About Haas Automation

Haas F1 Race Report:
Australian Grand Prix

Ayao Komatsu|Chief Race Engineer, Haas F1 Team

Friday: FP1 and FP2

“The weekend started well for Romain (Grosjean). He felt the car was good and different from the Barcelona tests, even during his installation lap. We chose to run one time on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire and one time on the Red supersoft tire in FP1. With the baseline run on the soft, he was on pace immediately, matching Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso) and being close to Felipe Massa (Williams). He was competitive again when he moved onto the supersoft tire. He felt the car responded well with predictable/consistent behavior. The new front wing worked well in the area where the car was not strong.

“Kevin (Magnussen) had a much more difficult session with excessive oversteer balance at all speed range. Kevin also tested the new front wing, but it was lost in the general car balance that was too far away. For the last run in FP1, Kevin went to Romain’s rear suspension setting, which helped to stabilize the car. For FP2, we changed some aero components, just to rule them out. Kevin was happier with the car at the start of FP2, .5 of a second off Romain (of which .4 of a second was in Sector 1) after the second push lap on a supersoft baseline run. Of course, this is not where he wants to be, but considering he started from 1.5 second off Romain in FP2 with poor balance, it was a clear step forward. However, Kevin had to abort his first run due to a water leak. This meant he did not have time to complete another timed lap in FP2, so his day was heavily compromised.

“Romain had a reasonably smooth FP2. He felt the car was not as good as it was in FP1. In the run on Purple ultrasoft tires, he was not happy with the brake performance. Compared to FP1, he also felt front-end performance was particularly poor. He then went on a high fuel long run with ultrasofts. This run was very competitive with low degradation.”

Saturday: FP3 and Qualifying

“Overnight, we only made a couple of minor changes to Romain’s car as he had a good baseline from FP1. Kevin took out a reasonable amount of front end in an attempt to start with understeer balance in FP3. We used one set of supersofts and one set of ultrasofts in this session since it was clear that the race was going to be a one-stop. On the supersoft, Romain was very competitive again. Kevin still had entry instability issues, but he also had some mid-corner understeer. For the final run, Kevin changed his front suspension configuration, which made entry stability better than it had been during winter test in Barcelona. Unfortunately, Lance Stroll (Williams) hit the wall with 10 minutes to go and the session was red flagged, which meant many people did not get a qualifying preparation run on ultrasofts, including our two drivers. Romain finished the session in P7 as the fastest supersoft runner. Kevin was .6 of a second off Romain with very limited running.

“Qualifying strategy was pretty straightforward. Although we looked competitive, it was clear that we needed to use two sets of ultrasoft tires to give ourselves the best chance to progress to Q2 and have the best preparation for Q2. During the first run in Q1, Romain commented that the car had lot more oversteer than expected. Kevin was .6 of a second off Romain, with all the deficit in Sector 3. Both drivers went out for the second run of Q1 as planned. Romain made a good improvement (.8 of a second) and went through safely in P10. Kevin was .15 of a second slower than Romain at the end of Sector 2 and was looking good to go through. However, he made a big mistake in the high-speed chicane. He had fuel to start another timed lap, but he did not have the tire to improve. He ended up in P17, out in Q1. This was an extremely disappointing result, especially after a promising winter test preparation. He started the weekend too far away and was playing catch up. If he had finished Q1 even with .6 of a second deficit to Romain, he would have been through to Q2, then he would have had further chances in Q2 to reduce the deficit. However, he was trying to catch up too quickly and ultimately paid the price.

“Romain’s first run in Q2 was compromised with traffic. He then put in a very good lap in his second run, going .7 of a second quicker. He beat both Sainz and Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso, which was our target, to progress to Q3 in P8. For Q3, we had only one set of new ultrasofts left. Our main competitors – Massa, Sainz and Kvyat – were all in the same situation. We decided to send Romain out just before everyone went out for their final run in order to have a clear track. He put in an excellent lap, going another .65 of a second quicker from his second run in Q2. Romain qualified P6, ahead of Massa, Sainz and Kvyat. To qualify as the best of the rest, behind the big three teams (Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull) was a great achievement.”

Sunday: Race

“With the race being a clear one stop, there is not much you can play with in terms of strategy. The biggest unknowns/concerns were race-start performance, pit stops and reliability. Race start performance was ok. It’s not the best, but it was a decent effort. Pit stops were also good, especially considering the amount of preparation we’ve had. The same could not be said for reliability.

“Throughout winter testing, we have been hindered by various issues that stopped us from running. This meant we couldn’t accumulate as much mileage as we would have liked. What stopped Romain on Sunday was a new issue, which is a great concern. We will be working hard to understand and fix the issue before the next race in Shanghai. Good thing is that Romain was competitive, as expected. He lost a position to Massa at the start, but managed to stay ahead of Sainz. Romain had no issues keeping up with Massa. So, if the car did not break down, there was a very good chance he finished P7 comfortably.

“Kevin’s start itself was not amazing, but he overtook both Saubers into Turn 1. Marcus Ericsson got back ahead of Kevin under braking into turn three. Kevin had moment when he hit the inside kerb, went wide and hit Ericsson. This caused front-wing damage and a tire puncture. We put Kevin on supersofts from that point. He caught up to Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren), but couldn’t overtake and lost lot of time with blue flags. Kevin then started having a very long brake pedal due to overheating front brakes, which required him to carry out significant lift and coast. We stopped him again on lap 44 as he reported tires were dropping. He retired on lap 47 with a right-front puncture.”