Haas F1 Team Set To Debut in PreseasonTesting at Barcelona
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Feb. 14, 2016) – It is not the season-opening race of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship, but the upcoming tests Feb. 22-25 and March 1-4 at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya carries much of the expectation of a season opener as Haas F1 Team makes its debut.
After numerous press conferences and social media updates that chronicled the team’s progression from cool idea to tangible entity, Barcelona marks both a culmination and a beginning.
It has been 30 years since America last fielded a Formula One team. Ironically, that 1986-era team was owned by Carl Haas, who has no relation to Gene Haas, owner of Haas F1 Team and founder of the team’s title partner, Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America.
That an American entity is back in Formula One is no small feat. Consider that Haas F1 Team was awarded a Formula One license in April 2014, and it is February 2016 when the team gathers for the first time to put its car on the racetrack. In that time, more than 100 people have been hired, spread across bases in three countries – Kannapolis, North Carolina; Banbury, U.K.; and Parma, Italy. A technical partnership with Scuderia Ferrari was formed, with the most successful team in the history of Formula One providing Haas F1 Team its power unit, gearbox and overall technical support.
Experienced drivers in Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez were signed and, along the way, transporters were built, tools were ordered, parts were machined, firesuits were made and those pieces and many others were logistically organized to circumnavigate the globe from February’s first test in Barcelona to November’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.
It all comes together in Barcelona, where the first racecar Haas F1 Team has ever built is literally put to the test. While nearly two year’s worth of work will be on display on the 4.655-kilometer (2.89-mile), 16-turn circuit, it’s really just the start of Haas F1 Team’s Formula One endeavor. Two four-day tests spread over 12 days is all Haas F1 Team has to ensure its racecars for Grosjean and Gutiérrez are up for the first of 21 grand prix race weekends in 2016.
The longest schedule in Formula One history begins March 20 in Melbourne, Australia. Between the travel from Barcelona back to Haas F1 Team’s European base in Banbury and the outfit’s arrival in Melbourne prior to the race weekend, only 10 days are available to the team. In that time, the lessons learned from Barcelona are applied to their cars before they’re loaded up for a flight to the land down under.
Spain’s motto is “Plus Ultra” which translated from Latin means “Further Beyond”. It is a fitting motto for Haas F1 Team too, with the American team needing Barcelona to take it further beyond testing and into the cauldron of a grand prix weekend.
Born to Run:
Haas F1 Team will debut its first racecar at 7:50 a.m. CET on Monday, Feb. 22 on the pit lane outside of its garage stall at the Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The simple and straightforward offering will feature Grosjean and Gutiérrez in their Alpinestars firesuits pulling the cover off Haas F1 Team’s inaugural racecar. 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.
Haas F1 Team Driver Lineup for Barcelona Test No. 1 (Feb. 22-25)
Monday, Feb. 22: Grosjean
Tuesday, Feb. 23: Gutiérrez
Wednesday, Feb. 24: Grosjean
Thursday, Feb. 25: Gutiérrez
Haas F1 Team Driver Lineup for Barcelona Test No. 2 (March 1-4)
Tuesday, March 1: Gutiérrez
Wednesday, March 2: Gutiérrez
Thursday, March 3: Grosjean
Friday, March 4: Grosjean
Guenther Steiner: Team Pricipal
Explain what happens during a test.
“In our first test of the season and first as a team, you try to make sure everything works as you designed it. You just prove out whatever you did, and in the second part of the test, you try to get performance out of the car. Or, better said, you try to get performance as quickly as possible. First of all, make sure everything works. Everything is new on the car. The first test is quite important just from a reliability factor. You try to learn as much as possible about the car. You get the baseline on the car and you work off that baseline the rest of the year.”
What are your expectations for the test?
“Because we are a new team, you want to make sure all the people work together – the mechanics work together with the race engineers – to make the car reliable, to understand the car. Everything is new for us. It’s not only a new car, but a new team. In the second test, hopefully we put ourselves in a position to start work on the setups of the car to where we can learn how to make it better for the race.”
How do you manage personnel during a test, as it seems to be a 24-hour work day, everyday?
“At the test, there is no limit to how much we can work. We have a day and night shift. In the old days, which weren’t so long ago, it was the same people doing the day and night shifts. What is done now is you have people coming in around 6 p.m. and have dinner with the guys from the day shift, so they exchange what they learned and know what they have to do. The (night shift) guys take over and work until the sun comes up, then the day shift comes in again and you do the same thing. They have breakfast together and some go to sleep and the others go to work.”
How do you prevent personnel from burning out?
“What you do normally, because at the test you run only one car and have two mechanic crews, you swap them over on the second test. You still have to be careful because you will have some who don’t want to go home. They want to stay, so you have to tell them ‘No, your time is over.’ It is quite a challenge. We try to give them a Saturday or Sunday off before they go to Australia. These guys, when they come back to the workshop after the second test, have to rebuild the cars before they are shipped to Australia. You have to be careful so they aren’t burned out.”
How much of an undertaking was it to build a Formula One team from scratch and be ready for Barcelona?
“For sure, it’s a big undertaking. But you don’t realize it because you do it day by day. You never get up in the morning and think I have a big job in front of me today. It’s a state. You are in a state to put this together. For sure, getting close to this test and everything, temperament gets heated up because the deadline is coming. You just need to keep on going and encourage everyone.”
What do you take from the test at Barcelona and apply to the season opener in Australia?
“You prove out your methodology, how you work, how your guys work. You have the time in between – 10 days to fix it. There is so much electronics in these cars, software programs. You try to prove out everything so there are no mistakes. When you get to Australia and your drivers notice the car’s behavior isn’t right, you will know what to do to get the behavior of the car right. It’s a mix of everything. The biggest thing is to run as much as possible at Barcelona and avoid any downtime with the car breaking or something. The more you drive, the more you learn and the better prepared you are for Australia.”
Romain Grosjean: Driver, No. 8
How did you spend your off-season?
“After a long season it was important to me to spend time with my family and, obviously, to rest. I was involved in a few charity events in December and, after Christmas, enjoyed a family holiday. After that it was back to Europe. I’ve been doing some simulator work and my seat fit. Winter is really the time we get to work on our physical training. The hard work has started. I’ve been a bit achy sometimes, but I’m feeling good. I’m ready for the new season.”
What are your expectations for the test?
“The first thing for the test is to get the car to run and to work well from there. Hopefully, we can get a lot of mileage. This is a new team, so we need to get everyone to work together, all the engineers, mechanics and the drivers. We need to get as much data and knowledge as we can. It’s important to get the reliability sorted as early as possible because we don’t get much testing and we’re going straight to Melbourne.”
Do you have a certain protocol that you follow during a test, or is the protocol dictated by the team?
“It’s a little bit of both. As a driver, you want to be comfortable in your seat. You want the steering wheel to work as you want, along with the dashboard. You want the communication with your engineers to work. From the team side, of course, there is a protocol they want to follow. They want to do as much mileage as they can. It’s a big test, which we don’t get during the course of the season. They also want to make sure everyone works together. On the final day, you normally do a race simulation where you do a pit stop and you work on strategy. You want to see that you don’t have any problems so you’re ready to go to Melbourne.”
You spent five years with Lotus F1 Team. Obviously, that time allowed you to build a comfort level with the team. How do you work to find the same level of comfort with your new employer, Haas F1 Team?
“I felt a very warm welcome from day one with Gene (Haas) and Guenther (Steiner) and from everyone I’ve met in the team. It’s a nice spirit. It’s an American spirit. Everyone wants to go racing. It’s very exciting, as it’s a new challenge. It’s going to be something unique having an American Formula One team on the grid for the first time in 30 years. Driving the car out of the garage on day one will be unbelievable. There’s a lot to look forward to. I already feel comfortable in the team. Everyone is motivated and wants to get to the first test, and then the first race.”
Describe a lap around Barcelona.
“Barcelona is probably the track you know best in the world. You can name every part of the layout. There’s a long straight, then the first two corners right and left. You carry quite a good speed into them, and then there’s the famous turn three, which you try to take as flat out as possible. Turn four, there’s usually some front-locking. The hairpin into turn five, going down you don’t see the apex until late, so it’s a tricky corner. Turns seven and eight going up the hill lead to the very high-speed turn nine, which has a new curb on exit. Then you get to the hairpin at turn 10, which is very tricky under braking. Turns 11-15 are almost one corner – as a complex, it’s difficult to get a good flow around those corners. You need to get a good balance there. Turn 16 is the last corner and you want to try to stay as flat-out to prepare for the straight and get a good lap time.”
Esteban Gutiérrez: Driver, No. 21
How did you spend your off-season?
“I spent my off-season together with my family in my home town of Monterrey. I also used that time to relax, but at the same time, I continue my physical preparation, as it’s really the best moment of the year to get a good rhythm before all the traveling starts for the season. I also enjoyed some karting days, some days at my ranch with my friends, so all in all it was a great time to get filled up with energy before the season starts.”
What are your expectations for the test?
“We expect to run the car as many laps as possible. This will be our priority, as we need to be sure to sort all the possible issues we may have in order to fix them on time. It will be very interesting to develop our car setup through the tests in preparation ahead of the first race. I am sure we will have plenty of work to do. At the same time, the most important thing will be to always stay together as a team in order to be very efficient with our progress.”
How much are you looking forward to developing a racecar that you’re going to drive for an entire season?
“I feel very excited after a complete season as a reserve driver. I am full of energy, full of ideas and very hungry to race. The development of our car from the beginning will be crucial in order to start the season confident that we have done our job as a team to prepare in the best way possible.”
As the third driver at Ferrari last year, what did you do to stay prepared for a return to the cockpit?
“I focused a lot on my preparation. Basically, anything that will bring me as close as if I were driving. I did a lot of karting, also tested quite a few days in Fiorano with old F1 cars and a lot of days in the simulator in Maranello. Ahead of every race I even tried my best to put my mindset as if I was going to race, and I used my imagination to keep my mind sharp. I used all the time that I had to observe the whole team, mainly the drivers in order to learn the best things from them.”
Describe a lap around Barcelona.
“Barcelona is a track we use a lot for testing. It’s probably the track that I have done the most laps in my career. You come into the first section into turn one, focused on the entry speed and also the line, in preparation for turn two and turn three, which is crucial in order to have a good exit out of the famous and fast turn three of Barcelona. Approaching into turn four, you have a very sharp brake to turn in very quickly, carrying the speed into the corner. The exit is very long with a lot of load on the rear tires. You arrive into turn five, it’s a bit downhill, quite a slow corner, on braking you don’t really see the entry well and, at the same time, it is very important not to miss the apex. Turn seven is very sharp. The corner has some banking, which makes it faster than what you can see from outside approaching. Then into turn nine, it’s up hill. You turn in with very small brake, and a short lift on the throttle. The exit is a bit blind, and the car usually is moving around, trying to go on power as quickly as possible and a very, very fast corner. From turn 10 onward, you have the first sector which is usually very challenging because of the tire temperatures. You have the tires heated up from the previous two sectors and it makes it the most important and challenging part of the track because it’s where you can gain or lose a lot of time as it is the most technical part of the track.”
Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya
About Haas F1 Team
Haas F1 Team debuts in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, where it will become the first American-led Formula One team since 1986. Founded by industrialist Gene Haas, Haas F1 Team is based in the United States on the same Kannapolis, North Carolina campus as his championship-winning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, Stewart-Haas Racing. Haas is the founder of Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America, and he is chairman of Haas F1 Team.
About Haas Automation
Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. Founded by Gene Haas in 1983, Haas Automation manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are built in the company’s 93.000 square-meter (1 million square-foot) manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets that provides the industry’s best sales, service and support while offering unparalleled cost-to-performance value. For more information, please visit www.HaasCNC.com.
- Tom Jensen
NASCAR Editor at FOXSports.com & RACER Magazine