Haas F1 Team: Brazilian Grand Prix Advance

Nov. 08, 2016

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina – The penultimate round of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place on Sunday with the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in São Paulo. The 4.309-kilometer (2.677-mile), 15-turn Interlagos circuit is the setting for one of the shortest laps of the year, but also one of the most intense.

The undulating course in Brazil’s largest city is a challenge for drivers and teams. It is run anticlockwise and consists of a twisty infield portion between turns six through 12, with three long straights between turns three and four, between turns five and six, and off turn 14 down the frontstretch before the beginning of the Senna “S” in turn one.

Maximum downforce would be preferred through the tight and twisting section, but in order to maximize the straights, cars need to be trimmed out with as little drag as possible. Some downforce is already lost before a wheel is even turned, as São Paulo sits 800 meters (2,625 feet) above sea level.

All of this puts grip at a premium on the relatively bumpy track. Pirelli has brought its P Zero Orange hard, White medium and Yellow soft tires to Brazil, with the mediums and especially the softs expected to get the lion’s share of the work.

There will be plenty of work on the docket for Haas F1 Team in Brazil. The American team has set an aggressive schedule for the weekend, well beyond the run programs that are commonplace for each practice session. The team will compare components from a new brake manufacturer, test the halo cockpit protection device, and run current GP3 Series championship point leader Charles Leclerc in FP1. On top of all that, Haas F1 Team looks to break out from the pall of two adversity-filled weekends that consumed valuable time and resources during the United States Grand Prix and Mexican Grand Prix.

Drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez had a forgettable Mexican Grand Prix, which came on the heels of a difficult United States Grand Prix. Nonetheless, Grosjean was able to rally from his 17th-place starting spot at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) to finish 10th, delivering a point to the American team on American soil.

The resiliency that was on display at COTA could not be recaptured in Mexico City. Technical problems and an overall lack of speed conspired for 19th- and 20th-place finishes by Gutiérrez and Grosjean, respectively.

As Haas F1 Team prepares for the Brazilian Grand Prix, it finds itself between the frustration of Mexico City and the opportunity available in São Paulo. The silver lining in the team’s recent difficulties is that plenty of information was gleaned, both during the weekend and in the analysis that followed. It is why the first American Formula One team in 30 years has racked up a total of 29 points with still two races remaining in its debut season. When they’ve hit the right notes, they’ve capitalized. When they haven’t, they’ve delved into understanding why. It’s science at 320 kph (200 mph), with another round of experiments coming this weekend in São Paulo.

 

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

 

Haas F1 Team’s issues with it brakes are well chronicled. What is the team doing in Brazil in an effort to remedy its brake situation?

“We will conduct a test in either FP1 or FP2 with a different brake manufacturer. It is a test to see how the other material reacts and how the drivers like it or don’t like it. We will try to find out as much as possible in the short time we have available.”

 

Many teams have run a practice session with the halo cockpit protection device. Will Haas F1 Team run the halo before the season is complete?

“Yes, we are planning to run it with Romain in FP1 in Brazil. We’ll get his feedback and provide it to the FIA.

“There needs to be more testing done and we’re happy to contribute. Even though the halo won’t be introduced next year, it’s a step toward finding a device that provides protection but also allows drivers to get in and out of the car quickly.”

 

Charles Leclerc makes his fourth FP1 appearance for Haas F1 Team in Brazil. Talk about his development and what he’s brought to Haas F1 Team.

“Charles has done a good job for the team. He always did his program and he performed what we asked of him. It’s always difficult when a driver is only in for FP1, but he’s very professional and has provided good feedback. We’ve been very happy with his contributions.

“He’s in GP3 at the moment and can win the title in Abu Dhabi. He’s got a season of GP2 coming up and we will see how far he can get. If he wins GP2 or is in the top-three in his first year of GP2, he will have a good future in front of him.”

 

A different brake package, a trial run with the halo, and Leclerc in for regular driver Esteban Gutiérrez in FP1 – that’s a lot of change for one race weekend. How will you balance it all?

“We will try to do our absolute best. Obviously, we have a lot of work to do so we need to be focused and, hopefully, we don’t have any issues – any mechanical or any electronic issues with the car so we can have a good FP1 to FP3 and be ready for qualifying. What we want to avoid is another bad weekend like in Mexico.”

 

After showing consistent speed throughout the Japanese Grand Prix three races ago, the past two races – the United States Grand Prix and the Mexican Grand Prix – were a struggle for Haas F1 Team. What makes one weekend like Japan so good and other weekends like what you experienced in the United States and Mexico so challenging?

“It’s not one thing. It’s more than one thing. I think Japan was very good for the design of our car. When we have fast tracks with fast corners, we were always more competitive, like we were at Spa and Japan. On medium- to low-speed tracks we always struggle, and in Mexico we couldn’t get the tires to work. We cannot get rid of the problem completely because it’s too late in the season. We’ve got two more races to go, and we will try to do our best.”

 

Is there anything that can be learned from a challenging race weekend, or is it best to simply turn the page and focus on the race ahead?

“You always learn, and you should learn when things aren’t going well because when everything is going well, it’s easy to learn. Everything is fantastic and you assume it will always be like this. But on bad weekends, you learn a lot. You have to keep your head up and keep everybody motivated so you can get back to the good days.”

 

There are two races remaining in 2016. What do you want to achieve before Haas F1 Team’s debut season is over?

“It would be fantastic to end up with a result in the points. Can we achieve it? I don’t know yet, but for sure it will not be for lack of trying.”

 

Can the way a team finishes this season impact how it starts next season, or is it all moot since we’ll have a drastically different race car in 2017 built under new regulations?

“How you finish a season is how you go into the winter break. If you go up on a high, it’s much easier to go through the winter season. So we try to do our best to end with a high. I don’t think it impacts the team technically. It’s more about morale. The morale needs to be kept up. If you go out on a high, you believe in yourself. Otherwise, you have to build it up again. You can always overcome, but it is much easier to go out on a high.”

 

Formula One comes into Brazil after two massively successful, well-attended race weekends in the United States and Mexico. What was your takeaway from those two race weekends and what does it say about the health of the sport and also its popularity in North America?

“I think the amount of spectators at those two races says it all. People didn’t just like it, they loved it. They obviously enjoyed being there. I think a lot of places could learn from them. The U.S. and Mexico did a fantastic job in promoting their events and that’s why they had the kind of attendance they did. I take my hat off to both of them. F1 is popular globally and the U.S. and Mexico did a very good job of harnessing that popularity to make their races as strong as they were.”

 

Last year, the top-three finishers of the Brazilian Grand Prix used a three-stop strategy. What needs to happen to make a three-stop strategy work over a typical, two-stop strategy?

“It mainly comes down to what tires you have available, but what you learn in each practice session provides the conclusion of what is best to do in the race. It’s difficult to say a week before the race what you’re going to do. What you learn in FP1 and FP2 on Friday allows you to determine what your strategy should be. You’re able to fine tune it a bit on Saturday in FP3 to where you have a good plan for the race with multiple options for multiple scenarios.”

 

Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team 

 

Formula One comes into Brazil after two massively successful, well-attended race weekends in the United States and Mexico. What was your takeaway from those two race weekends and what does it say about the health of the sport and also its popularity in North America?

“It was really good to be racing in the U.S. It was the first home race for the team and it was special. We managed to score a point, which was pretty awesome. There is a lot of love for Formula One in America and also in Mexico. The Mexican fans are some of the best in the world. I think the U.S. market is growing and growing. If we keep having good results, and if we get more races there, we should have a really strong base of fans.”

 

After showing consistent speed throughout the Japanese Grand Prix three races ago, the past two races – the United States Grand Prix and the Mexican Grand Prix – were a struggle for Haas F1 Team. What makes one weekend like Japan so good and other weekends like what you experienced in the United States and Mexico so challenging?

“It could be the characteristics of the track, the layout, the tarmac, the way we work the tires. We are analyzing all of the things that have happened to us over the last few races. We’ve gone from having a really strong performance to then being nowhere in qualifying but OK in the race, to the last race where we couldn’t get anything right, either from an engineering standpoint or from a driving perspective. As a leader I should have been able to help the team more and find a solution, but we didn’t. We want to do better, and we can do better.”

 

Whenever Formula One travels to Brazil, Ayrton Senna’s legacy is prominent. Of all his races, is there one that stands out for you?

“Brazil is always special because of Ayrton Senna. He was one of the biggest names in Formula One. Interlagos is a special place. There’s so much history there. On raceday you’ve got so much support from the fans. I remember Ayrton winning there in 1991 when he couldn’t hold the trophy in the air because he was so tired and had the pain in his arms from driving.”

 

Interlagos was resurfaced prior to the 2014 race. How much did the track change from that 2014 race to 2015, and what do you expect this year with another year of weathering to the track surface?

“We’ll see. We were expecting Mexico to have changed from one year to the next one, but it did not. Brazil stayed pretty consistent between 2014 and 2015. They changed the curbs in 2015, which was a bit of a shame, especially at Interlagos where you have those massive green and white curbs. You really used them a lot with the car, and that’s not the case anymore. That’s cost a little bit of the spirit of the track but, nonetheless, it’s a great track to drive.”

 

It’s a short and intense lap around Interlagos, and it’s also one of just a few tracks that you run anticlockwise. Does the direction of a track’s lap make much of a difference to you, or is a lap a lap, no matter the venue?

“A lap is a lap. To be fair though, you know it’s Interlagos and you’re running anticlockwise because of the long pit straight and the long left-hand corner. It hurts your neck muscles more than normal. That said, a lap is a lap. You just flow through the corners, racing onto the next one.”

 

Interlagos appears to be a very physical track, and heat often plays a role in the performance of the car and the driver. Considering these variables, how do you attack the track?

“It’s a pretty tough track with not much opportunity for a rest. Even in the straight lines you can’t rest as much as you would like. You’re at altitude as well, at 800 meters (2,625 feet), so coming from Mexico that’s nothing, but you’re still not at sea level. The weather can be challenging. It can be very warm and humid. It’s a pretty intense challenge but, at the end of the day, that’s what we’re looking for.”

 

Last year, the top-three finishers of the Brazilian Grand Prix used a three-stop strategy. What needs to happen to make a three-stop strategy work over a typical, two-stop strategy?

“I think it’s the tire degradation and the tire delta time between the different compounds. Let’s say you’ve got a soft tire, which is much faster than the medium, but degrades quite quickly, then you’re better with three stops. If you run the medium, and the pace that it brings compared to the soft is favorable, and the degradation is low, then you should go for two stops. That’s how it’s calculated.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Autódromo José Carlos Pace?

“It’s so tight and so tiny that I don’t think you can separate one area to be a favorite.”

 

Describe a lap around the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.

“You go onto the pit straight and then big braking to go to the Senna ‘S’. Very tricky turn in on the left-hand side. You really want to be well placed for the right turn two, which sets you up for turn three and the second straight. Big braking to turn four, left-hand side, 90 degrees, a pretty good corner. Then you get to the middle part – turn five is a high-speed corner going up the crest. It’s tricky. Then it’s turn six and the hairpin on the right-hand side. We can’t use the curb as much as we used to. Turn seven is a left-hand side corner, no braking, just a lift off. It’s a bit of a strange one. The second hairpin is then on the right-hand side, a second high-speed corner going down the hill, prior to the last turn. It’s a left-hand corner where you really want to go early on the throttle because you’re facing a wall to go up to the finish line.”

 

Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team  

 

Formula One comes into Brazil after two massively successful, well-attended race weekends in the United States and Mexico. What was your takeaway from those two race weekends and what does it say about the health of the sport and also its popularity in North America?

“It’s great that we saw two events which were crowded with a great atmosphere. I think everybody had a good time and enjoyed the race. Unfortunately for us, it wasn’t great in terms of results. Even though the results were not what we wanted, the two events were very positive because there was a lot of meaning for us going to Austin as an American team, and then in Mexico and being Mexican, it was an incredible experience.”

 

After showing consistent speed throughout the Japanese Grand Prix three races ago, the past two races – the United States Grand Prix and the Mexican Grand Prix – were a struggle for Haas F1 Team. What makes one weekend like Japan so good and other weekends like what you experienced in the United States and Mexico so challenging?

“It’s the difference of the temperatures and difference of track layouts. Suzuka is a track that has high-speed corners and I think it suited our car pretty well. Then Austin is a combination of high-speed corners and slow-speed corners. Mexico has slow-speed corners, and that combined with temperatures were not really great, and probably a track which is difficult to make the tires work. So that explains a little bit. We are not as strong as we would like to be in the slow-speed corners and we have to work on that. Hopefully in Brazil and Abu Dhabi we can recover the pace that we had before coming to Austin.”

 

Is there anything that can be learned from a challenging race weekend, or is it best to simply turn the page and focus on the race ahead?

“There are always lots of things that can be learned, even if a weekend is really bad. You have to point out the things that can be improved, and I think we had some interesting facts after the race which we’ve analyzed in our effort to try to make the car better for Brazil.”

 

Whenever Formula One travels to Brazil, Ayrton Senna’s legacy is prominent. Of all his races, is there one that stands out for you?

“Japan is always a race that I remember from Senna, when he was fighting the championship with (Alain) Prost. One year when they both crashed together and then the next year when they both crashed together again, but the outcome of the two was different. One championship was won by Prost and the other one by Senna.”

 

Interlagos was resurfaced prior to the 2014 race. How much did the track change from that 2014 race to 2015, and what do you expect this year with another year of weathering to the track surface?

“Interlagos is a track that is very nice to drive. There is no real downside to the track. It is not a very long track, but at the same time, it has pretty different corners. Some corners you can use a lot of curbs, which make it very interesting. It has quite a nice rhythm, so it’s always a very special track.”

 

It’s a short and intense lap around Interlagos, and it’s also one of just a few tracks that you run anticlockwise. Does the direction of a track’s lap make much of a difference to you, or is a lap a lap, no matter the venue?

“It doesn’t matter the venue. The direction of the track doesn’t really affect our feeling for it. Sometimes it just shifts a bit of the focus on tire wear from one side compared to the other, but it’s nothing that should make a difference to us or any other team.”

 

Interlagos appears to be a very physical track, and heat often plays a role in the performance of the car and the driver. Considering these variables, how do you attack the track?

“It’s not one of the most physical tracks, but it is quite physical for the neck, and it being anti-clockwise factors into that. The strength goes to the opposite side and all the main straight is not really one straight – it’s a whole corner. In the race I remember my neck getting a good workout.”

 

Last year, the top-three finishers of the Brazilian Grand Prix used a three-stop strategy. What needs to happen to make a three-stop strategy work over a typical, two-stop strategy?

“It depends on the tire compounds, but being aggressive is part of having a three-stop strategy. It’s quite a challenging track for the tires, but what we learn in practice on Friday and Saturday will determine our strategy for the race on Sunday.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Autódromo José Carlos Pace?

“I would say turns one, two and three have a very nice rhythm. It’s a very nice part of the track.”

 

Describe a lap around the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.

“You arrive into turn one and braking is a little bit uphill with the apex coming into a downhill section with very nice braking. Coming down into turn two you are trying to put down the throttle to go flat for turn three. Then down into turn four it is a hard braking, 90-degree corner were you have to let the car roll. Then come into turns six and seven, which is completely uphill – a very high-speed corner to the right, very nice corner where you really go deep and throw the car into the corner. You exit uphill approaching turn eight – a corner where you can use a lot of curbs almost like a kind of a hairpin. Then you have a 180-degree corner to the left which is turn nine, downhill with a bit of banking which makes it very nice. Then you have turn 10, which is almost like a hairpin again and with a bit of banking. Then you exit down to turn 11 were you’re trying to be flat out putting down the throttle. Coming down the hill to turn 12 – the last real corner of the lap, which is a left-hand, 90-degree corner where you’re trying to get the best exit possible to use it for the uphill straight.”

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