Spanish GP: Preview – Haas

A little more than two months ago, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team departed Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya with confidence after eight days of winter testing spread out over two weeks between Feb. 18-March 1. Its Haas VF-19s were quick and the fourth-year American team promptly carried that speed from testing into the season-opening Australian Grand Prix where drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen qualified a strong sixth and seventh, respectively. Magnussen delivered a sixth-place result and Grosjean was slated to finish right behind his teammate in seventh before a loose left-front wheel ended his race after 29 laps. The effort placed Rich Energy Haas F1 Team fourth in the constructors’ standings.

In the three subsequent races in Bahrain, China and Azerbaijan, however, the outcomes have left Rich Energy Haas F1 Team unsatisfied. Despite making it into the final round of qualifying in Bahrain and China, points have proven elusive, with Grosjean’s 11th-place drive in the Chinese Grand Prix the outfit’s best result since Australia. The team sits eighth in the constructors’ ranks, four points behind seventh-place Renault and four points ahead of ninth-place Toro Rosso.

But the Spanish Grand Prix May 10-12 means a return to Barcelona, where after competing on four very different racetracks to begin this 70th Formula One season, Barcelona allows teams to come back to a track where they have reams of data and, more importantly, data with this year’s car. The track isn’t exactly the same as it was in late February and early March when Formula One descended upon the 4.655-kilometer (2.892-mile), 16-turn circuit for testing. Now, temperatures are much warmer and the track’s evolution since a full repave just prior to the 2018 season continues. But the venue still provides a solid baseline for teams to determine where they are in relation to their counterparts and what they can improve to either advance or bolster their championship standing.

The Spanish Grand Prix marks just the fifth round of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, and while the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Dec. 1 seems incredibly distant when looking at the Formula One calendar, a year’s worth of fortune can be gleaned in Barcelona. Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is intent on harnessing the promise of its preseason performance and converting it to tangible points in the Spanish Grand Prix.

How important is it for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team to put a complete race weekend together at Barcelona, where the speed its shown since testing is carried through practice, qualifying and the race so that you achieve your ultimate goal of scoring points?
Guenther Steiner: “It’s very important. We’ve had four races and only one was almost completely executed – in Australia – and I say almost as we only had one car at the finish. We know we can qualify well. Barcelona in preseason testing was a very good track for us. We looked very competitive, but we need to show it in a race weekend. We want to show everyone how good we should be if we get the tires to work.”

Barcelona seems to be the first race of the year where teams begin its technological arms race amongst one another, with updates being brought to numerous cars. Does Rich Energy Haas F1 Team plan any updates to it racecars for Barcelona? If so, what aspects of the car are getting the majority of your focus?
GS: “We’re bringing our first upgrades of the year. A lot of parts on the car will change – the front wing, the floor and a lot of the smaller parts, like mirrors. It’s a quite significant upgrade.”

How helpful is it to go back to Barcelona where Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has the most data of any track in Formula One simply because you spent two weeks testing there before the season even started?
GS: “It’s very important for that very reason. We have a lot of data. We need to make sure that everything still correlates after four races and that our upgrade works, as well. We’re looking forward to it, to see where we compare from our time there in preseason testing.”

Does Barcelona allow teams to reassess where they stand because of what they learned in preseason testing and how it’s translated to the first four races?
GS: “It isn’t really that you can go back and compare the first four races, but Barcelona always affords a good point to regroup after the early long-haul races. We’re back in Europe, we’ve got upgrades coming, but you’ve got more to look at with Barcelona because we ran our preseason testing there.”

Barcelona was repaved prior to last year’s preseason test. How has the new surface evolved and what are your expectations for your return to the track in much warmer conditions, specifically in regard to tire management?
GS: “The hope is that it all works as it did in preseason testing. We’ve obviously lost a little bit of confidence after the last three race weekends, but we haven’t lost it completely. We’re just careful to make predictions. We are cautiously optimistic.”

How important is it for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team to put a complete race weekend together at Barcelona, where the speed its shown since testing is carried through practice, qualifying and the race so that you achieve your ultimate goal of scoring points?
Romain Grosjean: “Well, it’s always very important, but at the minute the most important thing for us is to get the race pace back. We need to get the car where it should be. The last three weekends haven’t been good for us. The car’s got a lot more potential than we’ve been able to extract. The most important element is not the result. It’s to understand how to make the car go faster.”

How helpful is it to go back to Barcelona where Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has the most data of any track in Formula One simply because you spent two weeks testing there before the season even started?
RG: “It’s important to go back to Barcelona because it’s our first European race and we’re bringing big updates on the car. It’s a track with high energy, so I’m not too worried about getting the tires to work, in theory. It’s interesting, as we definitely got them to work in winter testing, going back there and seeing if we can still get them to work will be a good test, because we know the car should be fast there.”

Does Barcelona allow teams to reassess where they stand because of what they learned in preseason testing and how it’s translated to the first four races?
RG: “Yes, but you also know everyone’s going to bring big updates, so it’s almost like everyone’s going to have a B-car, therefore the standings could be a bit different. I think it’s important that our updates go in the right direction. It’s important, as we know what we can do there. We’ll see if we can repeat that and understand where our race pace has gone.”

Barcelona was repaved prior to last year’s preseason test. How has the new surface evolved and what are your expectations for your return to the track in much warmer conditions, specifically in regard to tire management?
RG: “I have no expectations. We’ll see what’s coming. Normally, the first feedback is quite accurate, so I’m hoping it’s a good one, but I go with no expectation.”

What are you feeling inside the racecar when you’re unable to get the tires into their proper working range? Is it a combination of an actual lack of grip and also a lack of confidence in what you can expect from the tires?
RG: “It’s a lack of grip and a lack of consistency. The latter makes it so that you can’t have any confidence because you can’t push the tire to its limit. If you do go above the limit, which is very low, it’s a big lock-up or you go off the track. If the tires don’t work, the car can be as good as you want, but it’s just not going to work. Confidence is key in Formula One, but when your tires don’t work, there’s no chance you’ll have some.”

How important is it for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team to put a complete race weekend together at Barcelona, where the speed its shown since testing is carried through practice, qualifying and the race so that you achieve your ultimate goal of scoring points?
Kevin Magnussen: “The last few weekends have been pretty disappointing. We’re looking forward to, hopefully, a strong result in Barcelona. We know the car is good, as a baseline, but we’re struggling with tires. I trust, and have faith in the team, that we’ll soon sort out these issues. I’m hopeful that in Barcelona we can have a strong weekend.”

How helpful is it to go back to Barcelona where Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has the most data of any track in Formula One simply because you spent two weeks testing there before the season even started?
KM: “We’ve obviously got some data to look at in Barcelona from testing. We saw earlier in the year the car was competitive in testing there. Hopefully, we can convert some of the data into performance on the race weekend.”

Does Barcelona allow teams to reassess where they stand because of what they learned in preseason testing and how it’s translated to the first four races?
KM: “Yes. I think it’s a good chance to compare the car from testing to now. The temperatures are still going to be very different, also the track will have been used by other race series since we tested, so it’ll inevitably be different. That said, I think it will be good to reassess where we stand.”

Barcelona was repaved prior to last year’s preseason test. How has the new surface evolved and what are your expectations for your return to the track in much warmer conditions, specifically in regard to tire management?
KM: “The weakness that we’ve seen this year is our ability to have good performance from the tires in race condition. We struggle a lot less over one lap. It’s in race condition we see the biggest problems. Hopefully, we can work through this issue and see a better performance in Barcelona.”

What are you feeling inside the racecar when you’re unable to get the tires into their proper working range? Is it a combination of an actual lack of grip and also a lack of confidence in what you can expect from the tires?
KM: “It’s mainly the lack of grip once we’re in race conditions.”