See You In Suzuka

Rising Expectations for Haas F1 Team

in Land of the Rising Sun

 

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 4, 2017) – The Japanese Grand Prix Sunday at Suzuka Circuit marks the last of a three-race stretch through the Far East, and the trip has tested Haas F1 Team along with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

 

The American outfit scored points two weeks ago in Singapore after seizing opportunities brought about by a wet track. It then battled through adversity last weekend in Malaysia when Grosjean crashed in Friday’s FP2 session. A loose drain cover on the apex of the right-hand turn 13 shredded the right-rear tire on his Haas VF-17 and sent him spinning off the track and into the barrier on the outside of the corner.

 

Crew members literally worked overtime, as FIA officials granted Haas F1 Team special dispensation to work through the series’ mandated overnight curfew and repair the car due to the unusual nature of the incident. Despite Magnussen qualifying 17th and Grosjean 16th, the duo rallied to finish 12th and 13th, respectively, for a collective gain of eight positions.

 

Even with the forward progress, the results didn’t yield any points. But in a testament to the competiveness of the incredibly tight midfield, the squads ahead of Haas F1 Team in the constructors standings didn’t score any points either.

 

With only five rounds remaining on the 20-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team is eighth in the constructors standings with 37 points, five points behind seventh-place Renault and 15 points arrears sixth-place Toro Rosso. A reawakened McLaren is 14 points behind Haas F1 Team in ninth.

 

Even with the narrow margins between its competitors, Haas F1 Team eyes the upcoming race at the 5.807-kilometer (3.608-mile), 18-turn Suzuka Circuit with optimism.

 

In its first visit to Suzuka last year during its inaugural Formula One season, Haas F1 Team advanced both of its cars into the final round of qualifying for the first time. It had speed throughout the weekend, and as the organization returns to the land of the rising sun for its second stint at Suzuka, expectations are high that pace and points can be procured.

 

Grosjean, in particular, has enjoyed both at Suzuka. He led 26 laps in the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix before finishing third behind the dominant Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. And in the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, Grosjean finished in the points with a solid seventh-place effort.

 

Magnussen has only two Formula One starts at Suzuka in the 2014 and 2016 Japanese Grands Prix, both of which netted 14th-place finishes. But the results don’t match the affinity Magnussen has for the circuit, as he claims Suzuka as his favorite venue.

 

Magnussen is not alone in this sentiment, as Suzuka is a driver’s track, where racecars can be pushed to the absolute limit even without being stuck to the track via maximum downforce.

 

The layout of Suzuka is a figure-eight, and it is the only track in Formula One with such a configuration. A bridge overtop the straight that links turns nine (Degner 2) and 10 is a signature of the track, with drivers nearing 330 kph (205 mph) as they go across the bridge through turn 15, better known as 130R, so named because of its 130-meter radius.

 

The first sector of the track caters to a car’s aerodynamic efficiency, while the second sector rewards horsepower. The entire course features every kind of corner, and its relatively old asphalt surface provides a high level of grip, which combined with high lateral loads through the corners accelerates tire wear.

 

The island nation turns into acceleration nation, especially as Suzuka marks the beginning of a five-race sprint to the finish of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship. Haas F1 Team plans to get this homestretch started off strong with a point-paying drive before heading home to the United States Grand Prix Oct. 22 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Suzuka Circuit
Circuit Length: 5.807 km (3.608 miles)

Laps: 53

Race Distance: 307.471 km (191.054 miles)

Broadcast: NBCSN – 12 a.m. ET (Pre-Race Show) / 1 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.

 

The midfield has been tight all year and it seems even tighter as we come into the homestretch of the season. Is seventh in the constructors standings – one spot better than your positon last year – an attainable goal?

“For sure, we try to finish seventh. I think at this moment in time we would be happy with that. We stopped developing the ’17 car quite a while ago to concentrate on next year’s car. We need to focus and stay stable year-to-year, not just one year up and down because then you create a wave effect and you never geta grip of what you’re doing. We try to do our best. We will bring a few more developments, but they are small. The last one comes in Austin. Hopefully, we can score some points. I hope also that our worst circuits are behind us, like the slow-speed, high-downforce ones. Our car doesn’t like them. It’s tough in the midfield.”

 

High-speed stability in regard to mechanical stiffness and aerodynamic balance seem to be the key to success at Suzuka. What do you do to achieve that?

“You can’t do a lot more than what your car has already, and we are pretty confident that what we’ve got is working well. We just need to find a balance for the weekend. Japan is high speed and there are some challenging corners, but it’s a nice place to be and I hope we can find a good setup and show what we can do.”

 

There seems to be a delicate balance at Suzuka in regard to downforce. Too much and you go slowly down the straights. Too little and the driver won’t have the confidence to attack the track’s twists and turns. Obviously, the level of downforce is predicated on how comfortable the driver is at speed. How do you find this balance between the needs of the car and the needs of the driver?

“It’s one of those things that go hand-in-hand. Once you find the quickest way around the track by balancing top-end speed versus downforce, the driver is quite happy because he wants to be quickest around the track. For them, the happiest is when they get a good lap time.”

 

Understeer through the esses between turns three and seven is often at the top of the to-do list at Suzuka. How do you address understeer and at what point does a change to help the car in one section of the track hurt it in another section?

“It’s mainly about how your car is set up from the beginning. You can always get a little understeer, but then you introduce oversteer into the other parts of the track. We will see how we end up.”

 

With all the investment that goes on in Formula One, is the investment a team has made in its driver lineup perhaps best on display at Suzuka?

“Absolutely. You need to be a brave man around Suzuka. You’re at high speed and when you go off, sometimes it’s not a soft landing. You need to be brave, but you also need to be very technical to set the car up. Suzuka is definitely a track that tests driver skill.”

 

Beyond the racetrack, what is most often talked about at Suzuka is the passion its fans have. Can you describe the atmosphere at the track and the fervency Japanese fans have for Formula One?

“I think it’s very special. If you are a fan at Suzuka, you are a diehard fan. They will be lining up outside. It’s quite amazing how much they love it. I think a lot of people look forward to it because it’s so different from anywhere else.”

 

Japan has some fantastic and unique cuisine. What is your favorite?

“Any sushi or sashimi. I look forward to it.”

 

When you leave Japan you’ll be gearing up for your home race – the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Where do you want Haas F1 Team to be at that time and what will your thoughts be on that long flight back to North Carolina?

“I think the biggest thing is just to not make mistakes. We want to show off the car as much as possible to all the American fans and give them a good show.”

 

 

You’ve been quoted as saying that Suzuka is your most favorite track in the world. Why?

“It’s always difficult to say exactly why. I think it’s the flow, the corners, the high-speed nature of the track. There’s a risk, as well, with all the gravel and the narrow parts of the circuit. Overall though, it’s not one thing, and sometimes you don’t know why you like something, you just do.”

 

You led 26 laps in the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka before finishing third. That is the most laps you’ve led at any Formula One venue. Talk about that race and how you were able to run out front for so long.

“I was fourth on the grid and made a really good start. I led from the first corner. Then Red Bull played its strategy. They put one car on a two-stop (strategy) and the other on a three-stop strategy. We led 26 laps, but we lost position to them. It was great, though. I remember telling myself to not go out as all the world’s TVs were on me. It was a great feeling to be leading. I loved it. I remember going to the train station after the race and it was packed with all the fans. It was hectic, but memorable.”

 

There seems to be a delicate balance at Suzuka in regard to downforce. Too much and you go slowly down the straights. Too little and you won’t have the confidence to attack the track’s twists and turns. Obviously, the level of downforce is predicated on how comfortable you are at speed. How do you achieve this balance?

“It’s one of those tracks where you need quite a lot of downforce and a really good car in the high-speed corners. There are some important low-speed ones, as well. It’s about getting the right confidence in being able to push to the limit in those tricky sector-one turns. It’s not an easy track to set up the car, but definitely a really good one to be on.”

 

Understeer through the esses between turns three and seven is often at the top of the to-do list at Suzuka. How do you address understeer and at what point does a change to help the car in one section of the track hurt it in another section?

“It’s a fine line. If you start getting understeer too early, you’re out of the phase quite early onto turns three, four, five, six, seven and eight. If you start with oversteer, it’s bad as well. There’s a fine line in having the right balance there, and to not be too far off what you should have in the low-speed corners as well.”

 

Would you call Suzuka a driver’s track?

“Definitely.”

 

Can the driver make more of a difference at Suzuka than at some other tracks?

“Not really, unfortunately. It’s about finding the right balance with the car. Your car’s performance dictates your performance at the end. It’s more or less the same everywhere. You can try to drive around and be quite consistent more easily than at other tracks.”

 

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Suzuka?

“Definitely at turn one with the DRS. There’s also big braking at the chicane at the last corner. There’s the middle hairpin too where you can have a go on the braking.”

 

What is your favorite part about Suzuka?

“Very difficult to pick just one, but I’ll go for sector one.”

 

Describe a lap around Suzuka.

“Turns one and two are very high-speed on entry. They’re long corners with a tricky exit. Sector one has a flow of corners where you really want to keep the perfect line all the way through, with the tricky one being turn seven and eight going up the hill on traction. Then you have a double right-hand corner, very high-speed one, very tricky exit curb in between. Then you go underneath the bridge with big braking into the hairpin. Traction is always important in going to Spoon corners. Same stuff here as turn one – very high-speed entry, going down to the second part with a very important exit which then leads to the big backstraight. Then it’s 130R flat out followed by big braking for the last chicane with a very tricky throttle application.”

 

Beyond the racetrack, what is most often talked about at Suzuka is the passion its fans have. Can you describe the atmosphere at the track and the fervency Japanese fans have for Formula One?

“It’s a pretty crazy atmosphere from Thursday onward. All the grandstands are full. After the race, they’re still there watching the replays of the grand prix on the big screens. They always have really cool fashions on display, with some crazy accessories. They love Formula One and they’re very passionate. It’s a very electric atmosphere. It’s great to see that passion and so many people cheering for teams like us.”

 

Japan has some fantastic and unique cuisine. What is your favorite?

“When we speak about Japan, everyone brings up sushi first. There’s much more to the country than just that. There’s some great meat, great fish. The techniques there are very different than French gastronomy. It’s very delicate. I love it.”

 

When you leave Japan you’ll be gearing up for Haas F1 Team’s home race – the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Where do you want Haas F1 Team to be heading into that event?

“Ideally, we’d like to be able to fight for the win at our home race, but obviously that’s a bit optimistic. I think we’ll take it step-by-step. Let’s hope we have a good Japanese Grand Prix. Then we’ll go to Texas and push really hard, as we always do, to make our fans proud. Hopefully, we can make them, and our special guests at the event, really happy, as well as ourselves.”

 

 

 

 

Many drivers claim Suzuka as their favorite track in Formula One. Are you one of them?

“I’m definitely one of them. It’s just a great circuit. It’s extremely fast, and you have the section in sector one with all the esses – that feels amazing going through there in a Formula One car. You have the fastest corner in the world, as well in 130R.”

 

Would you call Suzuka a driver’s track?

“Absolutely. It’s a real driver’s track with high-speed corners where you need to really push the car.”

 

Can the driver make more of a difference at Suzuka than at some other tracks?

“I mean, a little bit more, but Formula One doesn’t work like that anymore. We’re all going pretty much to the limit of the cars.”

 

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Suzuka?

“It’s not the easiest track to overtake. I guess turn one is a good one – probably the best one.”

 

What is your favorite part about Suzuka?

“Probably the first sector.”

 

Describe a lap around Suzuka.

“It’s twisty and quite tight and fast.”

 

Beyond the racetrack, what is most often talked about at Suzuka is the passion its fans have. Can you describe the atmosphere at the track and the fervency Japanese fans have for Formula One?

“It’s a great atmosphere there. The Japanese fans are amazing. They really get into it.”

 

Japan has some fantastic and unique cuisine. What is your favorite?

“I love sushi.”

 

When you leave Japan you’ll be gearing up for Haas F1 Team’s home race – the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas. Where do you want Haas F1 Team to be heading into that event?

“I would love to be right in front. We’re going to do our best to give our American fans the best result possible.”

 

 

Suzuka Circuit

  • Total number of race laps: 53
  • Complete race distance: 307.471 kilometers (191.054 miles)
  • Pit lane speed limit: 80 kph (50 mph)
  • This 5.807-kilometer (3.608-mile), 18-turn circuit has hosted Formula One since 1987, with last year’s Japanese Grand Prix serving as the venue’s 28th grand prix.
  • Kimi Räikkönen holds the race lap record at Suzuka (1:31.540), set in 2005 with McLaren.
  • Michael Schumacher holds the qualifying lap record at Suzuka (1:28.954), set in 2006 with Scuderia Ferrari in Q2.
  • The layout of Suzuka is a figure-eight, and it is the only track on the 20-race Formula One schedule with such a configuration. It features every kind of corner, which makes it a favorite among drivers. They can push to the absolute limit even without their cars being stuck to the track via maximum downforce, provided their car is properly balanced aerodynamically. Too much downforce slows the car on the straights, while too little doesn’t instill the confidence drivers need to pedal their cars through the more intricate and twisty portions of the course. Drivers are aided by Suzuka’s high level of grip. The relatively old asphalt abuses tires, as the rough surface provides solid traction. This, combined with high lateral loads through the corners, produces a high rate of wear. Crafting the perfect lap is elusive at Suzuka, but extremely rewarding when achieved.
  • DYK? NASCAR staged two races at the Suzuka Circuit in 1996 and 1997. Both were exhibition events that took place at the end of the regular NASCAR season in November. The first race was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace and the second race was won by Mike Skinner. In the 1997 event, rain tires were used by NASCAR for the first time in competition, with teams running Goodyear rain tires in practice and in qualifying. The quickest lap at Suzuka in a stock car came in 1996 when Wallace won the pole at a speed of 133.703 kph (83.079 mph) driving a Ford Thunderbird.
  • During the course of the Japanese Grand Prix, lows will range from 16-18 degrees Celsius (61-64 degrees Fahrenheit) to highs of 18-27 degrees Celsius (65-80 degrees Fahrenheit). Relative humidity ranges from 59 percent (mildly humid) to 88 percent (very humid), with a dew point varying from 16 degrees Celsius/61 degrees Fahrenheit (comfortable) to 23 degrees Celsius/74 degrees Fahrenheit (very muggy). The dew point is rarely below 11 degrees Celsius/52 degrees Fahrenheit (very comfortable) or above 26 degrees Celsius/78 degrees Fahrenheit (oppressive). Typical wind speeds vary from 5-26 kph/3-16 mph (light air to moderate breeze), rarely exceeding 35 kph/22 mph (fresh breeze).

 

  • Pirelli is bringing the following three tire compounds to Japan:
    • 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 when 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.
  • The Japanese Grand Prix marks the eighth time these three compounds have been packaged together. Teams most recently used this tire compilation in last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit. For last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, the Orange hard, White medium and Yellow soft compounds were used.
  • The Yellow soft tire has been used in every grand prix this season. The Red supersoft tire has been used everywhere except the Spanish Grand Prix. The White medium tire has been used in the Chinese Grand Prix, the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Spanish Grand Prix, the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the British Grand Prix, the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Italian Grand Prix and, most recently, the Malaysian Grand Prix.
  • 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 White mediums and one set of Yellow softs) and one mandatory specification for Q3 (one set of Red supersofts). Haas F1 Team’s drivers have selected the following amounts:
    • Grosjean: two sets of White mediums, four sets of Yellow softs and seven sets of Red supersofts
    • Magnussen: one set of White mediums, five sets of Yellow softs and seven sets of Red supersofts