In the build up for the Bahrain Grand Prix, Guenther Steiner has pointed out a somewhat under reported element of Romain Grosjean’s point scoring race in Melbourne. Owing to the red flag period caused by the collision between Fernando Alonso and Esteban Gutiérrez, Grosjean was able to make the mandatory change of tyre compounds without actually making a pit stop. This element to the strategy was completely within racing regulations, and demonstrates ‘switched on’ thinking from the Haas F1 team pitwall.
Guenther Steiner reviews the Australian Grand Prix and previews the Bahrain Grand Prix with some surprising insights:
Haas F1 Team now has its first grand prix under its belt. Obviously, it was highlighted by Grosjean’s sixth-place result, but how did it go overall and what can you take from Australia and apply to Bahrain?
“We had our ups and downs. It started out with not being able to get enough testing in on Friday during practice. We tried to make up for it on Saturday morning during third practice, but we had an incident with a car colliding with Romain (Grosjean) as he was exiting the garage. It started off not too pretty, and then qualifying was not what we wished for, but the team bounced back and we got ready for Sunday. We showed a good race speed and we are ready to go racing. In the end it was all positive. It was hard to get to the positive, but with a lot of work with a lot of hard-working people, we got there. Now the biggest task is to replicate this, which won’t be easy, but for sure we will be trying again.”
Upon your return to Haas F1 Team’s headquarters in North Carolina, were you able to get a sense of how the team’s Australia performance resonated in the United States?
“I think it resonated in a very positive way in all of racing in America. Even those who don’t follow Formula One considered it a big achievement for a new team to finish in sixth place and to be from America, which hasn’t had a presence in Formula One in 30 years.”
From the outside looking in, it appeared Haas F1 Team was taking a very unorthodox approach to building a Formula One team. And while that is relatively true, did the team’s performance in Australia vindicate your methodology, specifically in regard to partnering with Scuderia Ferrari and Dallara?
“I think our plan is working, but we won’t finish sixth every weekend, so we need to be careful with our expectations. I think we showed that you can start a new team and end up in the midfield. We were not last in Australia, which was one of our goals, and I don’t think we will be last this year. How far we’ve come is a sign that our plan is working.”
Haas F1 Team came out of the gate strong in the season-opener in Australia. History tells us not every grand prix will bring that kind of success. How do you manage expectations, internally and externally?
“We are not being arrogant about our early success and we will have our races where we will underperform. Our sixth-place finish in Australia keeps the team going, working very hard and trying to do the best possible job we can. If we continue to do what we did in Melbourne, good results will come.”
The flip side to Grosjean’s sixth-place finish at Australia was Gutiérrez getting caught up in a crash. There was a good bit of damage to the left-rear of Gutiérrez’s car. What needs to be done to repair it and what kind of logistics are involved to get it ready for Bahrain?
“Some of the parts, for example the chassis, were sent back to Europe to be checked and fixed because we can’t do it onsite in Bahrain. We have enough spare parts to build up another chassis, so we will use that. Then the chassis that is repaired will be sent to Bahrain via air to serve as our spare. The guys will have to work day and night to get to Bahrain, but it’s all doable. Our spare quantity is down, but we have enough to get going again, so we will just keep on working.”
Haas F1 Team seems to handle adversity extremely well – be it with technical issues during the second week of testing at Barcelona and when you endured a pit lane collision in practice Saturday at Australia. From your perspective, how well is this new group of personnel working together?
“We chose good, quality people. Nobody gets down in adversity. Everybody gets up. They are working on the solution, not on the problem. They work together because they are professionals and they know they can get it done together as a team. It all comes down to the quality of people, and I think our quality is pretty high.
With wet weather Friday at Australia, it compromised the team’s ability to work on the car’s setup for the race. The weather in Bahrain is usually pretty consistent, and that means consistently dry. How helpful will a full weekend of consistent weather be for you and the team?
“If we can get a good day of practice in with both cars and six hours of running, that will be fantastic just to learn more about this machine.”
With Gutiérrez’s lap-17 crash and Grosjean changing tires during the red flag, Haas F1 Team didn’t make any pit stops at Australia. How is the team preparing for pit stops and is there any worry that’s one element of the program that hasn’t really been tested?
“We didn’t complain that we didn’t have to do a pit stop in Australia, but we will have to do it in Bahrain, for sure. We will do a lot of things during practice in Bahrain to ensure that we are ready. We got away with not doing pit stops in Australia, but we won’t be able to in Bahrain. The focus will be on completing pit stops this weekend so the team goes into the race confident that they have trained properly.”
How did the addition of a third tire option impact your strategy for Australia, and what impact do you think it will have on your tire strategy for Bahrain?
“Everyone has the third tire option, so you just deal with it. I don’t think it has a huge impact because it’s the same for everybody. We just need to make sure we use the three options we’ve got to the best of our knowledge.”