Portugal GP 2020 - GP preview - Haas F1

Team quotes


By Olivier Ferret

20 October 2020 - 13:51
Portugal GP 2020 - GP preview - (...)

It’s bom dia to Portugal as Haas F1 Team gets ready for its maiden visit to the country, which returns to the Formula 1 World Championship after a 24-year absence.

City-based courses in Porto and Lisbon both played host to grands prix in the early years of the championship but it was in 1984 when the Portuguese Grand Prix sparked into life at a facility located on the outskirts of the capital city in Estoril. The likes of Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher all triumphed at the circuit but after 1996 Formula 1 sought pastures new, and Portugal was left out in the cold.

Fast-forward to 2020 and Portugal is back in the fold, only this time the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve – also referred to as Portimao in deference to the nearby coastal town – is the venue for world championship competition. It will be the first time that a Formula 1 grand prix has taken place at Portimao and it will be the second brand-new venue on the 2020 calendar after September’s trip to Italy’s Mugello.

The recently resurfaced 15-turn 4.653km-circuit is renowned for its medium and high-speed sections, relative width that promotes various racing lines, and undulating topography that enhances the challenge. Neither Romain Grosjean nor Kevin Magnussen have raced on the sweeping curves of the Algarve venue and thus it is completely new territory for Haas F1 Team and its drivers, as the team strives to add more points to its 2020 tally.

The Portuguese Grand Prix will take place from October 23 to 25, with two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday, final practice and a three-part qualifying hour on Saturday, the results of which set the grid for Sunday’s 66-lap grand prix. Lights out is due for 13:10 local time (09:10 EST/13:10 GMT).

Günther Steiner

The Eifel Grand Prix, courtesy of the weather, was effectively a two-day race weekend. What was the biggest challenge for the team prepping for qualifying and the race off the back of a solitary practice session – did they embrace an ‘adapt and innovate’ mentality?

“The biggest challenge was to wait out Friday not knowing what to do. That was – I wouldn’t say challenging, but it was boring, and not well invested time. I think we adapted well, and it’s more like the old days of racing – you have to be a lot quicker in thinking what to do and making bolder decisions, hoping you don’t get them wrong. You don’t have that much time to look at data, you need to go a little bit by the seat of your pants. I think our guys did a good job on that one.”

With Imola shortly to follow as an official two-day race weekend, and with the format likely to be utilized more in an ever-condensed Formula 1 schedule, what are the pros and cons in your opinion of such a format - taking into consideration the needs of the teams, sponsors, broadcasters, the series, the promoters and of course, the fans?

“In my own opinion, a two-day event works well. It allows us to get more races in, which in turn means more fans around the world could get the chance to see us. The cons, which I don’t know if they’re cons – that’s for Formula 1 to look into it, its for the promoters, as a Friday gives more possibilities to get fans in. Financially it’s a good day for them. I don’t know all these things as I’m not involved in them, but on the sheer practical side of going racing, I have nothing against two-day events. Maybe some events we go to we could put on a Thursday and Friday test – we can make something out like we do with pre-season testing and the broadcasting of that. These are just ideas, I don’t know if they make sense but maybe we should look into that.”

Looking at the positives from the Eifel Grand Prix weekend - the team was one-deleted lap time away from landing both cars in Q2 in qualifying, with Kevin ultimately making it into Q2 for the fourth time in 2020, and Romain’s ninth place effort in the race delivered his first points of the season. In a year where the challenges are obvious, how much of a boost to the team are those performances and how can you capitalize on them moving forward down the home stretch?

“For sure, the time disqualification for Romain in qualifying was disappointing because it was very close, but in the end very close was also over the limit. It would have been fantastic to have both cars in Q2, but at the moment we are happy with one. Finishing ninth in the race, it was the boost we need at the moment. It lifts everybody’s spirit. We keep on showing what we can do in a challenging year with a car that’s not performing as we want it. We always try to squeeze every little bit out of it. This comes at the right time as there is not so many races left anymore. Knowing that we can do it, everybody will put that little extra effort in to try to make it happen again. It’s actually a great feeling to again score some points. When you get them all the time you don’t realize it anymore. Given we’ve only had them twice this year, it’s quite a high.”

The Portuguese Grand Prix is perhaps the biggest unknown of the season as it marks Formula 1’s race debut at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. From what you’ve been briefed with regards to simulator feedback etc what are your expectations for the team heading into the weekend? Will the layout of the circuit be more favourable to the characteristics of the VF-20?

“I think this year, with the exception of the high-speed tracks like Monza and Spa, the rest of the circuits are very similar. As long as we don’t have really long straights, the car is just where we are – and that’s not in our best year. In general, I quite like the challenge of having a new track and the opportunity to learn new things. It looks like in those circumstances we perform better. With more unknowns there are more things we bring to the table which can help us. We don’t have the resources of the bigger teams and the experience of having been at circuits for many years. Every new race track has new challenges, and it seems like with the new challenges – our guys react pretty quickly. Let’s hope this happens also in Portimao.”

Romain Grosjean

The Eifel Grand Prix, courtesy of the weather, was effectively a two-day race weekend. Did you enjoy the challenge of the shortened program and how does it impact your preparation for both qualifying and the race?

“Yes, I thought it was actually quite fun – it was good preparation for Imola. In life, a mix of things is good, and I think those two-day weekends are quite exciting. But the three-day weekends are also quite good, so I think a mix of both could be a nice way forward in the future. Obviously, you get less information, mainly going into the race because you haven’t really had the chance to try all the tires – so you need to get creative going into the race. In qualifying, if you manage to get out of Q1 then you usually manage to find some good pace in Q2 because you just have a bit more running going on.”

You took time to state on the radio in practice how enjoyable it was to drive the Nürburgring. You’re a fan of many of the old-school circuits so where else would you love to drive a modern Formula 1 car?

“I’m really enthusiastic about those old circuits. It’s just the character of the circuits – the kerbs are different, the radius, the camber, the undulation. I think all those things together, it’s quite attractive in all the circuits I really like. Normally they’ve got a lot of elevation, a lot of camber, different types of kerbs. Magny Cours could be quite nice in Formula 1. It’s obviously very tricky to overtake, but it could be a very nice circuit. This year with our calendar, I think we’re racing at a lot of different circuits that are really good. I think we’re really covering most of the top circuits.”

You scored your first points of the season at the Nürburgring with a ninth-place finish at the checkered. What was the key to keeping the VF-20 in the top 10 and just how hard did you have to work to keep tire temperatures up after the safety car period?

“We decided to go for a different strategy from most of the field. The first stint was key for us – we kept the medium tires alive for 28 laps without losing too much pace. We did that very well. We pitted, changing from an initial two-stop plan, to basically a medium to hard tire race. Before the race we didn’t think we’d use the hard tires because they were far too hard for us. But actually, they worked really well, especially in free air at the beginning. Obviously, behind the safety car was always going to be a disadvantage, especially against the runners behind me on new tires, Hulkenberg and Gasly on softs and new softs. Because we could un-lap ourselves, I was just able to generate enough tire temperature – so it wasn’t too bad at the restart. I could keep the rest of the field behind me apart from the two soft runners.”

We welcome the return of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. At a new circuit such as this one, what’s on the priority list in terms of what data needs to be analyzed together with your engineers to help fast-track your learning curve? Is it tires, is it aero-balance – combination of everything?

“On a new circuit, I guess, the most important thing first is to familiarize yourself with the layout. Obviously, you have to find the right baseline set-up, but the boys have been very good at that. Seeing what the simulation is saying in terms of speed in the corners and gear ratio – that gives you a first proper idea of how much speed you’re going to carry through into the corners and help you get up to speed as fast as possible.”

Kevin Magnussen

The Eifel Grand Prix, courtesy of the weather, was effectively a two-day race weekend. Did you enjoy the challenge of the shortened program and how does it impact your preparation for both qualifying and the race?

“Yes, I think the fact we had only one practice before qualifying made it really interesting – it made it a bigger challenge and more exciting. The practice session was super important for the driver as you had to get on the pace really quickly. You had to get creative and improvise, you had to use your instinct to really get on top of the lap and the track as quickly as possible. I think going into the race as well, having those unknowns with the tires, it made for an interesting race. I’m looking forward to another two-day weekend at Imola.”

Qualifying at the Nürburgring was the highlight of your weekend with a fourth appearance this season in Q2. What do you look for in the VF-20 to suit your driving style in order to extract the most from it in qualifying trim?

“Generally, the handling of the VF-20 is good. You want a car that has good rear-end stability on entry, at turn-in, and then not too much understeer at mid-corner. That’s tricky to achieve. Usually when you achieve good rear stability on entry, you’re likely to end up with understeer mid-corner. It’s about finding that trade-off. Of course, you’re also looking to get the most out of all the systems and the set-up on the car.”

We welcome the return of the Portuguese Grand Prix this weekend at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. What do you know about the track in terms of its layout and how it will lend itself specifically to Formula 1 cars racing there for the first time ever?

“I tested there a long time ago in my junior career – I remember the track being really cool. It’s a tricky, unique circuit with lots of blind corners. There should be some interesting parts of the track for overtaking as well, and it has a pretty long straight. It’ll be a new challenge and it’s one I look forward to.”

At what point do you feel comfortable at a new circuit? Where does the switch happen from learning the track behind the wheel to being able to just concentrate on the run program and set-up?

“The reality is you’re constantly learning – constantly finding more lap time and better rhythm. You never stop improving as there’s always more to be found. The details get smaller, but you never stop being able to extract more out of the lap.”

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