Motivated for Malaysia

Haas F1 Team Turns Page from Singapore to Sepang 

 

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Sept. 25, 2016) – Perhaps no team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship is looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix Oct. 2 at the Sepang International Circuit more than Haas F1 Team.

 

The first American Formula One team in 30 years had high expectations heading into the series’ most recent race in Singapore. It brought significant updates to its racecars, with the Haas VF-16s for drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez getting outfitted with new front wings, floors and brake ducts. And in addition to having new parts and pieces that would allow for quicker lap times, Grosjean and Gutiérrez were ready to attack the track, with each praising the layout and embracing the challenges it offered.

 

But then practice began, or didn’t for Grosjean. His car developed technical issues and after making only two installation laps, an engine inlet air leak sidelined him for all of FP1. Then came a spin into the barrier in FP2, followed by another spin into the barrier in qualifying. Lastly, an issue with the car’s brake-by-wire system on raceday meant that Grosjean was scratched from the start of the Singapore Grand Prix. Perhaps the only person happier to see the checkered flag drop at Singapore other than Grosjean was race winner Nico Rosberg.

 

Gutiérrez had a trouble-free weekend in comparison, but with Grosjean’s limited running time, the new front wing was shelved as Gutiérrez instead focused on collecting tire data. It was a shrewd move, as Gutiérrez took advantage of all the information available to qualify 13th and finish a respectable 11th, but still one spot shy of earning points.

 

Knowing that Gutiérrez is on the cusp of adding to Haas F1 Team’s 28-point tally in the constructor standings is reason enough to look forward to Malaysia. For Grosjean, of course, the opportunity to turn laps and drive farther away from the circumstances of Singapore is even more welcome.

 

With Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit growing ever smaller in Formula One’s mirrors, the industry turns its sights to Sepang International Circuit, the purpose-built Formula One racetrack outside Malaysia’s capital city of Kuala Lumpur.

 

Constructed in an astonishing 14 months, Sepang was the first Formula One track noted designer Herman Tilke built from scratch. When the 5.543-kilometer (3.444-mile), 15-turn circuit opened on March 9, 1999, it was considered revolutionary, with modern facilities and a unique design.

 

Two massive straights bookended by tight corners are signatures of the track. It’s a twisting layout that challenges the drivers and their engineers. The track’s width allows for numerous overtaking opportunities, but the incredible speed that can be attained on the straights is actually restricted by the fast, flowing corners as teams sacrifice outright speed for aerodynamic grip and balance.

 

This places extremely high loads on the tires. Heavy braking increases the load, as drivers spend 17 percent of their lap under braking. Add an abrasive track surface and high ambient temperatures and you get a cauldron of punishment for the four tires carrying the driver and the sophisticated car beneath him. It’s why Pirelli has brought the hardest tire compounds in its range to Malaysia – the P Zero Orange hard, the P Zero White medium and the P Zero Yellow soft – a combination that was last seen in early July for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit.

 

But with weather often impacting practice, qualifying and the race, expect to see Pirelli’s Cinturato Blue full wet tire and Cinturato Green intermediate tire at some point during the race weekend.

 

Torrential rain storms are a frequent occurrence at the Malaysian Grand Prix as its tropical environment and mid-afternoon start time conspire for unwieldly conditions. This was especially evident in 2009 when the race was forced to end after only 31 laps as rain inundated the track. This prompted the FIA to award half points to the drivers participating, the first time half points had been awarded since the 14-lap Australian Grand Prix in 1991.

 

Points of any kind are what Haas F1 Team seeks. Eighth in the constructor standings, 19 points behind seventh-place Toro Rosso and 21 points ahead of ninth-place Renault, Malaysia provides another opportunity for Haas F1 Team to further distance itself from Renault and challenge the more established squads that are still in reach with six races remaining. And after quickly turning the page on Singapore, Haas F1 Team is ready for Sepang.

Sepang International Circuit
Circuit Length: 5.543 km (3.444 miles)

Laps: 56

Race Distance: 310.408 km (192.879 miles)

Broadcast: NBCSN – 2:30 a.m. ET (Pre-Race Show) / 3 a.m. ET (Lights Out)

About Haas F1 Team

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American Formula One team since 1986. Founded by industrialist Gene Haas, Haas F1 Team is based in the United States on the same Kannapolis, North Carolina, campus as his championship-winning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team, Stewart-Haas Racing. Haas is the founder of Haas Automation, the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America, and he is chairman of Haas F1 Team.

 

After a difficult weekend like the one you experienced in Singapore, how do you put it behind you and focus on the next opportunity, in this case, Malaysia?

“We analyze what we’ve done and find out what went wrong and try to put measures in place so it doesn’t happen again. On the morale side, I think the guys were a little bit down after Singapore, but I think if you are a real racer you always try hard again and never give up. I think everyone is up for it and rule No. 1 for Malaysia is to make up for what we didn’t do in Singapore.”

 

As team principal, you wear many hats. When you have a difficult race weekend and you’re dealing with frustrated personnel, how do you juggle the technical aspects of the car with the personalities that make up the race team?

“On the technical side, I’ve got very good people and that allows me to focus on other aspects of the team. I have to drive the team’s focus, so I try to motivate them again and make them hungrier because we haven’t shown what we are fully able to do.”

 

Can you explain the brake-by-wire system and what makes it so complex?

“It’s basically a system in which the rear of the car adjusts with how much the engine is braking with the ERS (Energy Recovery System) and how much the driver is braking with the normal brake. It is a very complex part of the car, but our problem was very simple. It was a connector that fell off. To get to the connector you have to take the gearbox off and, obviously, there was no time to do that.”

 

How do you go about troubleshooting the brake-by-wire system and how do you ultimately come up with a solution?

“It was strange because in the first corner it worked, but all of the sudden it went away. When Romain came back in, all of the electronics personnel tried to reset all of the software settings and it didn’t work. The guys then took the bodywork off to see if there was any connector that wasn’t connected outside of the gearbox, and there wasn’t. So at that stage everyone was quite sure it was the brake-by-wire system, which is inside the gearbox. It takes one-and-a-half hours to take the gearbox off and, at that point, the race would be over.”

 

The logistics of Formula One means the racecar was out of your hands Sunday night after Singapore. When do the mechanics get to put their hands back on the car and make the necessary changes to the brake-by-wire system?

“Sunday night after the race in Singapore, we took the gearbox off and it was as simple as reconnecting it. We’ll manufacture a device in Europe to be sent via air freight to Malaysia to ensure the connector doesn’t fall off again. It will be fitted on the car before we get on track in Malaysia.”

 

You had some updates to the car at Singapore, specifically a new front wing, floor and brake ducts. Did they perform as you had hoped or is the data inconclusive because of Grosjean’s limited running time?

“We didn’t run the new front wing because the drivers weren’t sure how to set the car up with the new wing. We need to re-test it in Malaysia. It’s very difficult to test something in Singapore due to the walls. The readings of the data are sometimes different because you get different aero data when you’re running between two walls. The brakes ducts all worked. They will be on for the rest of the year with no problem.”

 

How important is it to log as many laps as possible at Sepang to not only overcome the difficulties from Singapore, but to get comparable data from two racecars regarding the updates that debuted at Singapore?

“If we can get back to a normal weekend routine and get through the program, we can get the data we need. If not, we can’t do it properly. In Singapore, Romain stopped after FP1 and Esteban’s focus was more on the tires and not the front wing, so we didn’t have the data. In Malaysia, if we run a normal routine, we can test the wings back to back and get the data. In Singapore, we didn’t have that luxury because we had to send Esteban out to get data on the tires.”

 

Despite all the adversity the team faced in Singapore, the car continued to show speed and Gutierrez logged another 11th-place finish, one spot out of the points. Does that make you think the weekend wasn’t as bad as it seemed or does it increase the level of frustration because you’re so close to scoring points?

“It definitely increases the level of frustration. If you finish 11th with one car, you wonder if you could’ve finished 10th or better with the other car.”

 

Singapore is hot and humid. Malaysia is hot and humid. With these two races being so close together and run in similar environs, is more data transferable from one race to the next?

“Some of the tire data is transferable, but not all. But at Singapore, we run during the night and in Malaysia we run during the day. There will be a big difference in the climate conditions.”

 

 

After a difficult weekend like the one you experienced in Singapore, how do you put it behind you and focus on the next opportunity, in this case, Malaysia?

“It’s actually very straightforward. It was frustrating not to race. It’s what I love to do. I just want to go to the next one and get on top of all the issues we had. Singapore was a very difficult weekend for myself, but mostly for the guys on the team.”

 

There is a multitude of changes to the Sepang International Circuit this year, so much so that the promoter says drivers will feel like they’re racing at it for the first time. Even though you have experience at a particular circuit, how long does it take to become familiar with the intricacies of a track when it receives an update?

“With the resurfacing, you’ve got to go through with the cars and see if the grip is different. There’s also a lot of rain at Sepang, so we could see some big aquaplaning. We’ll be working as hard as we can to deal with all the conditions.”

 

On Thursday of every grand prix race weekend you walk the track with your engineers. What is the goal of that walk and this weekend at Malaysia, does the track walk take on added importance because the track has undergone so many changes?

“It’s usually a good sun-tanning session! It’s good for seeing changes, because every track we go to there’s a little bit of change each year. It’s also good to spend over an hour walking with the guys, talking about the program for the weekend and what we can do better, and a little bit of socializing. It’s always a good time. We can do our work and have some laughs at the same time.”

 

Singapore, site of the last grand prix, was hot. But Malaysia is even hotter. With Singapore preceding Malaysia, does it help prepare you better for the heat and humidity?

“Kind of, yes. Even though I didn’t get much racing in Singapore, you get your body used to the heat regardless with your overall fitness and training. That helps you feel good when you get there. Your body is better prepared to accept the temperatures you encounter.”

 

In Singapore, all of your track time came either at dusk or at night. In Malaysia, it all happens in the heat of the day. Is Malaysia a more physical race because everything takes place under the glare of the sun?

“They are two of the most difficult races of the season with all the elements to consider. As I didn’t race in Singapore, I’m absolutely ready, physically, to race in Malaysia.”

 

The weather in Malaysia is predictably unpredictable, with heavy downpours late in the afternoon commonplace. Do you go into the weekend like you do at Spa-Francorchamps, where you know a lap around the circuit can suddenly change due to weather?

“Yes, it can rain at one point of the circuit and not at all on the other side. I think that was the case last year. In qualifying, in Q2, I told my guys, ‘It’s raining,’ and they replied, ‘No, it’s not’. For me, it was pouring down and I could barely keep the car on track. I was on the edge. Suddenly the guys then got the rain and were like, ‘Yes, we can see it’. So yes, Malaysia can be very variable with the rain, and in a short amount of time. It’s part of the show and part of the game.”

 

The energy loads are high at Sepang. The tires take a beating, but so do the drivers. Between the heat and the g-forces sustained over the course of a race, how physically demanding is the Malaysian Grand Prix?

“I think it’s pretty much the hardest race of the year. Singapore is a slower track with slower corners, whereas Malaysia has high speed with high loads. Again, it’s a great challenge, a great track, and when you have a good car, it’s an amazing experience.”

 

When it’s hot and the race is physically draining, how important is mental preparation prior to the Malaysian Grand Prix?

“It’s always very important. Of course, when you are physically suffering as well, it’s more important to stay calm. It’s like riding up a hill and someone’s trying to chat to you or your phone’s ringing nonstop. You can get fed up with that very quickly simply because you’re tired. You just need to be ready for every race.”

 

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Sepang?

“There are plenty. There are some big straight lines with good top speed, and then some big braking zones. It’s a track with high tire degradation. Overtaking is really good fun at Sepang.”

 

Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Malaysia?

“I remember GP2 Asia in 2008. I had the pole position in Sepang by around a second or something like that. It was a very fast time. I stalled on the grid, came back from last and almost climbed back up to first, but I was pushed out by a backmarker. I finished ninth, while the top-eight were then reversed on the grid for the second race. I started the second race from ninth and finished second. It was a weekend where I should’ve won both races but, unfortunately, didn’t. I love the track though.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Sepang International Circuit?

“I’d say turns five and six – very high-speed corners.”

 

Describe a lap around Sepang International Circuit.

“Big braking into turn one – it’s very similar to China, both turns one and two. Long right-hand side corner, then a left hairpin. You need good traction. Then you have a long straight line going to turn four. Big braking, 90-degree right-hand side corner going up a crest. Then you have very high-speed corners going through turns five and six, almost flat out. Then it’s a small brake for the double right-hand turn eight. It’s a mid-speed corner with very tricky traction going through to the next turn, another left-hand side hairpin. The right corner is very long. It’s quite good fun when the car is well balanced. You then have a bit of straight line going to turns 12 and 13. Flat-out left corner, big braking, with g-forces from taking the corner. Then it’s a long straight line approaching the final corner. Big braking to carry minimum speed, then it’s full-throttle as early as you can to finish the lap.”

 

 

 

There is a multitude of changes to the Sepang International Circuit this year, so much so that the promoter says drivers will feel like they’re racing at it for the first time. Even though you have experience at a particular circuit, how long does it take to become familiar with the intricacies of the track when it receives an update?

“We’ve experienced new tracks before like Baku, and Budapest and Austria as well, which were completely resurfaced. Now comes Malaysia, so I don’t expect it to be too complicated. It’s always nice to have change in the track, so I’m really keen to get to know it. Hopefully the grip is going to be very high, because when the grip is high, it’s much more fun to drive.”

 

On Thursday of every grand prix race weekend you walk the track with your engineers. What is the goal of that walk and this weekend at Malaysia, does the track walk take on added importance because the track has undergone so many changes?

“Yes, definitely. It’s actually one of the main targets – to walk the track to see the changes that have been made to the track, the curbs, to spot some bumps. Sometimes the tracks when they get used with cars running – different categories, different types of cars – it changes through time. It’s important to have a look at the bumps that can affect the stability of the car in certain braking areas or curbs, things like that. You need to be aware and take notes so you can really optimize the track when you’re out there in the racecar. It’s important from the engineers’ point of view and also from the driver’s point of view.”

 

Singapore, site of the last grand prix, was hot. But Malaysia is even hotter. With Singapore preceding Malaysia, does it help prepare you better for the heat and humidity?

“Singapore is one of the most demanding races because it’s a street circuit and the humidity is very high. It’s also very hot. One of the benefits is that it’s at night and that’s why it’s less hot than Malaysia. You have the same level of humidity in Malaysia, but everything happens during the day, so it’s really hot. At the same time, it’s not a street circuit like Singapore. It’s much more flowing, with long straights where you have a bit of time to recover.”

 

In Singapore, all of your track time came either at dusk or at night. In Malaysia, it all happens in the heat of the day. Is Malaysia a more physical race because everything takes place under the glare of the sun?

“No, I don’t really think it’s more demanding than Singapore. Actually, I believe that Singapore is the most demanding, physically. Malaysia is obviously very, very hot because it all happens in the heat of the day, but because the track is more flowing, it’s not as demanding as Singapore.”

 

The weather in Malaysia is predictably unpredictable, with heavy downpours late in the afternoon commonplace. Do you go into the weekend like you do at Spa-Francorchamps, where you know a lap around the circuit can suddenly change due to weather?

“There isn’t a lot you can do to prepare for that. You just have to be very open and very flexible, because it can rain any time. You do need to be able to anticipate a little bit when you know rain is coming just so you can get the most from the track conditions that are available. It makes Malaysia pretty special because when the rain comes, it’s usually in a big thunderstorm.”

 

The energy loads are high at Sepang. The tires take a beating, but so do the drivers. Between the heat and the g-forces sustained over the course of a race, how physically demanding is the Malaysian Grand Prix?

“It’s a physical race, but not more than Singapore. Malaysia is a different track. Still demanding, but more flowing. That’s always been the case and even with all the changes, I don’t expect it to be too different. Its flowing and fast corners are what make the difference, and that’s a characteristic of the Malaysian Grand Prix.”

 

When it’s hot and the race is physically draining, how important is mental preparation prior to the Malaysian Grand Prix?

“It goes together, physically and mentally. The mind is the most important, but then the physical side is what starts to trick the mind. That’s why we get ready with a lot of physical training. We arrive for the weekend with the right mindset – a clear mind in order to get the most of every opportunity that comes up in the weekend.”

 

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Sepang?

“I would say the main straight, turn one and probably at the back before the last corner. The two main straights are the biggest overtaking opportunities.”

 

Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Malaysia?

“It was one of my first grand prix in Formula One. It used to be at the beginning of the season back in 2013, and I have great memories from that, so I’m really looking forward to coming back and enjoying the circuit.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Sepang International Circuit?

“I would say probably turns six and seven – a very high-speed corner left and right. It’s a beautiful corner and you can really feel the car on the limit.”

 

Describe a lap around Sepang International Circuit.

“You approach turn one with a lot of speed. After a long straight, at the first corner you brake and turn in with a lot of lateral load. It’s a fairly long corner that goes into turn two, which has a change of surface angle which makes it a bit tricky on the apex to get the right grip for the exit. Then you come down flat out and into turn three. You approach turn five, which is basically a 90-degree corner to the right where you can use all the curbs available. Then you come to turns six and seven, which is my favorite part of the circuit – high-speed corner left and right. Turns eight and nine comprise a right-hand corner, which is basically two apexes on one whole corner. Then you arrive into turn 10, which is a hairpin. Big braking, and there’s also change in the surface which makes it pretty difficult to get the right traction out of that corner. By that time the tires are pretty hot, so you struggle with the traction out of the hairpin. Then you go into turn 11, which is not really a corner but preparation for turn 12, which is a medium-speed corner. Then you have (turn) 13, which is a left-handed, very high-speed corner where you’re flat out. Then you come to the famous corner from Sepang, which is a very long corner to the right with a lot of braking. It’s a very technical corner because it has so many different lines which you can really use depending on the setup of the car and depending if you are on a qualifying lap or in the race. Then you come down the straight and into the last corner, braking pretty late into a medium-speed corner. It’s important to carry the speed in where you really go deep and then prepare with a right line for the exit and come to the straight line.”

 

 

 

Sepang International Circuit

  • Total number of race laps: 56
  • Complete race distance: 310.408 kilometers (192.879 miles)
  • Pit lane speed limit: 80 kph (50 mph)
  • This 5.543-kilometer (3.444-mile), 15-turn circuit has hosted Formula One since 1999, with last year’s Malaysian Grand Prix serving as the venue’s 17th grand prix.
  • Juan Pablo Montoya holds the race lap record at Sepang International Circuit (1:34.223), set in 2004 with Williams.
  • Fernando Alonso holds the qualifying lap record at Sepang International Circuit (1:32.582), set in 2005 with Renault.
  • Ground was broken on Sepang International Circuit in November 1997 and officially opened on March 9, 1999. Constructed in an astonishing 14 months, it was the first Formula One track noted designer Herman Tilke built from scratch. It was considered revolutionary, with modern facilities and a unique design. Two massive straights bookended by tight corners are signatures of the track. It’s a twisting layout that challenges the drivers and their engineers. The track’s width allows for numerous overtaking opportunities, but the incredible speed that can be attained on the straights is actually restricted by the fast, flowing corners as teams sacrifice outright speed for aerodynamic grip and balance. This places extremely high loads on the tires. Heavy braking increases the load, as drivers spend 17 percent of their lap under braking. Add an abrasive track surface and high ambient temperatures and you get a cauldron of punishment for the tires. It’s why Pirelli brings the hardest tire compounds in its range to Malaysia.
  • DYK? Frequent and torrential rain storms often impact the Malaysian Grand Prix as its tropical environment and mid-afternoon start time conspire for unwieldly conditions. This was especially evident in 2009 when the race was forced to end after only 31 laps as rain inundated the track. This prompted the FIA to award half points to the drivers participating, the first time half points had been awarded since the 14-lap Australian Grand Prix in 1991.
  • During the course of the Malaysian Grand Prix, lows will range from 24-25 degrees Celsius (76-77 degrees Fahrenheit) to highs of 32-33 degrees Celsius (90-91 degrees Fahrenheit). Relative humidity ranges from 65 percent (mildly humid) to 98 percent (very humid), with a dew point varying from 22 degrees Celsius/72 degrees Fahrenheit (very muggy) to 26 degrees Celsius/78 degrees Fahrenheit (oppressive). The dew point is rarely below 21 degrees Celsius/69 degrees Fahrenheit (muggy) or above 27 degrees Celsius/80 degrees Fahrenheit (very oppressive). Typical wind speeds vary from 0-13 kph/0-8 mph (calm to gentle breeze), rarely exceeding 19 kph/12 mph (moderate breeze).
  • Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to Malaysia:
    • P Zero Orange hard – less grip, less wear (used for long-race stints)
      • This is the toughest tire in Pirelli’s range. It is designed for circuits that put the highest energy loadings through the tires via fast corners and/or abrasive surfaces, and are often characterized by high ambient temperatures. This compound takes longer to warm up, but offers maximum durability, which frequently means that it plays a key role in race strategy. It is a high working-range compound.
    • P Zero White medium – more grip, medium wear (used for shorter-race stints and for initial portion of qualifying)
      • This is Pirelli’s most balanced tire, with an ideal compromise between performance and durability. It is extremely versatile, but it often comes into its own on circuits that tend toward high speeds, high temperatures and high-energy loadings. It is a low working-range compound.
    • P Zero Yellow soft – highest amount of grip, highest amount of wear (used for qualifying and select race situations)
      • This is one of the most frequently used tires in Pirelli’s range, as it strikes a balance between performance and durability, with the accent on performance. It is still geared toward speed rather than long distances, but it remains capable of providing teams with a competitive advantage at the beginning of the race where cars are carrying a full fuel load and at the end of the race where the fuel load is much lighter and the race effectively becomes a sprint. It is a high working-range compound.
  • Two of the three available compounds must be used during the race. Teams are able to decide when they want to run which compound, adding an element of strategy to the race. A driver can also use all three sets of Pirelli tires in the race, if they so desire. (If there are wet track conditions, the Cinturato Blue full wet tire and the Cinturato Green intermediate tire will be made available.)
  • Pirelli provides each driver 13 sets of dry tires for the race weekend. Of those 13 sets, drivers and their teams can choose the specifications of 10 of those sets from the three compounds Pirelli selected. The remaining three sets are defined by Pirelli – two mandatory tire specifications for the race (one set of P Zero Orange hards and one set of P Zero White mediums) and one mandatory specification for Q3 (one set of P Zero Yellow softs). Haas F1 Team’s drivers have selected the following amounts:
    • Grosjean: two sets of P Zero Orange hards, four sets of P White mediums and seven sets of P Zero Yellow softs
    • Gutiérrez: three set of P Zero Orange hards, three sets of P Zero White mediums and seven sets of P Zero Yellow softs