Russian GP: Race team notes – Haas

Haas F1 Team inched four points closer to fourth-place Renault in the constructors’ standings as driver Kevin Magnussen delivered a solid eighth-place finish in the Russian Grand Prix Sunday at Sochi Autodrom. Teammate Romain Grosjean finished just outside the points in 11th.

The American squad remains fifth in the constructors’ ranks, but cut the gap to Renault to 11 points after Magnussen secured his ninth points-paying drive in this year’s FIA Formula One World Championship. Haas F1 Team also extended its advantage over sixth-place McLaren to 22 points.

Magnussen began the 53-lap race around the 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn circuit in the host city of the 2014 Winter Olympics from fifth in the 20-car field. He retained the spot through the always dicey opening lap, but on the second tour, Charles Leclerc wheeled his Sauber past Magnussen in the sweeping turn three. Grosjean, meanwhile, held steady in ninth.

The always strong Max Verstappen, who had started 19th as a grid penalty put him near the back, was roaring his way toward the front. On just the third lap, he powered his Red Bull by Grosjean to take ninth and then grabbed sixth from Magnussen on lap six.

This put the Haas F1 Team drivers in seventh and 10th, respectively, with the Force India duo of Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez in between in eighth and ninth place.

Both Magnussen and Grosjean started on the Pirelli P Zero Pink hypersoft tire, which is the fastest tire in Pirelli’s lineup, but comes with a very limited lifespan in terms of performance.

This was on display on lap eight when Grosjean lost two positions – 10th to Sauber‘s Marcus Ericsson and then 11th to Red Bull‘s Daniel Ricciardo, who joined teammate Verstappen at the back of the grid due to a penalty and was emulating his drive forward.

Haas F1 Team’s decision to pit Grosjean at the end of the lap was an easy one. Grosjean swapped the hypersofts he used in qualifying and subsequently started the race with for a new set of Yellow softs that would carry him to the finish. This dropped him to 16th.

Magnussen was on the same pit strategy as his teammate. He made his scheduled stop on lap nine, jettisoning the hypersoft rubber for new softs. Magnussen returned to the track in 13th.

As pit stops cycled through, Magnussen and Grosjean climbed back to their eventual finishing positions of eighth and 11th, respectively, with the Force India duo of Ocon and Perez staying between the Haas F1 Team pilots.

Magnussen is seventh in the driver’s championship with 53 points and Grosjean is 14th with 27 points.

Only five races remain, with the next event being the Japanese Grand Prix Oct. 7 at Suzuka Circuit.

Romain Grosjean: “I was very disappointed with that. I thought I drove a good race. I’d been struggling a bit for pace all weekend, but I felt in the race things got better. I was happy to keep Marcus (Ericsson) behind and then fight with the Renaults and overtake them. Then I realized I was only P11. I guess the Red Bulls started at the back, but after five laps they were already top-six. The Saubers were very fast, and the Force Indias were fast. We all just kept our positions. Unfortunately for me, two cars came by.”

Kevin Magnussen: “It was a tough race. We didn’t quite have enough pace – we were lacking a bit – so I found myself defending from the Force Indias, basically from lap one. I think we got all that we could. Leclerc was way too fast for us. He just overtook and pulled away easily. So, I think keeping the Force Indias behind was the maximum we could do. The pace we had yesterday in qualifying was better than the pace we had in the race today. I’m looking forward to Suzuka now. I think we’ll be strong there, and it’s also just a phenomenal track to drive. I think we’re all looking forward to that.”

Guenther Steiner: “Again, we score points. We keep on adding to our account. Both drivers did a very good job today. We almost finished in the same positions where we started, counting out the two Red Bulls, who we knew would be coming through the field. With nobody going out ahead of us at the front, that’s the best we can finish, or almost the best. Leclerc did a great job, as well. Overall, it’s been a good weekend. We’re always thereabouts to score points, and we did today.”