About Haas Automation

Haas F1 Race Report:
Monaco Grand Prix | 5/28/2017

Ayao Komatsu|Chief Race Engineer, Haas F1 Team


“We finally managed to get both cars to finish in top-10. Another important milestone achieved. Romain (Grosjean) drove a strong race from P8 on the grid to finish in P8. Kevin (Magnussen) was running just behind Romain until he had a puncture (no fault of his own), which dropped him to P13. However, with some incidents ahead, he came back into the points and finished P10. It was very satisfying to get both cars to finish in top-10 for the very first time, especially when the midfield is so competitive.

“In such tight competition, you have to put everything together to score points with both cars, starting right from the beginning of FP1. The car continues to be competitive in the midfield and the order within this tight pack changes event to event. In Monaco, Toro Rosso was very competitive and had an edge on us. Renault, which showed very strong qualifying pace for the last three events, was slower than us. We were at the front of this midfield pack in Melbourne, toward at the back in Sochi, then back to second-quickest (after Toro Rosso) in Monaco. So, it’s an exciting position to be in. The whole team needs to perform well to be toward the front of this pack. If we can achieve this, we should be able to aim for a top-10 finish with both cars at most races.”

Thursday: FP1 and FP2

“As overtaking is near impossible in this tight street circuit, we planned practice sessions heavily biased toward qualifying performance. We ran slightly lower fuel load than most of the other events and we also ran mostly on qualifying tire (ultrasoft). Drivers need as much track time as possible to gain confidence, which enables them to drive closer to the limit/guardrails. Romain did not get off to a good start in FP1 when he severely damaged his floor after a couple of timed laps. The extent of the damage meant the car was largely unrepresentative for the rest of the session, hence he did not get much out of the session at all. By contract, Kevin’s session ran smoothly. He was able to improve his time step-by-step. His approach was very good and he ran a very productive session. We looked at an alternative setup with Kevin to see if we could improve low-speed performance. Kevin felt improvement in lower speed was overall positive. This change was adapted for both cars for FP2.

“For FP2, Romain got a new floor as his damage in FP1 was too severe to repair. Both drivers started the session with the supersoft tire. Their time was very competitive against the other supersoft runners. With the ultrasoft tire, Kevin put in a good lap to finish the session in P9, splitting the two Mercedes drivers. Romain was struggling more to get the tires to work properly and he was .2 of a second slower than Kevin. Romain finished the session in P14. At this stage, it was clear that Toro Rosso was very quick, but we were very competitive against the rest of the midfielders. Both drivers then focused on long runs with the ultrasoft tire as we expected this tire to be the main race tire. Our pace and degradation were pretty good, indicating we had a good baseline setup.

“With the help from our factory-based vehicle performance group, we focused on improving the car setup to improve consistency (which then gives confidence to drivers). The direction provided by these guys was extremely useful for the rest of the weekend.”

Saturday: FP3 and Qualifying

“Focus in FP3 was solely on qualifying preparation. The priority was to find out when the ultrasoft tire offered the best grip level. Tire warmup was still not ideal, hence some preparation/management was required before the tire reached its peak performance. Again, Kevin did a great job and put in a very competitive lap time to finish the session in P9. Romain struggled more to get the tires to work well and failed to improve on his second set. Especially in Monaco, where the track evolution is high, if you don’t improve lap time on your final run, you will look very uncompetitive. Romain finished the session down in P16.

“In Q1, our program was to maximize track time as traffic is always an issue in Monaco and, also, tire warmup was poor. Neither Romain nor Kevin recorded decent lap times during their first run. They were down in P14 and P17, respectively, after the first round. We went for a longer run for their final attempt. Kevin managed to set a good lap time straight away and he was through to Q2 comfortably in P9. Romain was not having a great time and left extremely late (very final timed lap with less than 15-second margin) to put a lap time .2 of a second slower than Kevin to progress to Q2 in P12. In the end, Romain had .3 of a second margin to Esteban Ocon (Force India) who was in P16, but without his final lap, he would have been out.

“In Q2, our drivers’ first runs were not great, as neither of them could match their lap time from Q1. As Romain was less confident about getting the tires to work straight away, we sent him out for his second run with five laps of fuel on board. This time, he managed to get the tires to work and hit the first timed lap properly and recorded a 13.2. This lap time was good enough for him to go through in P6. Kevin was more confident that tires would be ready for the first timed lap. We fueled him for three laps, which allowed him at least two attempts if his first push lap was affected by traffic or a mistake. However, Kevin could not get a good lap and could only match his lap time from the first run. He qualified P13, behind Nico Hulkenberg (Renault). This was extremely disappointing as he was driving well and managing tires well during all free practice sessions.

“In Q3, we only had one set of new ultrasofts left. We decided to send Romain out on a used set of ultrasofts to get a feel on the car and track conditions. We then turned the car around quickly and sent him out with three laps of fuel. Romain could not repeat or improve his time from Q2. The car looked like it had more oversteer with additional aero balance for this run. He qualified P8, .02 of a second behind Sergio Perez (Force India) in P7 and .19 of a second behind Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso) in P6. In Q3, only Romain and McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Stoffel Vandoorne had one set of ultrasofts. The rest of the field had two new sets of ultrasofts. Even with two new sets, nobody went much quicker in Q3 (.1 of a second to .2 of a second) with the exception of Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes). The best Romain could have achieved was P7. Considering how much Romain was struggling in practice sessions, Romain and his engineering team did extremely well to get into Q3 and qualified as high as they did.”

Sunday: Race

“Although Kevin qualified in P13, he was P11 on the grid due to grid penalties for Button and Vandoorne.

“As usual for Monaco, strategy was a clear one-stop since it is virtually impossible to overtake and tire degradation is low. Ultrasofts were clearly the better race tire, hence we decided to put Kevin on it to start the race. (Romain was in Q3, so he had to start on the ultrasoft anyway).

“We were concerned about Romain and Kevin getting stuck behind Perez and Hulkenberg, respectively. We were also concerned about the threat from Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) for Romain.

“Kevin’s race began really well as he had a very good start and managed to overtake both Hulkenberg and Kvyat and got right behind Romain. Romain’s start was not as good as Kevin’s, but he managed to hold position. Both drivers struggled with oversteer and Romain could not keep up with Perez in front. Kevin was able to open up enough gap to Hulkenberg to protect himself from Hulkenberg’s undercut threat. Hulkenberg stopped on lap 16 with gearbox failure. This wasn’t very good for us as it released Kvyat and Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) to catch up to Kevin. However, Kevin was able to maintain the minimum gap to be able to react to Kvyat if Kvyat decided to try undercutting him. Kvyat stopped on lap 36. We responded and stopped Kevin on the following lap. With a good stop, we managed to get Kevin back out in front of Kvyat as intended. We pitted Romain on lap 40 as he reported that the tires were degrading significantly. Again, the pit stop was good and Romain got back out in front of Kevin and re-established the order (Grosjean-Magnussen-Kvyat) before the stop. In the meantime, Hamilton was making progress in the background. Once Kvyat stopped on lap 36, Hamilton was in free air and lapping two seconds quicker than Romain. Hamilton stopped as soon as he had a comfortable pit stop gap to Romain and rejoined in front of Romain. With the supersoft tire, Romain was really struggling with oversteer and rear tire overheating. Kevin was happier with the supersoft but, unfortunately, he had a left-rear puncture and had to pit again on lap 42, which moved him down to P13.

“On lap 60, the Safety Car (SC) was deployed following the incident between Button and Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber), which ended up with Wehrlein on his side at the turn eight exit tire barrier. During this SC period, both Perez and Felipe Massa (Williams) made “free stops” and put on newer ultrasoft tires. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) crashed out at turn one while trying to un-lap himself under SC. At the SC restart, Vandoorne also crashed at turn one. He was trying to overtake Perez from the outside and ran out of road. Perez tried to overtake Kvyat on the inside into turn 18 and they crashed. Perez had to pit for a new front wing. Kvyat stopped eventually at turn four. This brought Kevin back up to P10. Romain and Kevin held their position until the end of the race, finishing P8 and P10.”