About Haas Automation

Haas F1 Race Report:
Azerbaijan Grand Prix | 6/25/2017

by Ayao Komatsu|Chief Race Engineer, Haas F1 Team


“We came away with our best result of the year with Kevin (Magnussen) from what was a very difficult weekend. Baku City Circuit consists of a series of low-speed corners with a very long mainstraight. Similar to Spa, it is essential to have a decent top speed to be competitive in the race. Throughout Friday we had to take so much downforce off to achieve a decent speed, which made the car quite tricky to drive. On top of that, neither driver was happy with brake performance. This is exaggerated by low grip/low downforce/high brake temperature, but it was so inconsistent throughout the weekend. Especially at a street circuit, this inconsistency makes it very difficult to exploit the limit of the car. Still, Kevin qualified well. P13 was about as far as we could go with the car we had. So, to finish the race in P7 with probably the best overtaking maneuver of the race was great.

“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

“Our main focus in FP1 was to get the basic drag/downforce level in the ballpark. We expected track conditions to be quite poor, so we started with a relatively high downforce level. Romain (Grosjean) was immediately unhappy with the brake performance. Kevin had low-speed understeer, but not too bad otherwise. After changing brakes on both cars, both cars experimented with different aero configurations. All in all, aero parts all worked as expected. Our biggest problem was brakes and getting the front tires to work.

“For FP2, we made further changes on the aero configuration. Kevin was relatively happy with the car, except for even worse brake feeling than FP1. Romain was still unhappy with the brakes. The session was very chaotic with yellow flags almost every lap. Many drivers were struggling to get the front tires to work and to keep the temperature in them. Once you slow down for traffic/yellow flags, it was very difficult to get the tires to work again. Track surface itself offers low grip but, on top of that, tires were pretty hard and everyone had to take drag off the car to be competitive on top speed. Hence, everyone was struggling in this low-grip condition.”

Saturday: FP3 and Qualifying

“Overnight, we made further changes to the aero setup. Romain made some changes on the car, aiming to improve his front locking issue. Kevin did not make many changes as he was generally happy with the car. In FP3, we ran two sets of supersoft tires and focused on finding out tire warm-up characteristics for qualifying. As expected, tire warm-up was very poor. It was especially difficult to get the left-front tire to be ready. It was clear that the tires were not ready on the first timed lap, but we also needed to recover/cool down rear tires during the run. So, from the point of view of finding out tire performance, FP3 went well. However, the set of brakes Kevin used in this session was so poor that it made it very difficult to learn anything else about the car. Romain’s brakes also continued to be poor and inconsistent.

“Due to our lack of competitiveness, slow tire warm-up and traffic/yellow flag potential, the approach we needed to take for Q1 was clear. We fueled for the whole session in order to get a lap in whenever possible and maximize track time. Romain’s first run went according the plan, but he got stopped on the FIA weigh bridge when he came back to pit lane for the second run. This made his second run timing tight to get the planned five laps in. Still, we were on target with a 10-second margin. Romain set a decent time on the first timed lap, but aborted the second timed lap. His third lap was a good improvement. We had two laps remaining and he was still pushing at turns one and two. We should have left him to carry on, but we radioed him to give him an option of either carry on or abort it to have another go on the last timed lap. This communication took him by surprised and he lost the car. The rear tires did not recover after this, hence he was out in P17.

“Kevin aborted his first run after one timed lap, then went out with enough time to do six timed laps on his second run. This run was pretty good. He kept improving throughout with a couple of cool-down laps in between. He finished in P14 and progressed to Q2. This was a very good effort, considering how difficult the car and condition were.

“For Q2, we planned to do effectively one run of five timed laps. We went out to do just Out/In to get the system up to temperature and pitted to fit a new set of tires for a run of five timed laps. Kevin did a very good job with what the car we had and qualified P13. He was .45 of a second off Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso) in P12, which we wouldn’t have achieved even if Kevin had a slightly better lap. Of course, we were not happy to be out in Q2, but Kevin got the most out of the car we had.”

Sunday: Race

“Similar to the previous two races, race strategy was a clear one-stop as tire degradation and wear were low. We put Kevin on the conventional supersoft-soft strategy whereas we put Romain on the reverse (soft-supersoft) as he qualified out of position and we needed to do something different to give him a shot at scoring points.

“Kevin started from P12 on the grid due to Sainz’s three-place grid penalty from his accident in the Canadian Grand Prix. Romain started from P16 due to Fernando Alonso’s (McLaren) penalty for using extra PU (Power Unit) elements. Both cars got away ok from the line. Kevin lost a position to Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) under braking into turn one. Kevin’s initial pace was not great. He struggled to get the front tires to work, hence he had lot of low-speed understeer. Romain was doing ok and overtook Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) pretty quickly. However, he lost the car at turn three on lap three and felt the rear tires were completely overheated. We pitted Romain at the end of lap three and fitted the car with supersofts to go to the end. On lap 11, Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) stopped at the turn 12 exit. This brought out the SC (Safety Car) on lap 12. We pitted Kevin under this SC and fitted him with the soft tire to go to the end. During this SC period, we stopped Romain again as it was ‘free’ so that he had a warmer set of tires at the restart. At this stage, Kevin and Romain were in P9 and P15, respectively. SC came in at the end of lap 16. Kevin had a very poor r-start and got overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) easily. SC was deployed again on lap 17 to clear the debris at pit straight. SC came in at the end of lap 19. As we saw on TV, Sebastian Vettel (Scuderia Ferrari) drove into Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) at the turn 15 exit when preparing for the restart. He then got alongside Hamilton and drove into him intentionally. (Vettel received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for this). At turn two, Esteban Ocon (Force India) touched with his teammate Sergio Perez. This caused front wing and left-front trackrod damage to Perez and a right-rear tire puncture to Ocon. SC was deployed for the third time on lap 20. Both Perez and Ocon pitted at the end of this lap, as well as Kimi Räikkönen (Scuderia Ferrari), who also had a right-rear puncture. This brought Kevin up to P7 and Romain to P10. Debris was scattered around the pit straight and the race was red flagged on lap 22. Under the red-flag, we fitted another set of supersoft tires onto both cars.

“The race was restarted under the SC on lap 22. Perez and Räikkönen had retired from the race at the end of lap 20, but took this opportunity to rejoin the race. Both of them received a drive-through penalty as you are not allowed to remove the car from fast lane during a red-flag period. SC came in at the end of lap 22. Kevin’s re-start was not great, but he managed to hold position behind Hulkenberg and ahead of Alonso. Felipe Massa (Williams) developed a rear damper issue, so Hulkenberg was all over him. Hulkenberg easily overtook Massa on the pit straight at the start of the next lap. Kevin then dove inside into turn one and overtook both Massa and Hulkenberg to move up to P5. Hulkenberg then hit turn seven apex kerb too much and hit the wall. He broke right-front suspension and retired. Massa retired at the end of this lap as well. This moved Romain up to P8 until Ocon and Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) came back through the field. Hamilton pitted on lap 31 to change his loose headrest while Vettel came in to serve his penalty on lap 33. This moved Kevin up to P3 with Ocon, Alonso, Bottas, Vettel and Hamilton behind. Romain was in P10 when he felt his brakes were gone on lap 36. Telemetry data was indicating an issue with right-front brake, so we boxed him to check it. Quick visual inspection revealed no obvious issues with that brake disc, so we sent him out again. Data showed that the brake system recovered to a more normal level, hence we decided to keep going. Romain finished P13, one lap down.

“Romain’s whole weekend was disrupted with brake issues. As well as having no feeling on the brakes, inconsistency was a big problem. Kevin finished the race in P7 as he lost positions to significantly quicker cars coming through the field (Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton and Ocon). This was a great result considering our lack of competitiveness at Baku. Very pleased to see Kevin putting the whole weekend together.”