About Haas Automation

Haas F1 Race Report:
Belgian Grand Prix | 8/27/2017

by Ayao Komatsu|Chief Race Engineer, Haas F1 Team


Overview

“Spa was a tricky weekend and it was great to come away with Romain Grosjean’s seventh-place finish. We were really struggling on Friday with the car. We then got the car in a much better place for FP3 and Romain was very competitive. In qualifying, we underperformed compared to FP3. However, it was still a good effort considering where we came from. Race performance was strong with very good pit stops. We were on target for a double top-10 finish, however, Kevin Magnussen made a mistake on the safety car restart, which destroyed his tires. Of course, we were very disappointed not to have both cars in the points. We also have to start the weekend in a much better shape. However, we take huge positives from how we came back from a poor Friday to have a very strong finish on Sunday. Friday night, everyone did their bit to improve the car performance and we made a decent improvement for Saturday. All operations on Sunday went well. This is a very encouraging sign as a team and gives us good confidence going forward. We have the last European race of the season this weekend in Monza. Monza offers another unique challenge being a low downforce circuit. I’m sure the next race cannot come soon enough for Kevin.”

Friday: FP1 and FP2

“The main challenge in Spa is to find the right level of downforce/drag such that the car has a decent top speed for racing on Sunday while retaining enough grip level for cornering performance. We started both cars with the setup targeted for qualifying performance. We suspected that we have to go lighter in order to have sufficient top speed for the race. Hence, both drivers took downforce off in different ways during FP1 to evaluate the sensitivity. Kevin and Romain also looked at alternative front suspension setups in order to maximize aero performance in different ways. Both of these alternative setups showed improvements. In terms of top speed, neither driver was still competitive at the end of FP1. This was also clear in sector performance. Sectors one and three are predominantly straight, while sector two is where all the corners are. Hence, it is relatively straightforward to judge this balance in Spa.

“For FP2, we switched to a different rear wing assembly on both cars in an attempt to find a better compromise between grip and top speed. The session did not start very well when the DRS (Drag Reduction System) got stuck open on both cars on their out laps. We lost some track time while the adjustment was made in the garage to prevent this from happening again. Once our drivers were out on the track, it was pretty obvious that this new rear wing level was too light. Straight line gain was bigger than expected, but it also meant the grip level in the corners was worse than expected. Both drivers really struggled with poor overall grip and they were sliding everywhere. With these Pirelli tires, once you start sliding around, it is difficult to get any performance out of them, hence our competitiveness was really poor. For the qualifying simulation run on the ultrasofts (softest tire for the weekend), we put some downforce/drag on, but the situation remained largely unchanged. To make matters worse, light rain started just before we were ready to go out on our high-fuel runs. Romain went out on ultrasofts and Kevin went out on softs (hardest tire for the weekend). Romain said the car was better in high fuel. Kevin got no information out of it as he did not push in this condition. The rain got worse to the point that we were not learning anything about tires, hence we stopped running.”

Saturday: FP3 and Qualifying

“Overnight, our main focus was determining the best downforce level for qualifying and the race. In the end, we decided to run closer to FP1 rear wing setting. Although not perfect, we concluded this was the best solution with the hardware we had, especially considering our competitiveness. Tires were lasting better than expected on Friday, so we decided to use up the harder range of tires in FP3, which allowed more of the ultrasofts to be available in qualifying. Our performance on the soft tire was good. Tires were behaving consistently enough that both drivers could push the tires to the limit. Both drivers then went onto supersofts. Our competitiveness on these tires was very good. Romain was particularly happy, commenting that there was a clear peak of grip – a sign of the tires working properly – and the car was responding in a way that he expect it to. This was a significant improvement from Friday

“With strong performance in FP3, we knew we had a good chance to get into Q3 if we could extract the expected performance out of the ultrasoft tire. In the end, we couldn’t quite make it. We did not run ultrasofts in FP3 in order to save maximum numbers of ultrasofts for qualifying, so this wasn’t the ideal qualifying preparation. Kevin started very strong in the first round of Q1, whereas Romain had a poor first run with severe understeer. Kevin’s second run was decent and he made it through to Q2 with .3 of a second margin whereas Romain had only .1 of a second margin. During Q2, Romain made very good progress, improving .3 of a second each run. He finished Q2 in P12, .13 of a second slower than Esteban Ocon (Force India) in P10 and .24 of a second slower than Sergio Perez (Force India) in P8. Compared to FP3 with supersofts, the car balance was slightly worse with ultrasofts in qualifying. We adjusted the front wing setting throughout the qualifying session and the balance did improve, but it was still not ideal at the end. On top of this, Romain had some straight line speed deficit as well. By contrast, Kevin’s qualifying did not get better in Q2. He only went marginally quicker in the second round of Q2, then slower in his final attempt. He qualified P13, just under .3 of a second slower than Romain.”

Sunday: Race

“For us, the race was a clear one-stop strategy with either ultrasofts or supersofts with a long stint on softs. After some debate, we decided to start both cars on ultrasofts. Kevin had a good start, overtaking Romain before turn one. He then overtook Perez and finished the first lap in P10. However, once the DRS was enabled, Perez overtook Kevin easily using Force India’s strong straight line performance. Kevin was really struggling with the tires from the start and he couldn’t pick up the pace at all. He was overtaken by Romain and could not keep up. As his pace was so poor – he couldn’t overtake Fernando Alonso (McLaren) on the straight as his turn one performance was so poor – we stopped him on lap nine, which was earlier than planned, but still within our pit stop window. "

“Romain was going very well, but we stopped him on lap 10 as we tried to undercut a car in front. Both stops were good and they got back out as planned. Perez stopped two laps later and came out behind Romain. Perez then overtook Romain by cutting turn six, which he later got a five-second time penalty for. Both Romain and Kevin’s pace on soft tires was strong. The Force Indias ahead were on supersoft tires, so we expected them to stop again. Perez and Ocon came in on lap 25 and lap 27, respectively. This moved Romain and Kevin up to P7 and P8. Ocon was ahead of Perez before they made their stops, but this two-lap delta in their stop meant Ocon came out behind Perez after his pit stop, even though Perez had the five-second time penalty on his stop. On lap 29, Perez and Ocon came together out of turn one. This resulted in a right-rear puncture for Perez and front wing damage for Ocon. Debris from Ocon’s front wing was scattered around and the safety car was deployed. We decided to stop both cars during this safety car period for supersofts. Romain pitted the first time around and Kevin pitted the second time around, as a double stop would’ve cost too much time. Kevin lost position to Felipe Massa (Williams), which dropped him to P9. The safety car came in at the end of lap 33. On the restart, Kevin braked too hard into the last chicane, locked up and damaged his tires. He had to pit for another set of tires, which put him totally out of contention. Romain was driving well in P7 behind Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) on ultrasofts, but did not have a pace to threaten him. He finished the race in a very strong seventh.”