A ‘Win’ for Haas F1 Team in Australia

Haas F1 Team takes P6 on their debut race in Australia  Photo: Peter Habicht

Haas F1 Team takes P6 on their debut race in Australia Photo: Peter Habicht

Romain Grosjean’s spectacular drive at the opening race of the 2016 season has signaled a strong return for America in Formula 1 with newcomers Haas F1 Team.

Taking 6th from 19th place on the grid at the Australian Grand Prix this weekend to score 8 points on the team’s debut, Grosjean said that it the race “feels like a win” for the team, who ran two cars for the first time ever together this weekend, having built a second after testing concluded in Barcelona just weeks ago.

“For all the guys who worked so hard over the last few weeks, this is unbelievable…The guys did an amazing job and I told them, this is like a win for all of us. First race and here we are, P6. A happy day.”

Team mate Esteban Gutierrez started from 20th, but was struck from behind and hit the barrier after McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso ran into the back of his car on lap 17. The result was a spectacular crash which saw Alonso hurtle over a gravel trap and into the barrier at terrific speed. Both drivers were out and emerged unhurt, with Alonso later remarking he got out of his car not knowing where he was on the track. The race was stopped as a result, with all cars coming back into pit lane.

McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso walks back from his collision with Esteban Gutierrez to speak with Gene Haas   Photo: Peter Habicht

McLaren Honda driver Fernando Alonso walks back from his collision with Esteban Gutierrez to speak with Gene Haas Photo: Peter Habicht

Preparation met opportunity while the cars were stopped, and the only work allowed to be performed by the teams was a change of tires before the restart of the race. After starting the race on Pirelli soft compound tires, Grosjean’s car was then fitted with medium compound tires, whose lack of traction but increased wear rating gave him the ability to skip a second pit stop – if he could make his tires last.

Holding off his rivals from much more seasoned teams, 39 laps later, Grosjean crossed the finish line to win 8 points for both himself and the team. This makes Haas F1 Team the first new constructor in Formula 1 to win points on their debut race since Toyota’s win in 2002, and the first American Formula 1 team to compete in 30 years.

Team owner Gene Haas was also pleased with the result after a spectacular debut, with aims to finish higher in the points in the future:

“We didn’t win it, but finishing 6th I think validates the fact that we have a team that can compete with the big dogs.”

America is certainly back in Formula 1, and has taken on the challenge head on.

“At the end of the day I think we can compete with these guys, race with them. It says a lot about American know-how, by putting something together we can compete with anybody.”

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Gene Haas’ Welcome to Formula One

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault Sport) Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Eric BOULLIER (McLaren), Maurizio ARRIVABENE (Ferrari), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing), Gene HAAS (Haas F1) Image: FiA

TEAM REPRESENTATIVES – Cyril ABITEBOUL (Renault Sport) Toto WOLFF (Mercedes), Eric BOULLIER (McLaren), Maurizio ARRIVABENE (Ferrari), Christian HORNER (Red Bull Racing), Gene HAAS (Haas F1) Image: FiA

Haas F1 Team Principal Gene Haas joined fellow team principals at his team’s first race this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix.  Friday’s press conference took place after two practice sessions in changing conditions, making progress a challenge on car setups and performance for many of the teams.  It also marked the first time the team had run two cars together, having only built the second chassis just two weeks before this weekend’s race.  The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on Haas, who replied what it had meant to him afterwards on Friday’ evening:

“Well, I’m nervous. I think there are a lot of things going on here that I’m new to, and the team is new, too.  So, putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together along with all the personnel and having it all come together for the first time has been a learning experience. That’s really what we’re here for is to learn how Formula One really operates from the ground floor.  Your can watch this racing your whole life but there’s nothing like being a participant to really understand it, and I have a lot of respect for the teams that are here and the level of technical competence you have to have to even start one of these races.  I think you have to look at it in terms of years… I have the feeling that if you over-anticipate what you can do in the sport it will humble you very quickly.  I think the first year or two just to be able to come to the races, be competitive, not make any major mistakes would be a tremendous achievement.  I know a few of our drivers are hoping to score some points and that would certainly be an accomplishment.”

For the new team in the Paddock, team principals in the conference were asked to give Gene and the team some words of advice:

Christian Horner, Red Bull:  I think it’s fantastic to have Haas join Formula One as an independent team, as a really credible independent team. Formula One’s a big challenge, it’s great to have an American, and a true American presence in Formula One. Words of advice… get a good lawyer!

Eric Boullier, McLaren Honda: Very similar. I think it’s very exciting for Formula One to have, as Christian said, a true American team and an American character like Gene joining us who had a deep understanding of racing, who has also useful experience in America with NASCAR, which he could share and I would be very happy to hear sometime. I don’t have any advice to give. He knows about racing enough and he is serious about what he had built already and I think it is going to be a nice surprise and maybe a difficult but a nice journey in Formula One.

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault: I was expecting that one. No. I think it’s interesting. I understand that you’re following and it’s interesting to see a new model, in particularly a collaboration with Ferrari because I think that there is a whole field of collaboration between teams which is not explored at this point in time by most teams, so I think I’ll be really curious and, to be honest, a bit frightened to see what it gives on Saturday. In terms of pieces of advice, I’ve heard a lot of people come in with big plans, willing to do things completely differently. So, don’t try to do things too differently because the good old recipes, they also work.

Toto Wolff, Mercedes: I think Gene doesn’t need any advice. He has done it very successfully in NASCAR and much more successful than all of us with his own company. If there is advice in Formula One it’s to manage expectations – because pressure is going to increase the better the results are and, the way you’ve been doing it, keeping both feet on the ground and staying humble, I think is the right approach.

Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari: I think that what I have to say, we are talking most of the time about teams that left or want to leave Formula One and not enough about people like Gene. He’s a serious person, financially reliable, committed and with a lot of experience. I don’t have to give him any advice – but I have to congratulate people like Gene Haas, that they want to invest in Formula One and they want to take this sport seriously and not as a kind of speculation. In terms of a lawyer, he got a good lawyer – but he’s using his lawyer properly.

When asked for some thoughts on arriving this weekend and what he’d like to share with American fans, Gene replied:

“… I’m sitting here in awe that I’m sitting among all these team principals from Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault and Honda and Red Bull, that’s pretty awesome for someone who… you look at these things in magazines. To be sitting among this group of elite is humbling, I can say that. It’s been a long journey, I’m not sure how I really got here but here I am. I think, if you probably ask everybody here, how you wind up here is somewhat unique.  Things in life, I guess you have to grab them. This is just part of the process of being able to compete at this level. It’s just awe inspiring. I know there’s some hard times ahead but I’m looking forward to it.  Looking forward to the challenge.”

 

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Guenther Steiner on Haas F1 Team in Melbourne

Haas F1 Team at the Australian Grand Prix

Haas F1 Team on the pit wall at the Australian Grand Prix

After arriving a week ago, this Thursday in Melbourne has given teams some time to share thoughts on the new season, and Haas F1 Team principal Guenther Steiner spoke with ambition and caution after only just building the team’s second car ahead of their inaugural race.

Since Winter testing finished last month, Steiner mentioned that there have been a few tweaks to prevent cooling issues, and no changes to the cars’ “go fast” parts.  Even after a mixed second week of testing (electrical problems and a turbo related issue limited track time), performance capabilities are beginning to be understood as the team pushes ahead with their chief mechanical and engine supplier, Ferrari.

Several Ferrari personnel are here to oversee their portion of the car’s components, and currently make up the roughly 60 Haas F1 Team members at the race.  Not including contractors, the number is roughly 110 with the factory included, with an additional 70 from chassis manufacturer Dallara and affiliated contractors.  A small total by comparison to the other teams in the paddock.

So how does Steiner expect the team to perform this weekend?

Points are possible, however testing didn’t reveal an optimum setup for Steiner: “…the car is a good platform, but we have to find the right setup.”

Teams are generally managing more unknowns than knowns at the start of the season, and for Haas the goal this weekend is to progress with an open mind, while gathering as much data and validation on the car’s strengths and the team’s ability to work together towards the best possible result.

Luck may play a part, however, as new qualifying rules could provide an opening for teams which get it right – and this year’s format is new for everyone.  A recent change to regulations makes for a timed elimination portion of sessions which is untried by teams and fans alike.

“For us the new qualifying system is better . . . I know that we can mess it up, but so can the others” says Steiner.  Established teams don’t just have to run through a program on Saturday that they’re already familiar with, so new qualifying this weekend may be an equalizer if, as he says, “the stars align”.

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