the aero specification we’re running. The majority of the racetracks are not low speed, so our aero people didn’t focus too much on that one, but more on the tracks where the majority of the races are held. Aerodynamically, the car is better on high-speed corners.”

The Hockenheimring is a track where fuel consumption is high. Is there anything you have to do during the race to ensure your drivers have enough fuel to finish the race?
“Yes, we have to do some lift-and-coast, but everyone is in the same boat. Now, that’s something you sometimes have to do anyway to save a little bit with your tires. But on these high-power circuits, we do have to do some lift-and-coast. All four engine manufacturers are very similar in this regard, so it’s nothing special, but it’s still something we need to look after.”

Fuel levels are set to increase in 2019, from the current allotment of 105 kilograms (27.3 gallons) to 110 kilograms (28.6 gallons) in order for drivers to use the full power of their car’s engine at all times. What can a driver do with those five extra kilograms (1.3 gallons) of fuel? Does it give them the freedom to push as hard as they want, whenever they want?
“On a lot of the circuits, yes, the drivers can push as hard as they want because they have more than enough fuel to go the distance. But on some other circuits there is still some lift-and-coast, and lift-and-coast is sometimes done for other reasons, not only for fuel consumption. Sometimes, it’s to save your brakes or to save your tires. But in theory, most of the tracks with a 110-kilogram limit allow you to be wide open for the whole race. It does add some strategy to the race, as you can either go wide open or save tires, and whatever suits you or your car better, then that’s the choice you make.”

You’ve competed at the Hockenheimring and the Nurburgring in your Formula One career. Do you like one over the other, or do they both have characteristics you enjoy?
“I think they’re both very nice. Nurburgring is normally very particular because they’ve got a good fan base there, a very loyal motorsport fan base. Of course, Hockenheim, in the old days, in the Schumacher days, it was a very big event. It’s always a great event”

Romain Grosjean:

In just its third year, Haas F1 Team is consistently fighting for best-of-rest status behind Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. Considering the history and resources available to other midfield teams, what does this achievement say about Haas F1 Team and its potential?
“The potential of the team is big. That’s what I’ve been saying for a long time. This year, we’ve shown that we’re capable of being fast at most of the tracks, and it’s been really promising. It’s good news and it’s been a good effort from everyone on the team. Barcelona, Paul Ricard, Red Bull Ring, Silverstone – they’re all places where we’ve been really strong at different types of circuits. The team has made a lot of progress. The potential has been there since day one. We’re ready for more.”

If you were told back at preseason testing in Barcelona that Haas F1 Team would enter the halfway mark of the season fifth in the constructors’ standings, what would’ve been your reaction?
“After the first day in the car, I knew that was possible.”

Now that Haas F1 Team is fifth in the constructors’ standings, what is possible for the second half of this season?
“We can do even better. We can still improve. If you look at the standings, I don’t have many points at the moment, but we will work even harder to make sure we don’t have any more issues. I think we can aim for the fourth position.”

Can the pace and performance you had in France, Austria and England continue in Germany, or will the Hockenheimring’s array of tight corners prove slightly troublesome?
“We’ll see. I think we’ve made some good progress understanding the car at low speed. I’m hopeful we’re going to be alright.”

Haas F1 Team introduced significant upgrades to the Haas VF-18 in Canada, and while you felt there was promise after competing in the Canadian Grand Prix, it wasn’t really seen until we got to the power circuits of Paul Ricard, the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone. What makes the Haas VF-18 better at those tracks compared to tracks that are more compact with tight corners?
“We’ve been good everywhere, except Monaco, to be fair. The latest upgrade we had is a really good step forward. It makes the car better in low speed, as well. I think high speed we’ve got a really good balance. It’s a really consistent car with good downforce. In low speed, we know we can improve a little bit more, we know where, but the car is not bad either. I think we could actually be alright in Germany and in Hungary.”

You’re at full throttle for a little more than half of every lap at the Hockenheimring. How do you go about managing fuel without sacrificing track position?
“To be fair, I haven’t looked at the numbers. I don’t know if we need to do fuel saving or not with the downforce we’ll be running. We’ll find out on Friday.”

You’ve competed at the Hockenheimring and the Nurburgring. Do you like one over the other, or do they both have
characteristics you enjoy?
“I actually like both. I’ve got some good memories from Hockenheim and the Nurburgring. I probably prefer the Nurburgring as a track, but I became European F3 champion at Hockenheim back in 2007, so naturally I like the place as well.”

How has the Hockenheimring changed since your junior career, and are those memories rekindled when you return for Formula One?
“It actually hasn’t changed at all since those days. It’s always great to visit somewhere with good memories. I won at the circuit in Formula 3, and in Formula Renault 1.6. I won there in the GP2 Series until a post-race penalty dropped me to second. Every year is different, though. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. The important thing is to make it count now.”

What is your favorite part of the Hockenheimring?
“The entry into the stadium section is definitely my favorite part of the Hockenheimring. It’s amazing. You’re coming in from really fast corners, then you just turn into a very narrow section of the track. It’s fun.”

Describe a lap around the Hockenheimring.
“After the start-finish line, the first corner is the most exciting one. It’s a very high-speed, right-hand side corner. Normally you brake just a little bit, just one gear downshift, and then you’re on a straight line. Turn two with tricky braking and certainly very tricky throttle application. You’re turning from right to left to go on the main straight. You really want to go on the power as early as you can to get a good straight line. Big braking for the hairpin next. Coming back to the Mercedes corner, a right-hand side corner flat out, then braking to the 110 degree left-hand side corner. Again, there’s a challenging throttle application there as you’re turning right straight after, just about flat. Then entering the stadium, there’s a bit of braking to the right-hand side, very high-speed corner. The Sachskurve is a very high-banked corner, left hairpin. It’s quite open, though, with a few lines through it. Then you go to the last couple of corners – they’re quite famous. You try to carry as much speed as you can to the first one, and go as flat as you can for the second one to get a good lap time.”

Kevin Magnussen:

In just its third year, Haas F1 Team is consistently fighting for best-of-rest status behind Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. Considering the history and resources available to other midfield teams, what does this achievement say about Haas F1 Team and its potential?
“It’s a great achievement. The first three years of Haas F1 Team have been massively impressive. Everyone on the team can be proud of what’s been achieved already. Of course, we’re going to try and do better every year, but we’re already at a level that is hard to maintain.”

If you were told back at preseason testing in Barcelona that Haas F1 Team would enter the halfway mark of the season fifth in the constructors’ standings, what would’ve been your reaction?
“I think in Barcelona (at testing) we realized that our car was pretty handy. Our expectations then were already quite high. I’m not surprised by this point to be fifth in constructors’ championship. We’ve got the potential in the car to be even higher than this. We should aim to keep this position, or even target one more position. I think Renault is very consistent, but we can beat them at times, and we have done many times this year. Most of the time we’re level with them on pace, so it should be possible to keep fighting for this position all the way to the end.”

Much was made about the unprecedented run of three straight races, but it was a stretch of races that worked pretty well for you with a haul of 20 points across the French, Austrian and British Grands Prix. How satisfying was that run of three straight point-paying finishes?
“Those three races were good – scoring points in all of them. I was quite happy with that.”

Can the pace and performance you had in France, Austria and England continue in Germany, or will the Hockenheimring’s array of tight corners prove slightly troublesome?
“Germany has a mix of corners with high, medium and low-speed turns. It’s a good, all-around track. I think it will be possible to overtake there as well. Let’s see. I think it’s probably not a track we’re looking forward to the most in the season, but we can still score points, I’m pretty certain.”

Haas F1 Team introduced significant upgrades to the Haas VF-18 in Canada, and while you felt there was promise after competing in the Canadian Grand Prix, it wasn’t really seen until we got to the power circuits of Paul Ricard, the Red Bull Ring and Silverstone. What makes the Haas VF-18 better at those tracks compared to tracks that are more compact with tight corners?
“Our car is good at high-speed corners. It performs really well in those. That’s why those tracks were good, with a blend of high-speed and medium-speed corners. We’re a little bit less strong in the low-speed stuff, and on bumpy tracks it can be challenging. So, let’s see if we can improve those weaknesses.”

You’re at full throttle for a little more than half of every lap at the Hockenheimring. How do you go about managing fuel without sacrificing track position?
“I don’t know yet if the Hockenheimring is a higher fuel-consumption track. We’ll see about that. If it is, it’ll be the same for everyone, so managing track position is not really an issue.”

Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at the Hockenheimring?
“I’ve raced there many times and I’ve won races there in junior categories. I remember in my first year with McLaren I had a good qualifying, getting P4.”

What is your favorite part of the Hockenheimring?
“Turn one is challenging – really sharp apex at really high speed. It’s difficult to get right. You’ve got this big hump on the inside of the apex that you’re trying to get as close to as possible. If you hit it though, it can cost you lap time. It’s a difficult corner. Then the entrance to the stadium is pretty cool as well, then the corner after that with lots of banking. It’s pretty cool as well.”

Describe a lap around the Hockenheimring.
“There’s a good flow of mixed corners, big braking zones, good medium-speed corners with banking, high-speed corners, and overtaking is possible. It’ll be an exciting race.”

 

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