Haas F1 Team: Austrian Grand Prix Race Advance

June 27, 2016

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – Summer has arrived, and so too has Formula One’s stretch of European races. Six events between now and early September will take teams competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship to Austria, England, Hungary, Germany, Belgium and Italy.

The Red Bull Ring rings in this summer stretch, with the 4.326-kilometer (2.688-mile) circuit hosting this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix. Located in Spielberg on a condensed version of the Österreichring, which held Formula One races from 1970 until 1987, the Red Bull Ring is a relatively short and compact circuit with just nine turns. Nonetheless, it covers a wide range of conditions.

The Red Bull Ring’s prime overtaking zone comes at turn two (Remus), where after heavy braking, drivers navigate the sharp corner in either first or second gear. Juxtapose that section with the high-speed turn eight (Rindt), which drivers take at sixth gear, pushing the limits of their car and their resolve. Both types of corners, and all the ones in between, require good traction, which is why Pirelli has brought its three softest tire compounds – P Zero Yellow softs, P Zero Red supersofts and P Zero Purple ultrasofts – to the Austrian Grand Prix.

Summer’s warm weather and Pirelli’s soft rubber bode well for Haas F1 Team.

The first American Formula One team in 30 years debuted in strong fashion at the season-opening and warm Australian Grand Prix when driver Romain Grosjean finished sixth to score the team’s first points, and the first points in a team’s debut race since 2002 when Mika Salo finished sixth for Toyota at the Australian Grand Prix, a span of 14 years. Grosjean proved the result was no fluke, one-upping his Australian performance by finishing fifth in the series’ next race – the Bahrain Grand Prix. More points were scored in round four at the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi when Grosjean finished eighth. Those three point-paying finishes are the most of any new team in this millennium. When Jaguar debuted in 2000 and when Toyota came on the scene in 2002, each entity managed only two point-paying finishes in their entire first seasons.

Since Sochi, however, points have been just out of reach for Haas F1 Team. A variety of factors have been at play, most notably cool temperatures affecting the team’s ability to find the proper working range of its tires. When the weather is hot and, specifically, consistently hot, getting tires up to the desired temperature and keeping them there becomes easier. This consistency is welcomed by Haas F1 Team, along with another bit of consistency this European swing provides to everyone in the paddock.

After crisscrossing the globe since mid-March, the next two months allow significantly reduced flight times and a welcome reduction in jetlag. Teams can bring all of their transporters, which bring consistent working environs for its drivers, crew members and team partners. It’s as close to normalcy as the world travelers who comprise Formula One can get.

Haas F1 Team embraces that consistency, along with the warm, consistent rays of summer. It’s a combination that can ring up another round of points at the Red Bull Ring.

 

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

 

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.”

 

Austria marks the beginning of a six-race stretch of European races where teams can take all of their transporters and hospitality units to each race. How much easier is this from a logistical standpoint, especially after the massive logistical undertaking of having back-to-back flyway races in Montreal and Baku?

“I wouldn’t say it’s easier, but just more convenient because you have the equipment right there. Back-to-back races are always very difficult for the guys, even if it is in Europe and you have all your transporters. To go from one place to the other by truck, it sometimes takes us as long, if not longer, than the flight would since we have a lot of going back and forth. It is nice to be in Europe with one time zone though. There is a lot less jetlag. I know the mechanics enjoy being in Europe since it is no more than a two-hour flight home for them. All in all, it is a little bit more convenient but, by far, it is not easy.” 

 

After a handful of races where there were cool temperatures, the previous race at Baku City Circuit brought much warmer temperatures. Warm weather seems to allow the team to find a better working range for the tires, and more quickly. Is this the case and, if so, why?

“That is what we thought for Baku, but I think we overlooked it and fell outside of the range during the race. In qualifying we managed them well, leading to one of the cars in 11th, which in our position is very good. Then in the race we were just outside of the range and with using downforce we couldn’t keep the tires on the car long enough. The temperature was too high and we had to change the tires. We would rather have that problem than not being able to get the tires to work. One thing to take away from it, though, is that we have learned a lot from the last few events, going from the cold weather in Canada to the hot weather in Baku. My hope is that soon we will have a complete understanding and keep the tires in the small window they need to work.”

 

The rear tire graining we saw at Baku – was this a result of the hot weather or the fresh asphalt of a new circuit or a combination of the two?

“A combination of the two caused the rear tire graining. Since the car was going at a high top speed on the long straightaway, downforce was used. Also there was low downforce in the corners, making the car slide around, which increases the graining of the tire. Overall, it’s a combination of those three things.”

 

You have to make your tire selection 14 weeks prior to a flyaway grand prix and eight weeks prior to a grand prix based in Europe. This seems challenging in itself, giving the educated guess you need to make about what’s going to happen before a wheel is ever turned on the track. But since Haas F1 Team is brand new with no data from previous seasons, is the degree of difficulty higher compared to other teams?

“Our guys know a lot about the tires just like the other teams. They are experienced engineers, but we don’t have the data for our car to back them up this season. So, for sure, there is a disadvantage for us. We made the first tire selections before we even had a car. Tires are definitely one of our struggling points right now, but I know we are making improvements and next year we will be better.”

 

Pirelli is bringing the soft, supersoft and ultrasoft compounds to Austria. This will be the third time we’ve seen this trio of tire compounds at a race. How applicable is the knowledge gained from using these tire compounds at Monaco and Montreal to Austria?

“The knowledge from past events will definitely help us out with how we will use the tires at Austria. The more you run, the more you learn. And no matter what, we will continue to learn at Austria.”

 

The Red Bull Ring is a relatively short circuit, but its layout covers a wide range of conditions, from high-speed straights to sharp corners. How do you set the car up to make the most of the circuit when the track has so many varying aspects?

“We will just see where we can gain the most speed. We will have to figure out on Friday how to set our car up best for us to have the best lap time, whether it’s taking downforce off to go fast on the straights or putting downforce on to go very fast around the corners. Also, we have to factor in where we can get the tire in its best (working) range so we don’t have a problem like we had in Baku by taking downforce off.”

 

Are there other tracks that mimic the Red Bull Ring’s layout to where you can apply data from those circuits to your planning for the Austrian Grand Prix?

“We will take the corners and compare them with other corners in different circuits. Again, the more we run, the more information we have, which allows us to simulate a racetrack like Austria.”

 

Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team 

 

Most drivers are creatures of habit, where a similar routine is followed no matter the venue. With Austria marking the beginning of a six-race European stretch that takes us all the way through August, how helpful is it to have some uniformity in that your changing room is the same, your hospitality unit is the same, your debriefing room is the same, etc., because all of our trucks will be at all of these races?

“It’s good that we’ve got all of our own stuff with these races. We have very good equipment. Everything we have is brand new. Not too much really changes on a race weekend though, even on the fly-aways. We just came from Baku, and that was very well organized.”

 

You’re a family man and Geneva is home. How valuable is this stretch of races because the travel time to each venue is so much less intense, allowing you more days at home?

“We’ve been traveling a lot. It’s good to be able to come to the European races. You can arrive at the track on Thursday morning and be home by dinner time on Sunday, which is good for my kids. With the back-to-back that we just had, they were obviously asking ‘Where’s daddy?’, so it’s good to have shorter stints away. It also allows us a bit more time to prepare our fitness. You don’t have to get used to jetlag and you know more of the food you’re going to be eating. It really helps us reach our peak performance.”

 

Because the travel is less intense, does this summer stretch of European races allow you to ratchet up your physical training, or does it simply allow you to get into more of a routine?

“We’ll look to step it up now. When we’re traveling and dealing with time-zone changes and so on, it’s definitely important to keep a routine and still focus on training. We have a bit more time now that we’re on the European circuit. The three-week summer break will also allow us to work hard on fitness. You start with a good level and then you have to work to maintain it. Summer’s great because it’s a bit easier. You can do a lot more outside, which I enjoy.”

 

Are there any marathons or triathlons you have coming up on your schedule?

“Not at the moment. They all clash with race weekends. For now, I have nothing else planned. The next step is to try a triathlon, but I’m not quite ready. It’s something I’ll be working toward long term.” 

 

What is your favorite form of exercise? Is it running, cycling, weightlifting, or is it more about what you feel like doing on a particular day?

“A lot of it depends on the day and the weather. For example, if it’s 30 degrees (Celsius) then I’m cycling, for sure, not running. It also depends on what time I have available. I like playing tennis as well. Sometimes it’s good to challenge yourself and do something quite hard. It can give you a boost for the next race.”

 

After a handful of races where there were cool temperatures, the previous race at Baku City Circuit brought much warmer temperatures. Warm weather seems to allow the team to find a better working range for the tires, and more quickly. Is this the case and, if so, why?

“Yes, I think that’s the case. I’m hoping that we get a good summer and that we don’t have to focus too much on colder weather and trying to get the tires to work. It was a shame about the race in Baku that we had to have the extra pit stop. I think we could have scored points. We were looking pretty good up until that point. Some of the races we’re now going to should be better for us. We still need to work on getting the best out of the tires when it’s cold. We have some graining issues as well, but we’re still a brand new team and we haven’t had many options to try different things. We’re going in a good direction even though we haven’t scored points in a while. I still think everything is going the way it should and when it eventually all comes together, it’s going to be great.”

 

The rear tire graining we saw at Baku – was this a result of the hot weather or the fresh asphalt of a new circuit or a combination of the two?

“There are a few explanations for graining. When it’s cold it can happen when the tires are sliding too much. If the car balance was not perfect at the beginning of the race, it can happen. We’re working on the data to see what happened.”

 

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.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Red Bull Ring?

“I quite like the middle sector. There are medium- to high-speed corners. The track, in general, has two very different parts. You’ve got turn one and turn two, which are very similar. Both are 90-degree turns with big braking and long, straight lines. You’ve then got the second part which is more flowing.”

 

Describe a lap around the Red Bull Ring.

“You start with big braking into turn one, a 90-degree corner. It’s very important to go early on the power. There’s then a long straight line going up to turn two where you brake very late into the corner, and there’s a change of camber. You go flat again after that to turn three. Again, tricky braking there as you’re going downhill. Then you’ve got a double-left corner, medium- to high-speed turns. The last couple of turns are the same as you go up the hill and then down again. It can be pretty tricky, but if you get the grip under the car and a good balance, it can be a lot of fun to drive.”

 

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Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team  

 

Most drivers are creatures of habit, where a similar routine is followed no matter the venue. With Austria marking the beginning of a six-race European stretch that takes us all the way through August, how helpful is it to have some uniformity in that your changing room is the same, your hospitality unit is the same, your debriefing room is the same, etc., because all of our trucks will be at all of these races?

“It is more comfortable to have the same consistency on the places where we work and also where we rest – the changing room, the hospitality. I think when a team has its own hospitality designed for its own needs, that allows us to have a good space to work and a good environment as well. I really like the facilities of our team at the track, so I’m really looking forward to having that consistently though the next few races.”

 

Because the travel is less intense, does this summer stretch of European races allow you to ratchet up your physical training, or does it simply allow you to get into more of a routine?

“It allows me to get more into the routine. Another fact is that jetlag doesn’t play much of a role. Since there’s less travel time, we can be more efficient and start our training program as soon as we get back from each race weekend. It just makes it more comfortable.”

 

Are there any marathons or triathlons you have coming up on your schedule?

“My training focuses on what I need for racing. Training for a marathon or triathlon is obviously good, but it’s also good to have time for the body to recover. You want to arrive at each race with as much energy as possible, so the training has to be balanced between the amount of traveling and work we have to do.”

 

What is your favorite form of exercise? Is it running, cycling, weightlifting, or is it more about what you feel like doing on a particular day?

“I actually do a little bit of everything. I do running, cycling, weightlifting, tennis as well. I sometimes do karting, which I take as training as well. It depends on the schedule. It is hard to have a rhythm of doing something the same every day. I find it more interesting to make some variation and make it a little bit fun as well.”

 

After a handful of races where there were cool temperatures, the previous race at Baku City Circuit brought much warmer temperatures. Warm weather seems to allow the team to find a better working range for the tires, and more quickly. Is this the case and, if so, why?

“With the warm temperatures, the tires’ working range neutralizes a bit though the grid. When temperatures are more normal, tires are easier to handle. It’s as simple as that.”

 

The rear tire graining we saw at Baku – was this a result of the hot weather or the fresh asphalt of a new circuit or a combination of the two?

“It’s actually a combination of the two because the asphalt is quite greasy when it’s new. It’s quite smooth too. It was pretty unusual to have so much graining, but the combination of warm weather and a new track contributed to that.”

 

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 quite unique because it’s a little bit old school and has a lot of fast corners, which I enjoy a lot. It’s a pretty short circuit – not many corners – so the times are pretty tight, and very competitive in qualifying. It’s an extra challenge to make everything as perfect as possible, or as close to perfect as possible.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Red Bull Ring?

“I love the two fast corners to the left on the infield, which makes it very interesting, and also the last part when you enter into a very high-speed corner after the backstraight, followed by a banked corner. It’s pretty nice to go through there. The wind makes some effects because you have the trees, which are pretty high, so the wind is flowing in some parts of the circuit in a different way than in others, so it makes it a bit more challenging in that way.”

 

Describe a lap around the Red Bull Ring.

“You arrive into turn one and it’s a bit uphill. The first corner is a medium-speed corner, a bit on the tight side, with the exit curb pretty particular. They put this sausage curb there, which doesn’t allow us to cross a lot, so it’s a little bit like a street circuit where you don’t have a lot of margin to play on the exit curb. The longest straight of the circuit goes into turn two, which is uphill as well with very hard braking. It’s a very slow-speed corner, pretty tight. It’s important for braking and traction because you arrive at a very high speed and, obviously, the brakes are important there. You arrive a bit downhill into turn three, which is a bit of a longish corner, pretty interesting exit, not a lot of margin to make a mistake because you’ll go into the gravel. Then you approach turn four and turn five, which are the two fast corners on the left, which I enjoy a lot. I love them. You enter into turn four and it’s a blind corner. You exit using all the curbs, preparing for the next corner, which basically makes it one corner altogether – a very, very fast one. Then you come into the backstraight. You arrive into turn seven, which is a very high-speed corner. You enter with a lot of speed and almost no braking, and that prepares you for the following corner which is straight away and has some banking. It’s pretty interesting and also pretty fast. Then you arrive into the main straight. It’s a pretty short circuit.”

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