F1: 2017 Bahrain GP Preview – Haas F1 Team

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F1: 2017 Bahrain GP Preview – Haas F1 Team

Desert Yields High-Water Mark for Haas F1 Team

Second-Year Team Looks to Emulate

First-Season Finish at Bahrain Grand Prix

 

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (April 10, 2017) – After securing its best starting spot in its still young history with a sixth-place qualifying effort March 25 in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team comes into the third race of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir looking to emulate its best finish.

 

In last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean finished an impressive fifth, effectively one-upping his debut with the American team two weeks prior when he finished sixth in Australia. Not since Shadow Racing – another American team – debuted in 1973 with consecutive points-scoring finishes by Californian George Follmer had an organization earned two top-six results in its first two races.

 

The back-to-back point-scoring efforts raised eyebrows in the paddock and staked Haas F1 Team as a legitimate Formula One outfit. But in a sport that moves at lightning pace, one’s efforts in the last race, let alone last season, quickly fade. Two races into its sophomore season and with all of 23 races under its belt, that fifth-place finish in the desert remains Haas F1 Team’s high-water mark.

 

Now the globe-trotting series returns to Bahrain fresh off the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

 

After enduring a double DNF (Did Not Finish) in Australia, Haas F1 Team bounced back with a points-paying finish in China. New-for-2017 driver Kevin Magnussen led the way with a strong eighth-place result and Grosjean delivered a spirited, 11th-place performance after starting 19th. The four points earned by Magnussen placed Haas F1 Team seventh in the constructor standings, four points behind sixth-place Williams and four points ahead of an eighth-place tie among Renault, Sauber and McLaren.

 

Is another points-scoring campaign in the offing, just as it was last year at Bahrain? Haas F1 Team certainly thinks so as its drivers have performed well at the 5.412-kilometer (3.363-mile), 15-turn track.

 

Grosjean has scored points in four of his five career Formula One starts at Bahrain. His best finish is third, earned twice in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013, and that third-place run in 2012 marked Grosjean’s first career podium. Grosjean finished seventh in 2015 and, of course, fifth last year.

 

Magnussen has two Formula One starts at Bahrain – one in 2014 with McLaren and the other in 2016 with Renault, where he finished just outside the points in 11th.

 

But beyond each driver’s finishes at Bahrain is their collective ability to gain positions, regardless of their starting spots. In each of Grosjean’s podium performances, he came from starting spots of seventh and 11th, respectively. In fact, in every Formula One race he’s run at Bahrain, Grosjean has been able to overtake and advance, picking up 23 positions in all. Magnussen has proven he can also dispatch his competition at Bahrain, as he drove from 22nd to 11th in last year’s race.

 

The ability to overtake stems in part from Bahrain’s generous run-off areas, allowing drivers to push hard without the consequence of running into an unforgiving wall. Substantial track width also provides drivers options when it comes to attacking, as there is plenty of asphalt to tread on while pursuing one’s prey.

 

But every track has limits, regardless of how much pavement is available, and in 2017 those limits can be found abruptly.

 

Significantly wider tires from Pirelli, by 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) in the front and 80 millimeters (3.1 inches) in the rear, have brought change to a car’s handling. The 25-percent increase from 2016 to bring the front tires to 305 millimeters (12 inches) and the rear tires to 405 millimeters (15.9 inches) means that finding the balance between running the fastest line possible through a corner without spinning off course rests on a knife’s edge. The amount a car can naturally slide is very limited. The loss of grip is sudden, making the car difficult to catch.

 

“They (the tires) are done to function in a certain way of sliding, and soon as you go out of that you lose all the downforce,” Grosjean said. “As the downforce is massively high, then the drop is massively bigger – when it is gone, it is gone.”

 

Add in the fact the Bahrain International Circuit is in the middle of the desert. Sand can pose a problem – to the level of grip on the racetrack and to the performance of the car, with the engine’s air filters checked thoroughly and often.

 

It’s a gritty environment that often showcases a driver’s and team’s grit, as evidenced by Haas F1 Team and its drivers. With Formula One headed back to Bahrain, Grosjean and Magnussen are bullish on the opportunities that can be secured in Sakhir.

Bahrain International Circuit
Circuit Length: 5.412 km (3.363 miles)

Laps: 57

Race Distance: 308.238 km (191.530 miles)

Broadcast: CNBC – 10:30 a.m. ET (Pre-Race Show) / 11 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 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.

 

Bahrain is the site of Haas F1 Team’s best finish – fifth by Grosjean in last year’s race, which was only the second race for Haas F1 Team. Can you talk about the impact of that race and perhaps how it was even more important than the sixth-place finish earned in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, as it seemed to validate the team and show that Australia wasn’t a fluke?

“Absolutely. Last year, coming away from Australia, a lot of people said it was a strategy call which we got lucky with the red flag. We got lucky, but the car showed some speed, and it was proven in Bahrain where there were no lucky circumstances and we finished fifth. It was good to have this at the beginning of the year. To get there, our people worked day and night, really hard. I don’t know how they did it looking back at it. It was a magnificent moment.”

 

With all the newness this year, how helpful is it to have the same tire compounds – White medium, Yellow soft and Red supersoft – on these back-to-back race weekends between China and Bahrain?

“I wouldn’t say so because while we’ve got the same tires, the circumstances are different. The temperature will be a lot different. China was much colder than Bahrain will be, where the temperature is meant to be near 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). We will learn a lot about the tires. It’s for sure useful, but I wouldn’t say what we learned in China, or what we learned in Melbourne, will specifically give us an advantage in Bahrain.”

 

Drivers are saying that with the wider tires this year the loss of grip is very sudden. The amount a car can naturally slide through a corner is very limited, and when grip goes away, it’s gone. Obviously, it’s a delicate balance, and while drivers find this balance based on feel, does the data suggest where this balance lies?

“We have tire pressure data and surface temperature data, so between the two of them we can predict what the tire does. We never know 100 percent – that is the job of the driver to get the best out of it. We can guide him where he should be, but then to get the last 10 percent, it’s down to the driver.”

 

The amount of run-off area at Bahrain is high. Does that allow drivers to push the limits of their car and its tires more than at some other venues?

“I would say so. If you know you can run off without damaging the car, or hurting yourself, you take the chance and you try it, at least. I think we will see in the free practices people trying how far they can push it. Nothing will happen. They will just run off. In some ways, it’s a good thing. In others, it’s not so good because while you can learn how far you can go, you pay a big price for it if your judgement is wrong. It’s all pros and cons, but that makes it interesting. It’s never the same. Every weekend is different.”

 

Are you able to learn more at a venue like Bahrain because you are able to push harder and discover a car’s limits?

“In theory, you can push harder and find the limit without damaging the car. How much you take advantage of that – it’s really difficult to establish. You can find the limit, but then if you go over the limit, you lose the lap, and that’s never a positive. If you have a new set of tires on and you lose the lap, you don’t know actually what you could have done the rest of the lap. It’s not a clear yes or no.”

 

With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool?

“On every weekend the track normally changes, especially when it gets colder. Later on in the evening because the sun goes down, it changes more.”

 

What can you do to combat those changing track conditions during the race?

“You cannot put much adjustability above what you normally adjust into the car. It’s in the pit stop, with your front wing settings. We’re not allowed to change anything else than that during a race, or before the race, because after qualifying the car is under parc ferme rules. You cannot change anything. The only thing we can do is adjust the front wing to change the aerodynamic balance.”

 

Bahrain marks the third race of the season, and with hot and dry weather expected, it will provide a very different environment compared to the season-opener in Australia and last week’s race in China. When will we have a good sample size of races to know where Haas F1 Team stacks up in relation to other Formula One teams?

“The picture will get clearer by Barcelona, but what comes next are all the updates teams will bring in. How often updates come in and how effective they are will continue to mix things up. We will always chase the midfield this year – who is best and who is last. The updates this year should be significant. We have a very immature car because the development time was not long. We will get a clearer picture, but it won’t be definitive.”

 

It sounds like the amount of updates being brought to the racetrack is akin to an arms race. How quickly do you need updates to come, and what determines when an update is ready to be used in a grand prix?

“Releases are normally decided by the gains you make in the wind tunnel. You don’t react to other people when they bring them. You keep to your schedule because, first you have to develop it, then you have to design the parts, and then you have to manufacture them. We have set our schedule out already until the middle of the year – what and how much we bring. We wouldn’t change it dramatically. You can always make small adjustments, but you cannot change your principle of how you plan to do this. This is the same for all the other teams, except for the three big ones which could bring updates at any time because their capacity is so much bigger in design and manufacturing.”

 

 

 

Bahrain is the site of Haas F1 Team’s best finish – your fifth-place result in last year’s race, which was only the second race for Haas F1 Team. Can you talk about the impact of that race and perhaps how it was even more important than the sixth-place finish you earned in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, as it seemed to validate the team and show that Australia wasn’t a fluke?

“Bahrain last year was pretty special. Of course, coming from Australia where we’d had a bit of luck with the red flag, we had no more expectation going into Bahrain. From the first free practice lap I thought the car’s not too bad. In qualifying we just managed to be P9, which was what we wanted not going into the Q3, which at that time was the top-eight. We knew we had a set of tires for the race. We had a very aggressive strategy. We had our first ever pit stop in the race – it was then a three-stop race. The car felt good. I was overtaking guys. Before I knew it, I had crossed the line P5. It was not down to luck or anything. It was the pure pace of the car. It was a pretty special race. I still remember having a lot of fun driving the car.”

 

In five career Formula One races at Bahrain, you’ve had four point-paying finishes, including two podiums (back-to-back third-place finishes in 2012 and 2013). And in scoring those podiums, you came from seventh and 11th on the grid. In fact, in every race you’ve picked up positions from where you qualified – 23 positions in all. Is there something about Bahrain that plays to your strengths?

“I love the track in Bahrain. On paper, it doesn’t look like the most exciting one, but driving it is pretty good fun. Big braking – I brake late. I love braking hard and late. It probably explains why my qualifying sessions in 2012 and 2013, I could have done better. The car was pretty good on tires in the race. It’s hard on tires as well, but I was good with that, probably another thing that helped. I love racing in Bahrain.”

 

You’ve proven that you can overtake at Bahrain. Where do you overtake and how do you do it?

“There’s plenty of places where you can overtake. Basically, turn one is DRS, and going up to turn four is another good place. Down to turn eight, on the first few laps of the race, is a quick one. Before turn 11 is a bit more tricky. Even though you’ve got the DRS, it’s a tricky place to overtake. There’s only one corner where you could overtake, but you don’t really want to do it – it’s the last corner, because the guy behind you has the DRS and he’ll just take you back.”

 

With all the newness this year, how helpful is it to have the same tire compounds – White medium, Yellow soft and Red supersoft – on these back-to-back race weekends between China and Bahrain?

“It doesn’t mean a lot that we’ve got the same tires. Conditions are going to be very different. Bahrain is a very aggressive track with a high temperature. China is a very smooth track with low temperature. Shanghai is front limited, Bahrain is rear limited. They’re two very different circuits. If you look at the first four races of the calendar, if we do well out of those four and manage to get a good consistency, we can then be very hopeful for the rest of the year.”

 

Drivers are saying that with the wider tires this year the loss of grip is very sudden. The amount a car can naturally slide through a corner is very limited, and when grip goes away, it’s gone. Obviously, it’s a delicate balance. How do you find it?

“Finding the balance is never easy. It’s about finding the setup that fits you and finding what is the limit of the car. It’s true that now we have more downforce, whenever the car goes sideways we lose all downforce, and the percentage of loss is bigger than it was before. That’s probably why we see cars not possible to recover. Driving to the limit is what we’re here for and what we love.”

 

The amount of run-off area at Bahrain is high. Does that allow you to push the limits of your car and its tires more than at some other venues?

“It’s certainly easier to find braking points in Bahrain than it is in Monaco or Singapore. You know if you miss it, or overshoot your braking point, you’re just going to go straight and have another go on the next lap. Some street circuits it’s straight into the wall. It’s a bit easier to get used to it and find the limit.”

 

Are you able to learn more at a venue like Bahrain because you are able to push harder and discover a car’s limits?

“Not necessarily. I think every venue, you have an interesting understanding of the car. That’s why I’m saying I don’t want to judge anything before the first four races.”

 

With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool?

“The track changes quite a bit during the race, especially in the last stint. Normally, where you fit the harder tires, it’ll probably be the softs this year. It’s just a bit harder to work the tires, but it’s not as bad as Abu Dhabi, for example, where you start really in the day and finish in the dark.”

 

What can you do to combat those changing track conditions during the race?

“You can adapt your aero balance every time you go to the pit stop, and then just use the tools you have in the car.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Bahrain International Circuit and why?

“I like turns 11, 12 and 13, just because there’s a cool flow. If you’ve got a good car, they are the corners where you can enjoy balancing the car.”

 

Is there a specific portion of the Bahrain International Circuit that is more challenging than other aspects of the track? If so, why?

“Turns nine and 10 are pretty tricky. That’s the braking going downhill and there’s a lot of g-forces and front locking, with tricky traction on the exit. That’s the place where you really need to focus.”

 

Explain a lap around the Bahrain International Circuit.

“Bahrain is not a circuit that looks very technical from a paper point of view, but I love driving it every year. It’s a big straight into turn one. Big braking and a tricky exit to turn two, and then you head up the hill approaching turn four. It’s got tricky braking with long lateral g’s and acceleration going into the high-speed section of (turns) five, six and seven. The wind can have a big influence at those corners. Then you have the hairpin down the hill, going up against (turns) nine and 10 where you can easily have some front-locking because there’s a lot of g’s there under braking. Then the back straight takes you to turn 11, an uphill corner, then turn 12 where it can be flat out if you’ve got a really good car. Tricky braking into turn 13 because you’re coming from a high-speed corner. You really want to go early on the power to go down to turn 14, which is the last corner, again big braking before accelerating to cross the start-finish line.”

 

 

 

 

Bahrain is the site of Haas F1 Team’s best finish – fifth-place in last year’s race, which was only the second race for Haas F1 Team. You were at Renault last year, so from an outsider’s perspective, what did you think of that performance, especially with it coming after a sixth-place finish in the season opener at Australia?

“It was really impressive, both the first two races for Haas F1 Team last year. Everyone noticed that in Formula One.”

 

You proved last year that you can overtake at Bahrain. Where do you overtake and how do you do it?

“In the DRS zone is the obvious one. There are few other spots around the track as well where you need to be awake if there’s a chance.”

 

With all the newness this year, how helpful is it to have the same tire compounds – White medium, Yellow soft and Red supersoft – on these back-to-back race weekends between China and Bahrain?

“It doesn’t make a big difference. We’re still learning about the tires, that’s for sure, but it should be fine.”

 

Drivers are saying that with the wider tires this year the loss of grip is very sudden. The amount a car can naturally slide through a corner is very limited, and when grip goes away, it’s gone. Obviously, it’s a delicate balance. How do you find it?

“It’s a little bit more snappy than it was before. You also have a lot more grip, so it’s a bit of give-and-take. It feels a lot better to drive these cars.”

 

The amount of run-off area at Bahrain is high. Does that allow you to push the limits of your car and its tires more than at some other venues?

“Yes it does. I still prefer to have not so much run-off. It means that you are challenged more and the window for error is narrower.”

 

Are you able to learn more at a venue like Bahrain because you are able to push harder and discover a car’s limits?

“No, I wouldn’t say so. It’s a different challenge, but you’re learning every time.”

 

With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool?

“It changes the behavior of the tires, the wear life and so on. It’s something that you need to anticipate before the race.”

 

What can you do to combat those changing track conditions during the race?

“Stuff like setup on the car, tire pressures, front wing – these are all things you adjust accordingly for when the temperatures drop.”

 

What is your favorite part of the Bahrain International Circuit and why?

“I’d say turns 11, 12 and 13 are cool.”

 

Explain a lap around the Bahrain International Circuit.

“It’s a track with some good braking zones, fast chicanes and medium-speed corners. It’s quite fun.”

 

 

 

 

Bahrain International Circuit

  • Total number of race laps: 57
  • Complete race distance: 308.238 kilometers (191.53 miles)
  • Pit lane speed limit: 80 kph (50 mph)
  • This 5.412-kilometer (3.363-mile), 15-turn Bahrain International Circuit has hosted Formula One since 2004, with last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix serving as the venue’s 12th grand prix. (The 2011 race was canceled.)
  • Pedro de la Rosa holds the race lap record at Bahrain (1:31.447), set in 2005 with McLaren.
  • Lewis Hamilton holds the qualifying lap record at Bahrain (1:29.493), set in 2016 with Mercedes in Q3.
  • The Bahrain International Circuit is a purpose-built Formula One facility. Debuting in 2004, Bahrain was the first grand prix to be held in the Middle East. The circuit is known for massive run-off areas, with substantial track width across its layout. This encourages overtaking, but has been criticized for not punishing drivers who make mistakes and stray off course. Since the track is located in the middle of the desert, sand can pose a problem – to the level of grip on the racetrack and to the performance of the car, with the engine’s air filters checked thoroughly and often. The race takes place near dusk and finishes under the lights, with the temperature swing from the heat of day to the cool of night adding another variable to a car’s setup and adjustability.
  • DYK? Although alcoholic beverages are legal in Bahrain, drivers do not spray the traditional champagne on the podium. Instead, race organizers provide drivers with Waard, a non-alcoholic drink made from rosewater and pomegranate.
  • During the course of the Bahrain Grand Prix, lows will range from 25-26 degrees Celsius (77-79 degrees Fahrenheit) to highs of 30-35 degrees Celsius (86-95 degrees Fahrenheit). Relative humidity ranges from 35 percent (comfortable) to 82 percent (humid), with a dew point varying from 11 degrees Celsius/51 degrees Fahrenheit (very comfortable) to 21 degrees Celsius/70 degrees Fahrenheit (muggy). The dew point is rarely below 5 degrees Celsius/41 degrees Fahrenheit (dry) or above 24 degrees Celsius/75 degrees Fahrenheit (muggy). Typical wind speeds vary from 5-27 kph/3-17 mph (light air to moderate breeze), rarely exceeding 42 kph/26 mph (strong breeze).

 

  • Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to Bahrain:
    • P Zero White medium – less grip, less wear (used for long-race stints)
      • 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 – more grip, medium wear (used for shorter-race stints and for initial portion of qualifying)
      • 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.
    • P Zero Red supersoft – highest amount of grip, highest amount of wear (used for qualifying and select race situations)
      • This is the second softest tire in Pirelli’s range, and it is ideal for tight and twisting circuits, especially in cold weather when maximum grip is needed. The supersofts warm up rapidly, which has made it a stalwart choice for qualifying. But with increased grip comes increased degradation. It is a low 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. And for the first five grands prix of 2017, Pirelli sets the allotments – two sets of the hardest tire available, four sets of the medium compound and seven sets of the softest tire. Come the sixth race of the year at Monaco, teams will be able to choose the specifications of 10 of its 13 sets from the three compounds Pirelli selected.
2018-07-17T23:02:20+00:00April 11th, 2017|Bahrain Grand Prix, Formula One, Haas F1 Team|