Despite rain falling on Haas F1 Team’s parade in the German Grand Prix Sunday at the Hockenheimring, the American squad made the most of the adversity thrown its way when intermittent rain showers disrupted its strategy and scuttled a likely double-points finish.
Romain Grosjean made a spirited drive in the waning laps following a safety car period between laps 53-57, powering his way from 10th to sixth in the final 10 laps.
Teammate Kevin Magnussen, who started fifth and held that position for the first 13 tours around the 4.574-kilometer (2.842-mile), 17-turn circuit in Baden-Württemberg, wound up just outside the points in 11th.
Prior to rain hitting select portions of the track on lap 44 and leaving other parts bone dry and bathed in sunshine, Haas F1 Team was en route to its second double-points result of the season.
The spotty showers brought chaos, however, with the unpredictable weather putting teams in the difficult position of deciding how long to stay on slicks before switching to intermediate rain tires and, ultimately, when to return to slicks.
In the case of Haas F1 Team, each driver made three pit stops. The first round went as scheduled, with drivers swapping the Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tires they used to start the race for a new set of White mediums that would have taken both drivers to the finish. Magnussen stopped on lap 20, dropping from sixth to 10th. Grosjean came in on the following lap, going from eighth to 15th.
Tenacious drives by Magnussen and Grosjean combined with the pit stops cycles of their counterparts allowed the duo to return to the top-10, and as rain began to fall over certain portions of the circuit, Magnussen was up to sixth and Grosjean was eighth.
Some teams began opting for intermediate rain tires on lap 45 despite most of the track remaining dry and quite hot, as the sun still shone on most portions. But by lap 52, the rain intensified, which was exemplified when Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the lead.
This brought out the safety car and Haas F1 Team took advantage, bringing both its drivers into the pits. Off went the slicks and on went the Pirelli Cinturato Green intermediate tire to each of their Haas VF-18s. Grosjean returned to the track in ninth and Magnussen came out in 11th.
Yet as quickly as portions of the track were wet, the sun reappeared and those same sections quickly dried. Haas F1 Team double pitted Grosjean and Magnussen on lap 56, ridding their cars of the intermediate tires and replacing them with Purple ultrasofts.
When the race returned to green on lap 58, Grosjean was 10th and Magnussen was 12th.
Grosjean was able to make the most of the 10-lap dash to the finish, which continued to see bursts of rain wreak havoc among the field. Grosjean tiptoed his way to sixth while Magnussen stayed mired in 12th, but was awarded 11th when Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr., was assessed a 10-second time penalty for overtaking during the safety car period.
Eleven rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team is tied for fifth with Force India in the constructors’ standings with 59 points apiece, 21 points behind fourth-place Renault with an 11-point margin over McLaren and a 39-point advantage on Toro Rosso. Magnussen is ninth in the driver’s championship with 39 points and Grosjean is 13th with 20 points.
“That was good fun. It was a good end to the race. Obviously, we didn’t quite get the right choice putting inters on, as the track dried really quickly for some reason. It was a bit of luck, a gamble, but we came back on slicks, and I had amazing fun through those last laps. I was just pushing it to the limit and going for it. I think we would’ve been quite happy to be where we were before the rain came, and then, obviously, it rained. The boys deserved a really good drive from me, and I had fun doing it.”
“Obviously, it wasn’t ideal to end up outside of the points after being P6 for the whole race. We didn’t quite get the best out of the weather situation. We’ll just have to learn from that and do better next time.”
Guenther Steiner – Team Principal:
”I think it was a case of damage limitation today. It was a very eventful race. We still need to analyze exactly what happened, what we could’ve done different. I don’t say even better, because we don’t know yet. But, we got away with eight points, so I think it was damage limitation. I think the race was an interesting one for everybody.”