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Haas F1 Race Report:
Spanish Grand Prix | 5/14/2017

Ayao Komatsu|Chief Race Engineer, Haas F1 Team


“The Spanish GP was dominated by tricky tires and windy conditions. Both qualifying and race results were disappointing as we couldn’t maximize our potential and capitalize on some DNFs (Did Not Finish). Positives are that we had pace in qualifying in very tight midfield. Our race pace and degradation on soft tires was good for both drivers.”

Friday: FP1 and FP2

“FP1 started with running on hard tire, which had an extremely low grip level. On the medium tires, car balance was oversteer on entry and understeer midcorner. Both drivers commented that traction felt pretty good. Kevin (Magnussen) tried a different rear ride-height setting with the new floor, but he didn’t get much data as he locked up into turn four and went off. This was the end of the session for him. Romain’s (Grosjean) main handling issue was snap oversteer on power. However, corner entry was also nervous, similar to Kevin.

“Wind condition changed significantly for FP2 and both drivers struggled a lot as it was pretty gusty. The car balance would change a lot lap to lap depending on the wind strength and direction. The other drivers were also experiencing the similar issue, but to various levels. This gusty wind condition and peaky tires made this session extremely difficult and largely unrepresentative. Our drivers also struggled on braking performance.”

Saturday: FP3 and Qualifying

“We ran one set of medium and one set of soft tires for FP3. With the medium tires, our performance was as expected. Romain was in P8 and Kevin was in P11 once everyone finished their medium tire runs. We were very quick in Sector 1, but very slow in Sector 3. This is a similar trend to what we saw in FP2. Sector 3 is dominated by low-speed corners and is usually hard on rear tires as there is no time for tires to cool down. For the final run on the soft, Romain tried alternative rear suspension setting, whereas Kevin did not make any changes. On the soft tire run, Kevin had a bit of traffic in Sector 2, but he managed to improve Sector 3 significantly. He was generally happy with the car balance. Romain had too much understeer all around, but also some oversteer on entry into some corners. Romain was still very poor in Sector 3 and ended up .5 of a second slower than Kevin in this sector.

“In Q1, both drivers used two sets of softs. Our first round in Q1 was pretty poor. At the end of the first round, Kevin was down in P17 with Romain in P15. Both drivers made a significant improvement for their second run (improving by more than a second) and finished Q1 in P7 and P10 with comfortable .4 of a second margin to cutoff. In Q2, we planned two runs with one timed lap, using another two sets of soft tyres. Both cars’ first runs were decent with Kevin in P9 and Romain in P11 after the first round. Romain’s second run was not going very well, only finding .1 of a second before turn 10. The car had entry and exit snaps, as well as mid-corner understeer – looked pretty tricky to drive. He finally lost the car on the entry to turn 13. This wasn’t helped by tailwind, but he was really pushing hard through there as he knew he had to improve the time to get into Q3. Kevin was doing really well until before turn 10. Despite mistake at turn seven, he was .4 of a second up on his previous best at this point, so he was heading for 81.05. However, he lost time at turn 10 and the last chicane, which cost him .2 of a second. He was still very close to make it to Q3, but Fernando Alonso’s (McLaren) last attempt beat him by .08 of a second. In Q2, from where Kevin ended up in P11 to Esteban Ocon (Force India) in P7, the gap was .18 of a second. So, the midfield is even more competitive now after everyone put upgrades on their cars.”

Sunday: Race

“Going into the race, biggest unknown was medium tire performance. From what we saw on Friday and in FP3, it was a very slow tire. Hence, we decided to start both cars on the soft. Our base plan was two stops, using two sets of softs and one set of mediums. At the start, Kevin held position off the line but got overtaken by Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) at turn one exit. Initial pace was not great, but once tires started working, his pace was similar to Hulkenberg in front. Degradation was slightly lower than expected, so the soft was working well. We decided to pit him on lap 13 in order to protect from potential undercut by Carlos Sainz Jr. (Toro Rosso). As you saw on TV, it was extremely close at the pit exit, but Kevin managed to hold his position. His second stint was also good, matching Hulkenberg’s pace. Hulkenberg’s pace dropped during the latter part of this stint as he caught up to Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber), who hadn’t stopped. On lap 34, Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) and Felipe Massa (Williams) collided at turn one, and Vandoorne ended up stuck in gravel. This brought out VSC (Virtual Safety Car). Wehrlein, Hulkenberg and Magnussen all pitted straight away. Hulkenberg managed to beat Wehrlein with a better pit stop. Kevin’s pit stop was one-second slower than what we normally expect. On top of this, he was held up by Wehrlein and Hulkenberg going slowly into pit entry. The combination of this meant Kevin lost position to Sainz who pitted one lap later (still under VSC). We expected Kevin would be able to keep up and attack Sainz and Wehrlein in front. However, his pace on medium tire was very poor. Wehrlein received a five- second time penalty for crossing the white line on entry. However, Kevin dropped to 5.5 second behind Wehrlein by lap 55. He was also under pressure from Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso), who was on the soft tyre. On Lap 63, Kevin got a blue flag to let Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) past, (who was running in P3). As Ricciardo was slow toward the end of the straight, Kevin had to lift off, this allowed Kvyat to catch up and Kevin was overtaken at turn three. At turn four, Kevin locked up front and drove into Kvyat. This resulted in front wing damage and a left-rear puncture. He pitted for a replacement tire and finished P14.

“Romain’s race was largely similar to Kevin’s. During the first stint he was running in P10 behind Magnussen and Sainz. Once Magnussen and Sainz pitted, his pace was good and tire degradation was minimum. We waited until Romain cleared Kvyat and Alonso behind and pitted him on lap 19 for another set of soft tires. He caught up to Sainz quickly, but it was not possible to attack/overtake. His feeling on the tires was good, so he was waiting for Sainz to pit and go long once in free air. Unfortunately, VSC deployment meant he had to pit on the same lap as Sainz, hence he stayed behind him. During the last stint, Romain’s pace on mediums was very poor, similar to Magnussen. He was overtaken by Kvyat on softs. He finished P10.”