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F1 - Brazil 2018 - GP Preview - Haas F1 Ferrari

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In a sport built on speed, it makes sense that a nine-month schedule can seemingly fly by, for after beginning its 69th season March 25 with the Australian Grand Prix, the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship heads into its penultimate event with the Brazilian Grand Prix Nov. 11 at Autódromo José Carlos Pace in the Interlagos neighborhood of São Paulo.

Haas F1 Team comes into the Brazilian Grand Prix enjoying its best season to date. Having debuted in 2016, the American squad has steadily improved each season, scoring 29 points in its inaugural campaign and 47 points last year. With two races left on this year’s 21-race calendar, Haas F1 Team has tallied 84 points and is fifth in the constructors’ standings. It trails fourth-place Renault by 30 points and holds a 22-point advantage over sixth-place McLaren.

After back-to-back races where Haas F1 Team was held scoreless, the deficit to Renault has grown and the gap to McLaren has contracted. At no point in 2018 has Haas F1 Team gone without points in three straight races, making the 4.309-kilometer (2.677-mile), 15-turn Interlagos circuit an important venue for drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

Both wheelmen have scored a point-paying result in Brazil, with each earning a ninth-place finish. Grosjean’s came in the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix in his last season with Lotus. Magnussen earned his in 2014 during his rookie year with McLaren.

Ending a Brazilian Grand Prix in the points is no easy feat. The big-three teams of Mercedes, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull tend to lock out positions one through six, leaving only four point-paying positions for the rest of the midfield to fight over. That is the case at every grand prix, but Interlagos adds another level of intensity, as 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 and 12, with three long straights between turns three and four, turns five and six, and off turn 14 down the frontstretch before the beginning of the Senna “S” in turn one, named after three-time Formula One champion Ayrton Senna, who was born in São Paulo.

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.

Racing at high altitude proved problematic for Haas F1 Team in the series’ most recent race in Mexico City. Cooling was an issue, specifically in regard to the engine and brakes. The thinner air also meant the turbo had to spin at a higher rate to inject more oxygen into the engine. But the biggest effect was the loss of aero performance, as the lack of air density decreased downforce and the car’s overall grip.

But with the lessons learned from Mexico City, along with a slightly harder range of tire compounds from supplier Pirelli in the form of its P Zero White medium, Yellow soft and Red supersoft tires, Haas F1 Team sees the season’s penultimate race as the ultimate opportunity to nab another points-paying performance.

Günther Steiner

Last year at this time, Formula One and the FIA jointly announced a direction for power unit regulations in 2021, including a higher-revving engine (3,000 rpm higher), removal of the MGU-H, a more powerful MGU-K with manual driver deployment and a single turbo with dimensional constraints and weight limits. Granted, you’re not an engine manufacturer as you receive your engines from Ferrari, but where are we in regard to this direction and, after a year into its planning, do you believe it’s on track to deliver the intended results?

“The regulations for the engines in 2021, they are not completely decided yet. There are still talks going on. In principle, I think the engines will be staying the same as they are now, or very close to it. I think the manufacturers are working to save some costs. But, the decision has not been made yet.”

Much has been made about the sound of Formula One cars, specifically that they need to be louder, like they used to be. What are your thoughts?

“I think we’ve achieved a good level of noise. To be a little bit noisier would be nice, but I think we’re good where we are.”

Of all the elements mentioned in the direction of the 2021 power unit regulations, is the most important element cost?

“It’s a very important element in this because for 2021 we’re trying to introduce a cost cap. The engine is a big cost factor for each team. The lower it is, the better it is, as we can make more developments somewhere else.”

Once all the elements of the 2021 power unit regulations are agreed upon, it’s about a two-year development process. How does that development process factor into the design of your 2021 racecar?

“As soon as we get the regulations – and there is no defined date yet when we will get them – we will decide when we put focus on the 2021 car. We obviously have to manage the cars we are racing, and if the regulations come out in 2019, we still need to develop our car for 2020. Until we have the final regulations – technical and sporting – we cannot make a decision on when we start development on the 2021 car.”

Speaking of future car design, how is development coming on your 2019 car, especially considering there are some significant new rules for next year, which include a wider and simpler front wing, a tidier front brake duct assembly and a wider, deeper rear wing devoid of endplate louvers?

“The development is coming along nicely. As I always say, as much as I can be happy with what we are doing and what our team is doing to develop, I have no idea what the other teams are doing and how far down the line they are, or how much aero development they’ve done and the downforce they’ve achieved. The only way we will see that is in Spain next year when we go testing in February.”

Has the tight battle for the top of the midfield made developing your 2019 car a little harder because your current standing in the constructors’ ranks is so tight?

“We consciously decided before the summer break to develop the 2019 car, so that doesn’t distract us at all.”

With only two races remaining, the midfield is as tight as ever, specifically among Haas F1 Team, Renault, McLaren and Force India. How would you characterize this battle, and do you find yourself looking at the time sheets to see where you stack up in relation to those other teams?

“It’s very tense in the midfield, and I think it’s a very interesting battle. I would always like to be on top of the battle, but it changes all the time, and you’re really focused on that one during every practice, qualifying and race to see how close you are to your nearest competitor.”

In back-to-back weeks Haas F1 Team has made significant partnership announcements – first with PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze and BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid expanding its role with the team and then Rich Energy becoming title sponsor. What do these announcements say about the competitiveness and commercial viability of Haas F1 Team, especially considering the organization is only in its third year?

“I think it says it all. With success, you get interest from companies to partner up with you because you get good exposure. Everybody likes to be with successful people.”

Romain Grosjean

In back-to-back weeks Haas F1 Team has made significant partnership announcements – first with PEAK Coolant & Antifreeze and BlueDEF Diesel Exhaust Fluid expanding its role with the team and then Rich Energy becoming title sponsor. What do these announcements say about the competitiveness and commercial viability of Haas F1 Team, especially considering the organization is only in its third year?

“I think it’s very good news. I think a lot of teams are looking for big sponsors. The announcement of Rich Energy joining Haas F1 Team is really good news. It shows that the team is attractive to sponsors. Hopefully, these announcements are the first of many.”

With only two races remaining, the midfield is as tight as ever, specifically among Haas F1 Team, Renault, McLaren and Force India. How would you characterize this battle, and do you find yourself looking at the time sheets to see where you stack up to the drivers on those teams?

“We always look at the timesheet. The battle is quite tight, quite good. We lost a bit of ground at our home grand prix and in Mexico, which is a shame. We’re trying to make up for it, and we’ll be giving it 100 percent.”

There’s no trophy for fourth place in the constructors’ standings, so why is it so coveted by teams outside of Mercedes, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull?

“It’s got a big significance for us. Fourth or fifth would be a big achievement for Haas F1 Team in its third season of competition.”

Haas F1 Team has proven quick at nearly every track it has raced on this year. Are there characteristics of the Interlagos circuit that you think will play into the strengths of the car and your strengths as a driver?

“Yes. Interlagos should be a good grand prix for us. It’s a track I particularly like. I’m very much looking forward to going there.”

Interlagos was resurfaced prior to the 2014 race. How much has the track changed since then and what do you expect this year with another year of weathering to the track surface?

“The tarmac has been good but the curbs have been changed, which is a bit of a shame as it’s lost a bit of the spirit of Interlagos. Generally, it’s an amazing track. The tarmac – we now have a good understanding of it – so, hopefully, we’ll have a good weekend.”

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.”

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

“I like the Senna ‘S’, and the first few corners are pretty amazing.”

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.”

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

“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.”

Kevin Magnussen

During your recent travels in North America, you got to sample a 1,375 pound (624 kilogram), 750-horsepower winged sprint car with direction from three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart at a dirt track in North Carolina. How was it?

“I really enjoyed it. It was definitely the most fun I’ve had in a racecar for many, many years. It was just cool to try something so different to what I usually do. It was great to spend a bit of time with Tony and get some great tips from him.”

How different was that sprint car from anything else you had driven, and how naturally did the skill of turning left to go right come to you?

“Well, you do have some kind of skill as a Formula One driver, but we’re not used to drifting that much. We definitely prefer not to be drifting the car. In the sprint car, you try and really drift almost the whole lap. You’ve got as much downforce when you drift, or even more when you drift, than in a straight line. That’s very different to what I’m used to. Then, obviously, driving on dirt is something I’ve never done before. I just loved the whole experience. You sit on it like a John Deere, yet the thing has around 800 horsepower.”

Stewart said you picked up the nuances of a sprint car pretty quickly and that you got to within a half-second of his time. How did his instruction help and was there anything that surprised you?

“It surprised me how physical it was. It didn’t look physical from the outside, but when you got in, it was a lot faster than I expected it to be, a lot more powerful, and it had a lot more grip. I loved it.”

Sprint cars are pretty rudimentary, especially compared to a Formula One car. Did you like that, as it definitely accentuates a driver’s ability?

“It was great finding something completely new and having to really start from zero with a racecar again. I’m so used to the Formula One car now, you’re always just fine tuning and going backward and forward, just changing little things. This was completely new. You had to make up a completely new driving style, and just go about it step by step. I loved that process of moving your limits, finding new limits, and learning new things. It was great to go back to the roots and just enjoy a bit of fun in a racecar.”

With only two races remaining, the midfield is as tight as ever, specifically among Haas F1 Team, Renault, McLaren and Force India. How would you characterize this battle, and do you find yourself looking at the time sheets to see where you stack up to the drivers on those teams?

“The midfield fight is still intense, although the gap to Renault has increased. We’re still really keen to try and catch up, and we’ll do everything we can to maximize our chances against them. Behind us in the championship we’ve got some breathing room. We know that things can turn around quickly. We want to score as many points as we can.”

There’s no trophy for fourth place in the constructors’ standings, so why is it so coveted by teams outside of Mercedes, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull?

“It’s the ‘best-of-the-rest’, so there’s a lot of pride in it. It’s a very tight battle in the midfield. We shouldn’t really be fighting Renault in Formula One, because they have a lot more resources, a big factory and a lot more people involved. With what we’ve got, we use it a lot better than they do. That’s already something to be proud of. On average, we’ve been quicker than them this year so, of course, it’s disappointing to be behind them in the championship at this point. We just have to build from here. We’ve taken a step forward this year and we’ve proved that we can build a car that’s capable of best-of-the-rest. We just have to minimize the mistakes, score points and get the results we deserve to have more points regularly.”

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 great track. It’s one of the old-school circuits with a good flow to it. It has banking, it goes up and down – it’s not just a track full of tarmac runoffs. It’s a fun track to drive. I’m looking forward to racing there. You can overtake there, but it’s not easy. You really need to get qualifying right. I think we have as good a chance there as we do any other race.”

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

The Senna ‘S’ bend. It’s a nice flowing part of the track."

Describe a lap around the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.

“Legendary and challenging.”


4 November 2018 - 15h04, by Olivier Ferret 



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