About Haas Automation

Haas F1 Race Report:
Austrian Grand Prix | 7/9/2017

by Ayao Komatsu|Chief Race Engineer, Haas F1 Team


Overview

“It was a great result to finish in P6 with Romain Grosjean behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, winning the competition of midfield teams. It shows that when we have the right level of downforce/drag and get the tires to work, we can be the best of the rest, which is great for any midfield team, but especially for a team in only its second year. At the same time, it was a real pity that we could not achieve this fantastic result with both cars. Kevin Magnussen was driving very well all weekend. Without suspension failure in qualifying, I have very little doubt that Kevin would have qualified P7 or P8. In the race, he was unlucky to lose positions at the start and got stuck behind Williams, then finally let down by a car failure. In the last race in Baku, he put the whole weekend together. Here in Austria, he was very good throughout, as well. So, he’s been driving well and it was a real missed opportunity for him, but we take big positives from his consistent performance throughout the weekend.”

“We have scored points in four consecutive races since Barcelona, finished six out of eight races in the points and got back up to P7 in the constructors standings, three points ahead of Renault. Pit stops were very good again. We did not have outright pace this weekend, which we clearly need to improve. However, the whole team worked well to get the most out of what we had and we were there to capitalize on the chaotic race. This again shows the improvement the team has made this year. At the same time, we are focused on improving our braking performance before the next race to avoid the same situation.”

Friday: FP1 and FP2

“In FP1, Kevin’s program was largely focused on aero setups. He evaluated the new wing which was first introduced (but not raced) in Baku, and also tried an alternative rear ride-height. Both showed positive trends that gave a good direction for FP2 setup. Romain looked at alternative front suspension geometry. However, his session was cut short due to a left-front tire puncture.

“For FP2, both cars had revised rear suspension setup based on Kevin’s test result. Both drivers ran once on the supersoft tires and once on the ultrasoft tires. Romain felt the car was working very well in the high-speed sector of the track before part of the floor broke. After this point, there wasn’t much information he could take due to the resultant aero inconsistency. Still, despite the damage, he was pretty competitive and finished the session .17 of a second off Kevin. Kevin’s session was affected by inconsistent brake performance. The difference between supersoft and ultrasoft was small, and we were able to make both tires to work ok.”

Saturday: FP3 and Qualifying

“Overnight, we made a small change on both cars of the rear aerodynamics setting, but otherwise left the cars largely untouched.

“In FP3, we used one set of supersofts and one set of ultrasofts as the race was a clear one-stop. (There was no requirement to have two sets of supersofts for the race.) The car was working pretty well with good, stable balance on high-speed corners. Tire warm-up was not perfect, but ultrasofts were very close to being ready on first timed lap. In low-speed corners, there was too much mid-corner understeer. All in all, both drivers were happy with the car and we confirmed our strong competitiveness seen on Friday.

“In Q1, we planned to do two runs of five timed laps each. Both drivers recorded competitive lap times straight away on their first push lap. We have been really struggling in the first round of Q1, so this was a very good sign that the car and tires were working well. Kevin’s time was especially competitive. He commented afterward that the lap time came very easily. Unfortunately, Kevin suffered a left-rear suspension failure. His classification at the end of Q1 was P12, hence he progressed to Q2. However, as he could take no further part in qualifying, he qualified P15 for the race (bottom of Q2).

“Romain’s lap time from the first round of Q1 was very close to the predicted cutoff (don’t have to run again). We took no risks and ran Romain again to make sure he went through to Q2. He improved by .4 of a second, which was slightly better than the field average. He went through to Q2 easily in P8. At this stage, the tires looked very close to being ready for the first timed lap. We stayed on our original plan of fast-slow-fast for Q2 in order to protect ourselves from unforeseen risks. In the first round of Q2, Romain improved his lap time by .4 of a second, which was in line with the average of the field. He could not go quicker on his second run, but his first run was good enough to progress to Q3 in P7. For Q3, we had one new set of ultrasofts left. As the tire degradation was very low, we decided to do the first run with used tires from the second round of Q2. Romain’s lap was very good. With the used set, he went quicker than in the second round of Q2 on a new tire run. He then went out for his final run of one timed lap. Unfortunately, we had an electrical issue on Power Unit and Romain had to stop the car on track. He qualified P7, ahead of Sergio Perez (Force India), who set his time on a new tire set. Even if Romain had a chance to improve on the final new tire run, it would have been very difficult to improve his position.”

Sunday: Race

“Race strategy was again a clear one-stop with ultrasofts and supersofts. The supersofts had a life to do the entire race. The soft was just an overall slower tire. So, the choice was simple. Romain started from P6 on the grid, following Lewis Hamilton’s (Mercedes) five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. Romain had a good start. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) had a terrible start, so Romain was in P5 going into turn one. Just in front of him, Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) got side-by-side with Kimi Räikkönen (Scuderia Ferrari) into turn three and forced Räikkönen to go wide. This allowed Romain to overtake Räikkönen and move up to P4. In fact, he got alongside Ricciardo at turn four as well, so this was a great opening lap from him. He got overtaken by Räikkönen into turn four when DRS became available on lap three. On lap eight, Hamilton overtook Romain into turn four around the outside. Romain’s pace and tire degradation was good and he was able to keep a comfortable gap to Perez behind. This allowed us to stretch his first stint as we could simply react to Perez pitting. Perez pitted on lap 35 and he lost a bit of time with Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) lapping him. We reacted with Romain on the following lap. With a good pit stop, he rejoined the race comfortably ahead of Perez and, importantly, ahead of Bottas with enough gap so that he didn’t get the blue flag. Romain was in free air for the rest of the race, managing tires and fuel. He had a good base pace to keep a comfortable gap to Perez behind despite having to do more fuel saving than expected. He finished the race in P6 as the last car on the lead lap, despite racing with a damaged floor sustained in qualifying. A great result.

“We put Kevin on the reverse strategy, starting on the supersofts. He qualified out of position, but due to the tight midfield, we expected the overtaking to still be very difficult during the first stint. His best chance was expected to be in mid-race when he was released in the free air and toward the end of the race with a fresher, faster tire. Kevin’s start was good. He was on the outside of Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) into turn one. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) locked up and drove into Fernando Alonso (McLaren) under braking into turn one, and Alonso collected Verstappen as a result. Vandoorne went wide off the track to avoid this collision, which forced Kevin to go around the outside and off the track at turn one. (A spinning Kvyat very nearly hit Kevin). When Kevin rejoined, he was nearly last. He recovered well on the opening and came back up to P11, behind Lance Stroll (Williams). Stroll was also on the supersoft tire, so Kevin really needed to overtake him to minimize his loss. However, he had a serious over temperature due to a piece of front wing stuck in left-side radiator duct. This made it very difficult for him to attack Stroll properly. He was still stuck behind him when we had a hydraulic pressure loss on lap 29 and had to retired Kevin.”