British GP 2021 - Haas F1 preview

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By Olivier Ferret

13 July 2021 - 13:02
British GP 2021 - Haas F1 preview

Formula 1 is coming home for one of the staple fixtures on the calendar, the British Grand Prix, held at Silverstone Circuit, marking Round 10 of the 2021 season.

Formula 1 now travels all around the world but a converted airfield in rural Britain is where it all began back on May 13, 1950. Attended by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, the British Grand Prix marked the start of the Formula 1 World Championship, spawning legends, and creating heroes. Over seven decades and 1,000 grands prix have since passed but Silverstone remains the spiritual home of Formula 1, with eight of the 10 teams having operations set up in the country, including Uralkali Haas F1 Team.

The fast and flowing layout provides a spectacular challenge for teams and drivers alike, with iconic corners such as Abbey, Copse and Maggotts/Becketts taken at phenomenal speed, while the venue frequently lends itself to close side-by-side competition in race trim. And, in one of the biggest shake-ups to the format in Formula 1’s 71-year existence, drivers will have two opportunities to race across successive days.

The British Grand Prix will mark the first of three appearances in 2021 for the Sprint Qualifying trial. A sprint, of 100km length, will take place on Saturday afternoon and the outcome of that will determine the grid for Sunday’s usual grand prix. The grid for Sprint Qualifying will be set by the tried-and-tested three-part qualifying session, the scheduling of which has been moved from Saturday to Friday evening. As part of the changes only two practice sessions, one apiece on Friday and Saturday, will take place.

Uralkali Haas F1 Team rookies Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher both have race-winning experience of Silverstone from their junior careers. Mazepin stormed to his maiden Formula 2 victory at the circuit last August while Schumacher scored a win at Silverstone during his title-winning European Formula 3 campaign in 2018.

Günther Steiner

The Austrian Grand Prix saw driving standards, and rules and penalties, very much debated in the aftermath of the race. Do you think drivers need clearer guidelines or should they be allowed to get on and race?

“I don’t think we need clearer guidelines; I think we need consistency and I’m always in favor of letting people get on and race. Some of the decisions taken, I don’t fully agree with but so it will be.”

You’ve spoken in the past about Formula 1’s need to give things a go in the interests of the sport to see if they work – which includes this weekend’s Sprint event on Saturday. Are you excited to see how it plays out at Silverstone and how will you define the success of the Sprint format?

“I am looking forward to it because it’s something new and something new always gives opportunity and hopefully we can be a part of that. I think the success will be if the fans like it. At the moment I think it’s a good format but if there’s something we can enhance, and the fans embrace it, that would be good and then I would say let’s do more of it.”

Just how hard do you think drivers will push in the Sprint to secure a higher grid position for Sunday’s race and what’s the briefing to Nikita and Mick – play it conservatively, knowing the limitations of the VF-21, or push regardless to see what gains can be made and what opportunities might present themselves?

“I think for sure the drivers will race hard because in qualifying everyone races hard and this is like a sprint race which defines the qualifying positions. On Sunday, when points are at stake, you want to be in the best position to start the race as you can. From our side, this year it’s all about learning so running the race, having a few more race starts during the year because of sprint qualifying format will be an advantage next year. On the sprint, I will tell them to keep their noses clean and keep the cars on the track.”

With the recent cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix, and the need for a fluid approach to the calendar in the second half of 2021, what impact does that have on a team in terms of logistics and forward-planning?

“With the Australian Grand Prix cancelled this early, it doesn’t have any real impact. Obviously, it has an impact on the budget, it could be beneficial or not, but we will find that out later on in the season. At the moment, on what people are doing, it has no impact because nothing was commissioned yet. Now we are waiting anxiously to find out what will replace Australia.”

With the mandatory summer shutdown looming in two races time, has the ability to have a relatively normal first half of the season impressed you, and just how significant is the break in allowing team personnel – both at track and in the factory, an opportunity to recharge?

“It’s been a relatively normal first half of the season and with already one triple-header - people can feel the strain of it. We all look forward to the shutdown in August which is not far away – just two more races to go. We also know after the shutdown, we will have a very tough second half of the season, with quite a few triple-headers so I hope everyone takes some rest over the summer and comes back recharged because we need it.”

Nikita Mazepin

We’re back racing after a week away, following your first triple-header in Formula 1. Can you share how that’s affected you mentally and physically - if at all - and if there were any surprises to what you were expecting as well as what your main takeaways have been?

“Back to backs in Formula 1 are quite different to Formula 2. It was nice to get to experience that quite early on in my career here. When you’re racing in Formula 1 – you don’t arrive and drive from Thursday and leave on Sunday. You have debriefs - pre-event and post-event - during the weekend. That makes the week itself quite intense because you don’t disconnect from racing, however I’m fortunate to like what I do. I feel it’s making me stronger with every race that comes.”

We head to Silverstone, a track you won at last season in Formula 2 in the feature race. What do you like about this circuit and how does it feel racing around a track with such motorsport heritage?

“Silverstone is a very nice circuit because it has a combination of everything you would ever want on a race track – slow speed, high speed and also overtaking opportunities. At the same time, it’s sort of my home race for Haas and I’m looking forward to doing my best there.”

It has been confirmed that a full capacity crowd will be in attendance for the British Grand Prix – with up to 140,000 fans in the grandstands each day. You haven’t raced in front of such a large audience before in your Formula 1 career to date. What do fans bring to live events – and do you think it will add to the atmosphere and provide an added boost or increase expectations?

“I can only imagine what racing in front of 140,000 fans in Formula 1 can be! I’m really looking forward to getting out there and feel the emotion and atmosphere on a race track like Silverstone.”

The British Grand Prix will also debut the Sprint Qualifying format - a 100km race to the checkered flag which will determine the grid for Sunday’s race. Will you approach the weekend differently and do you expect it to shake the grid up?

“I’m not sure what to expect from the Sprint Qualifying format. I think Formula 1 has kept the same format for quite a few years and it will be nice to get a new format to try out at Silverstone. I think with the current tires you need to plan the amount of laps you’re going to be doing on them. Hopefully we can push flat out for the whole time as normally we do not get to do that. Potentially, every lap will be like a qualifying lap for that short period of time.”

Over the last few races, it looks like you’ve been gaining confidence in the car, which has been reflected with faster lap times. Is this the result of steady learning and working with the team, or has something clicked between car and driver?

“It’s a gradual process of being complete with the car and the team, which hopefully won’t stop this year, and will not stop next year because regardless of the amount of laps you do, you learn something else. It’s learning how to drive a car that I’m not very comfortable in but still maximizing the package that I’ve got.”

Mick Schumacher

We’re back racing after a week away, following your first triple-header in Formula 1. Can you share how that’s affected you mentally and physically - if at all - and if there were any surprises to what you were expecting as well as what your main takeaways have been?

“Mentally and physically I feel great. I was really happy about the triple-header – it’s been great getting to spend so much time with the team. We’ve played football, gone cycling and had a BBQ together. We’ve been getting to do all the things which I would usually be able to do if we hadn’t had COVID. With the pandemic, it’s very restricted how I can get to England, so I’ve got to spend the time I would usually do, here, and that’s been great for us.”

We head to Silverstone, a track you have won at previously in 2018 with Formula 3, and narrowly missed out winning at last year in the sprint race to fellow F1 rookie, Yuki Tsunoda. What do you like about this circuit and how does it feel racing around a track with such motorsport heritage?

“Silverstone in general is a very interesting track. There’s lots of high-speed places but also it’s a very technical track with the last chicane, so racing is very difficult. We have long corners which makes it difficult to follow, but I’ve always enjoyed going to Silverstone. The fans are great but also the track and the history of it is amazing, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

It has been confirmed that a full capacity crowd will be in attendance for the British Grand Prix – with up to 140,000 fans in the grandstands each day. You haven’t raced in front of such a large audience before in your Formula 1 career to date. What do fans bring to live events – and do you think it will add to the atmosphere and provide an added boost or increase expectations?

“It’s going to be great to race in front of so many fans. It will be the first time for me to be in the main event, so to speak. I remember the first time I drove in front of such a big crowd, it was at Spa in 2017 - when I drove a lap in the Benetton B194 - and that was quite crazy so I can’t imagine how it’s going to be, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

The British Grand Prix will also debut the Sprint Qualifying format - a 100km race to the checkered flag which will determine the grid for Sunday’s race. Will you approach the weekend differently and do you expect it to shake the grid up?

“I think that with the new qualifying format, we will definitely need to approach the weekend differently. We only have one free practice session to set-up the car how we want it to be for the whole weekend. In FP2 we will try and learn something for the main event, but it will definitely be very different, it’s going to be interesting.”

You’re coming off a string of solid races – your highest race finish of 13th in Baku, a Q2 appearance at Paul Ricard, and showing strong race pace in Austria. Is this the result of steady learning and working with the team, or has something clicked between car and driver?

“We’ve had a few very good qualifying sessions and races at the past few events. I think it’s down to us working as a team really well together and understanding the car better. It’s really the work we’ve put in these last weeks and months that has brought us to this place, and also a bit of luck in some places like Baku.”

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