Abu Dhabi 2019 - GP preview - Haas F1

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By Olivier Ferret

25 November 2019 - 14:41
Abu Dhabi 2019 - GP preview - Haas (...)

The checkered flag has yet to drop on the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, but after 20 races spread across the globe, the finish line is clearly in sight as the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is set for Dec. 1 at Yas Marina Circuit.

With only five point-paying results in the 20 races run so far, Haas F1 Team occupies ninth in the constructors’ standings, 29 points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo and 27 points ahead of last-place Williams. The performance ended a burgeoning trajectory for the only American team competing in Formula One. After back-to-back eighth-place finishes in the 2016-2017 constructors’ standings where Haas F1 Team scored 29 points and 47 points, respectively, the organization battled at the top of the midfield in 2018, finishing an impressive fifth in the standings and nearly doubling its points haul from the year before with a final tally of 93 points.

The success of 2018 has made 2019 a bitter pill to swallow, but the silver lining of enduring a season of adversity is that it has made Haas F1 Team a battle-tested and resilient group – one that is ready to bounce back in 2020.

The fourth-year outfit turned its attention to 2020 in late August following the FIA-mandated summer shutdown. While it still worked to get the most out of its current car, the learnings of what didn’t work in 2019 have helped shape the direction of next year’s car. That said, opportunities to perform and learn even more exist before the final checkered flag in Abu Dhabi. This was absolutely the case in the penultimate Brazilian Grand Prix a fortnight ago where Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen advanced to the third and final round of qualifying for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

The opportunity for more bright spots like the one earned in Brazil exist in Abu Dhabi. Grosjean owns three point-paying finishes at Yas Marina Circuit – fourth in 2013, ninth in 2015 and another ninth last year. And Magnussen earned his best Abu Dhabi Grand Prix result last year when he finished 10th behind his teammate as Haas F1 Team scored its fifth double-points result of 2018.

The race begins at twilight and ends under the lights, providing an appropriate environment for a 2019 season in its own twilight.

Günther Steiner

Abu Dhabi is the season finale, and it’s also the finale of Haas F1 Team’s fourth year. It’s been a tumultuous one, but as the adage goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. With the adversity the team has faced this season, do you actually feel stronger going into 2020 because of how this year’s experiences have forced the team to adapt and troubleshoot?

“It was obviously a tough year for us in our fourth season. You learn and, overall, we’re pretty strong anyway. We had to learn some lessons to get better. Next year will be a new book and, hopefully, we go back to the kind of performances we had in 2018.”

If there is one thing you could do over this year, what would it be?

“One thing I would do is to just do something different after we introduced the upgrade in Barcelona. I would listen a little bit more to the drivers and be a little bit more self-critical.”

Did this year produce a silver lining in relation to next year in that when it comes to car development, you know which direction not to go in 2020, and that you also have personnel who are a little more battle-tested?

“Yes, I would say there is a silver lining. We started to react during the summer break to work on the 2020 car – to try to avoid the mistakes we’ve made this year. We don’t want to repeat them. We’re just moving forward, analyzing and working hard on the 2020 car.”

You have a record 22 races next year. How impactful will the shortened winter testing schedule be on team personnel?

“For sure it will be tough next year having 22 races for the first time. I’m sure we’ll learn some lessons there – how to deal with things better. On the other side, the shorter winter testing and then no in-season testing – that will help a little bit with having more races. It’s a bit less travel and less work for testing. The team will be challenged a lot. Team personnel will be at a limit.”

Do you expect the 2020 season to be a bit of an arms race in Formula One, where in the year before the cost cap is implemented, teams will go on spending sprees to bulk up their respective infrastructures before the $175 million budget restriction is in place for 2021?

“As always, the big teams will always have an advantage. They just have more resources and more people to develop the 2021 car to the new regulations, while at the same time developing a 2020 car. The budget cap comes in place in 2021. In the first years I don’t see a big difference in how the pecking order between the teams stacks up. There will still be the big three and then the rest. We know that. Hopefully, the gap closes a little bit to the big ones over time. For sure, we will try to do our best with whatever we have got to develop a good 2021 car.”

Romain Grosjean

Abu Dhabi is the season finale, and it’s also the finale of Haas F1 Team’s fourth year. It’s been a tumultuous one, but as the adage goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. With the adversity the team has faced this season, do you actually feel stronger going into 2020 because of how this year’s experiences have forced the team to adapt and troubleshoot?

“Yes, the team is getting stronger year on year. Obviously, we had three years where we improved each season. This year – our fourth – it’s been a disappointing season in terms of performance. That doesn’t mean that all the work we’ve done behind the scenes isn’t great. As I’ve said many times, the team has been working very well and we’ve got the maximum, if not more than the maximum, of the car most of the time. We need to see the positives, and that’s that we’ve gotten stronger. We’ve been able to analyze more and we’ve been able to get ready for 2020.”

Did this year produce a silver lining in relation to next year in that when it comes to car development, you know which direction not to go in 2020 and that you’re also part of a team that is a little more battle-tested?

“Yes, I think this year was positive in that we’ve learned where not to go. We’ve learned what we need to look for. We’ve learned that communication needs to be key. This year, the feeling was that from Barcelona, things obviously didn’t go as expected. Maybe if we’d reacted earlier, things could have been different. That’s something we’ve learned this year and, as I’ve said, that’s the first time we’ve been in this situation. It’s not easy to adjust and to know what to do, but now we’re much better prepared for the future. I’m very much looking forward to 2020.”

What is the first thing you’ll do to begin the offseason?

“I’m going on holiday with my wife. We haven’t had the chance to spend as much time together as we’d have liked. Then after our holiday, we’re into Christmas with the kids and so on. We’ll be spending two weeks off with them and making sure they get the time back from their daddy ,which they didn’t get with all the traveling we have.”

When it comes to your physical training, do you take a little break during the offseason or is the offseason a time where you ramp it up?

“I like to ramp it up, to push it hard. Obviously, knowing your body is very important, and you know that rest is part of training. So, I will take some rest, but I love training and I love activity in the winter. I go cross-country skiing, hit the skating rink, I train on the bike and in the gym. I work on getting fit for the new season, making sure I’ve not left anything on the side when it comes to being ready for winter testing then Melbourne.”

Kevin Magnussen

Abu Dhabi is the season finale, and it’s also the finale of Haas F1 Team’s fourth year. It’s been a tumultuous one, but as the adage goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. With the adversity the team has faced this season, do you actually feel stronger going into 2020 because of how this year’s experiences have forced the team to adapt and troubleshoot?

“I definitely think so. I think the team has learned a lot this year, not in terms of results, but in terms of performance. Overall, the team has done a really good job this year and really stepped up. Obviously, we’ve had a difficult car, but that’s really how the team has proved itself this year, in terms of how we’ve worked with the car and worked around the problems we’ve had. I think we’ve had a much more difficult car than, say, 2017. I think we’ve handled things much better and gotten more out of it. Also, it’s allowed us to be much better prepared for next year. We’ve come a long way and we all feel pretty excited about next year.”

Did this year produce a silver lining in relation to next year in that when it comes to car development, you know which direction not to go in 2020 and that you’re also part of a team that is a little more battle-tested?

“I really think it’s down to what we learned this year, and especially that we’ve learned a lot that we can use into next year’s car. We all feel we need to take a different direction next year, which has obviously already been taken. The development of next year’s car is well and truly underway – it has been for a little while. A lot of the stuff we’ve been doing this year is in preparation for next year. I wouldn’t say we gave up at all on this year’s car, but we knew we had to shift focus onto the 2020 car instead of trying to save this year’s model. That’s better for us than if we’d tried to turn the 2019 car around. It’s better just to try and get what you can from the current car, but really try and focus on 2020.”

What is the first thing you’ll do to begin the offseason?

“I’m going to get lots of friends and family over to London from Denmark. We’re going to have some fun and relax for a bit. I’ll enjoy not having to go to the airport every other day.”

When it comes to your physical training, do you take a little break during the offseason or is the offseason a time where you ramp it up?

“I won’t be taking time off from physical training. It’s part of my everyday life. I think it’s really refreshing to get into a nice rhythm without being disrupted by traveling and races which, although we love racing, in terms of training, it’s not ideal. You can’t train as hard over a race weekend as you can in off weeks and weekends. The winter is really where you build up your base fitness and prepare for the coming season.”

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