Haas F1 Team Sets its Sights on Shanghai

American Squad Brings its Speed to Chinese Grand Prix

 

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (April 10, 2018) – The third-year Haas F1 Team heads into the third round of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship this Sunday at Shanghai International Circuit intent on showcasing its speed in the Chinese Grand Prix.

 

Fresh off a fifth-place finish in last Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix where driver Kevin Magnussen equaled Haas F1 Team’s best result in its still young history, the American squad comes into Shanghai with points to show for the speed it has displayed since winter testing in late February and early March at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya.

 

The resulting 10 points from Magnussen’s Bahrain Grand Prix effort placed Haas F1 Team seventh in the constructor standings after two races, where it sits eight points ahead of eighth-place Sauber and only two points behind sixth-place Toro Rosso.

 

Magnussen and teammate Romain Grosjean have consistently placed their Haas VF-18s near the top of the midfield, even mixing it up among the sport’s Big Three of Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull. In addition to Magnussen’s fifth-place drive in Bahrain, he has qualified sixth and seventh, respectively, in each of this year’s first two races. Grosjean, meanwhile, owns a seventh-place qualifying effort in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

 

After a double DNF (Did Not Finish) in Australia where 22 potential points went poof as Magnussen had been running fourth and Grosjean fifth before succumbing to loose wheels, Bahrain provided tangible evidence that Haas F1 Team’s speed was substantive.

 

If the third time truly is the charm, then the Chinese Grand Prix bodes well for Haas F1 Team. Grosjean and Magnussen rightly carry optimism and experience into China. Grosjean has six career Formula One starts at the 5.451-kilometer (3.387-mile), 16-turn circuit. Three times he has finished in the points, with his best result being a sixth-place drive in 2012. And in last year’s Chinese Grand Prix, Grosjean just missed a point-paying result, as he finished 11th. Magnussen has three starts at Shanghai, and his best came in last year’s contest when he finished eighth to score his first points as a member of Haas F1 Team.

 

Achieving points in China will involve continuing the pace set in Australia and Bahrain while solving the conundrum presented by Shanghai’s “snail corners” and its massive backstraight. It’s a track that features plenty of yin yang characteristics where balance is key.

 

The snail corners both look like a snail and force drivers to take a snail’s pace around them – at least by Formula One standards. These corners, which comprise turns 1-4 and turns 11-13, are juxtaposed with the 1.4-kilometer (.869 of a mile) backstraight – the longest in Formula One. There, drivers eclipse 320 kph (200 mph) before heavy braking into the turn-14 hairpin. Securing the downforce needed to maximize these vastly divergent elements, along with the other in-between aspects of the track, is akin to balancing on a razor blade.

 

Balance is what Haas F1 Team has seemingly found in 2018, for its third-generation racecar has so far proven adept at handling the idiosyncrasies of both street courses and purpose-built tracks. Having exhibited speed but still looking to get both its drivers in the points at the end of the race, the third race of this Formula One season can be the proverbial third charm for Haas F1 Team.

Shanghai International Circuit
Circuit Length: 5.451 kilometers (3.387 miles)

Laps: 56

Race Distance: 305.066 kilometers (189.559 miles)

Broadcast: ESPN2 at 2 a.m. EDT on Sunday, April 15 (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.

 

China marks the second part of the season’s first slate of back-to-back races as the series heads straight from Bahrain to China. With both being flyaway races, how difficult are the logistics of moving a team across continents when you only have two days to pack up from one venue and arrive at another?

“It’s not easy. It’s challenging, especially at the beginning of the season. It’s more difficult because you have a limited amount of spares, so you need to be very careful what you send to Bahrain and that you’ve got enough to go on to China. It’s not easy having a back-to-back at the beginning of the season, but we always say we’re the best, and that’s why we need to get it done, and that involves people working hard.”

 

Finding and then holding onto the tires’ proper operating window proved a challenge last year. How has it been so far this year?

“It is still a challenge. I think we know a little bit more, but a lot of it is down to experience. We’re building up our data base. It’s still the biggest engineering project we have to sort out on a weekend.”

 

For the first time in recent memory, Pirelli isn’t bringing a sequential set of tire compounds. There’s a jump between the Yellow soft tire and the Purple ultrasoft, with the Red supersoft not a part of Pirelli’s lineup. How drastic is the difference between the soft and ultrasoft, and will drivers and their engineers miss that gradual change between compounds?

“I would say it’s not a big issue – you just adapt to it. How big the delta will be – we’ll just find that out when we get to the track. This is what you’ve got. There are big deltas normally between an ultrasoft and a hypersoft anyway. So, I don’t think it will be a problem. It is, for sure, always an engineering challenge, but whatever we put on there, it is always difficult to get them to work and get the best out of them.”

 

Overtaking, or a lack thereof, has been a topic of late. What would you like to see happen to encourage more overtaking during a race?

“We shouldn’t judge a season after just a couple of races. I would like to see at least four races under our belt, because we shouldn’t jump to a conclusion after the early races of the season. Working to make the cars more overtaking friendly – it’s a good idea, but also we should avoid knee-jerk reactions.”

 

Are expanding the DRS zones one way to increase overtaking opportunities? What are the pros and cons to that?

“I think it betters the situation, but it’s marginal. It will never make up for having a car that is better suited to overtaking. Yes, it enhances the overtaking opportunities, but it does not drastically change them or better them.”

 

Another DRS-related change to aid overtaking that’s being discussed is outfitting cars with a larger rear wing flap, thereby creating a larger effect when DRS is activated. What are your thoughts on that idea?

“Again, we shouldn’t judge after just a few races. I think if it is done with plenty of notice to change aerodynamic devices, I’m okay with that. Normally, when we make decisions to implement them quickly, we’ve always created more problems than benefits. So, let’s study them properly, let’s think about it, and then do something or do nothing.”

 

When your drivers are behind another car, what does the “dirty air” or turbulence from that car do to their car? How does it affect their racecar?

“Following another car, basically the front wing gets no air, therefore you lose front-end downforce, which makes you understeer everywhere.”

 

So, after talking about operating windows for your tires and DRS zones for overtaking, how does Shanghai shape up in terms of finding the right tire balance and being able to overtake?

“To find the tire operating window is always difficult. It’s a challenge at every racetrack. Normally, our car likes it better when it’s warm, so China is not likely to be one of our favorites. We will try hard to get them to work.”

 

 

Finding and then holding onto the tires’ proper operating window proved a challenge last year. How has it been so far this year?

“It’s still a challenge and it’s still really what makes the car go fast or not. We put a lot of effort into that, and we’ve got some good people helping us to make sure we do that right.”

 

For the first time in recent memory, Pirelli isn’t bringing a sequential set of tire compounds. There’s a jump between the Yellow soft tire and the Purple ultrasoft, with the Red supersoft not a part of Pirelli’s lineup. How drastic is the difference between the soft and ultrasoft, and will you miss that gradual change between compounds?

“I guess it’s going to open strategies, especially if there’s quite a lot of degradation on the ultrasofts. I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do. In China, the weather can be challenging – it can be cold or hot. A lot will depend on that.”

 

Overtaking, or a lack thereof, has been a topic of late. What would you like to see happen to encourage more overtaking during a race?

“I think that’s something Formula One is working on. Clearly, it’s not easy to overtake, but we know that Melbourne’s one of the trickiest circuits to overtake on. I don’t think we need to jump to conclusions. We can wait a few races to see how it goes.”

 

Are expanding the DRS zones one way to increase overtaking opportunities? What are the pros and cons to that?

“There are no cons, only pros. You just go faster in a straight line, and yes, it’s a way to do it, clearly.”

 

When you’re behind another car, what does the “dirty air” or turbulence from that car do to your car? How does it affect the feel of your racecar?

“You lose downforce, as if you have a smaller wing on your car. You slide more, and when you slide more, the tires overheat. When that happens, the grip goes even more, which means you slide even more. It’s a cycle. That’s basically what’s happening. Normally, you lose a bit more of front end than rear end. Generally, it just feels like you’re on a lighter downforce package.”

 

So, after talking about operating windows for your tires and DRS zones for overtaking, how does Shanghai shape up in terms of finding the right tire balance and being able to overtake?

“Overtaking in China is always pretty good – it’s always exciting. The balance is really difficult to find because there’s a lot of demands on the front tires, which makes it tricky. One of the main concerns is trying to find a way to get the best from the front tires.”

 

In six career Formula One races at Shanghai International Circuit, you’ve had three point-paying finishes and all of them came from a top-10 starting spot. It shows how important qualifying is, but it also seems to showcase your talents. Is there something about Shanghai that plays to your strengths?

“No. Shanghai is a tricky track because it’s very different from the early stages in the year. It’s a front-limited circuit, meaning that the car needs to work well with front tires. If it doesn’t, then it gets very tricky. Overtaking in Shanghai is not impossible. There’s the long backstraight with DRS helping overtaking maneuvers. In general, if the car is good in qualifying, the race should be quite good. If not, then in the race you’re going to struggle. If you qualify in the top-10, you should finish in the top-10. If you’re not, then it’s harder. I’ve had good cars in Shanghai, therefore I’ve been able to score points.”

 

What is your favorite part of Shanghai International Circuit and why?

“I like the high-speed corners at (turns) five and six. It’s just an amazing part.”

 

Is there a specific portion of Shanghai International Circuit that is more challenging than other aspects of the track?

“Yes, turns one, two and three. It’s very challenging. There’s a lot of demand on the front tires, and it’s not easy to find the perfect lane. Then being up on the backstraight, that long right-hand side corner, going onto the throttle, as well, is important because you’ve got one-and-a-half kilometer of straight line. You need to be as early as possible on the power.”

 

Explain a lap around Shanghai International Circuit, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.

“The biggest difference with the current-generation car is the entry speed into turn one, the minimum speed between turns five and six, and the braking at the end of the straight lines, which is very late. Those are the spots where you really feel the difference in the current cars.”

 

 

Finding and then holding onto the tires’ proper operating window proved a challenge last year. How has it been so far this year?

“The tires are different for this year, but it’s still no less of a challenge. It’s the biggest thing about performance.”

 

For the first time in recent memory, Pirelli isn’t bringing a sequential set of tire compounds. There’s a jump between the Yellow soft tire and the Purple ultrasoft, with the Red supersoft not a part of Pirelli’s lineup. How drastic is the difference between the soft and ultrasoft, and will you miss that gradual change between compounds?

“It’s an interesting tire situation. It’s not one that I’ve experienced before. I think it will be an exciting thing for the race. Who knows, it might be that the ultrasoft is fine as a race tire but, theoretically, it shouldn’t be a race tire – it’s a qualifying tire. The top-10 will be starting on it, so it’ll spice the race up a little bit.”

 

Overtaking, or a lack thereof, has been a topic of late. What would you like to see happen to encourage more overtaking during a race?

“I think it’s all to do with the tracks. We see some tracks where overtaking is all fine. Of course, it has to do with the aero on the cars, but some tracks are fine, so it’s not always bad.”

 

Are expanding the DRS zones one way to increase overtaking opportunities? What are the pros and cons to that?

“It’s not something I think about, to be honest.”

 

When you’re behind another car, what does the “dirty air” or turbulence from that car do to your car? How does it affect the feel of your racecar?

“You lose downforce in the slipstream of another car. With some cars you lose front end, some you lose rear – good cars you lose just overall and not as much. Our car is alright.”

 

So, after talking about operating windows for your tires and DRS zones for overtaking, how does Shanghai shape up in terms of finding the right tire balance and being able to overtake?

“Shanghai is a really good circuit to overtake. It always offers lots of opportunities.”

 

You finished eighth in last year’s Chinese Grand Prix to score your first points for Haas F1 Team and your first points since the 2016 Singapore Grand Prix where you finished 10th. How rewarding was that finish and did you feel that it vindicated your move to Haas F1 Team?

“I don’t think it was only that. In Australia, I had a good feeling being with the team. Of course, it was good to start scoring points early on in the season.”

 

What is your favorite part of Shanghai International Circuit and why?

“My favorite part is turns seven and eight – the fast ones in the middle. It’s a pretty good section of the track.”

 

Is there a specific portion of Shanghai International Circuit that is more challenging than other aspects of the track?

“Turns one, two and three. It’s a pretty unique place, where you enter so fast and then have to stop the car in the corner all the way down to low speed.”

 

Explain a lap around Shanghai International Circuit, especially now after having competed there with the faster, current-generation car.

“It just has a unique flow with lots of opportunities to overtake.”

 

 

Shanghai International Circuit

  • Total number of race laps: 56
  • Complete race distance: 305.066 kilometers (189.559 miles)
  • Pit lane speed limit: 80 kph (50 mph)
  • This 5.451-kilometer (3.387-mile), 16-turn Shanghai International Circuit has hosted Formula One since 2004, with last year’s Chinese Grand Prix serving as the venue’s 14th grand prix.
  • Michael Schumacher holds the race lap record at Shanghai (1:32.238), set in 2004 with Scuderia Ferrari.
  • Lewis Hamilton holds the qualifying lap record at Shanghai (1:31.678), set last year with Mercedes in Q3.
  • The Shanghai International Circuit is one of the many Formula One circuits designed by Hermann Tilke, which features a trademark cue of his – a long backstraight followed by a hairpin corner. The 1.4-kilometer (.869 of a mile) backstraight is the longest in Formula One. It is the equivalent of 11 soccer fields laid end to end, or the same length of three-and-a-half aircraft carriers lined up bow to stern. Current-generation Formula One cars surpass 320 kph (200 mph) on this straight, which is located between turns 13 and 14. Another distinctive aspect of the track is its “snail corners”, which comprise turns 1-4 and turns 11-13. The high-speed straight combined with these sharp corners pose a conundrum for teams, as they must balance the amount of downforce needed to negotiate these vastly different aspects of the track.
  • DYK? The ground on which the Shanghai International Circuit was built was originally swampland. But with a team of 3,000 engineers working around the clock, it took just 18 months to create the world-class facility.
  • During the course of the Chinese Grand Prix, lows will range from 11-12 degrees Celsius (51-54 degrees Fahrenheit) to highs of 19-22 degrees Celsius (66-72 degrees Fahrenheit). Relative humidity ranges from 51 percent (mildly humid) to 91 percent (very humid), with a dew point varying from 4 degrees Celsius/39 degrees Fahrenheit (dry) to 16 degrees Celsius/60 degrees Fahrenheit (comfortable). The dew point is rarely below -3 degrees Celsius/26 degrees Fahrenheit (dry) or above 20 degrees Celsius/68 degrees Fahrenheit (muggy). Typical wind speeds vary from 2-23 kph/1-14 mph (light air to moderate breeze), rarely exceeding 31 kph/19 mph (fresh breeze).
  • Pirelli is bringing the following three tire compounds to China:
    • P Zero White medium – less grip, less wear (used for long-race stints)
      • This is a versatile compound, but it sits in the harder part of the spectrum. The White medium often comes into its own on circuits that tend toward high speeds, temperatures and energy loadings. It has an ample working range and is adaptable to a wide variety of circuits.
    • 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 a very adaptable tire that can be used as the softest compound at a high-severity track as well as the hardest compound at a low-severity track or street circuit.
    • P Zero Purple ultrasoft – highest amount of grip, highest amount of wear (used for qualifying and select race situations)
  • This is the second-softest tire in Pirelli’s lineup, with rapid warming and massive performance. However, because it is so soft, it has a relatively limited lifespan.
  • The Chinese Grand Prix marks the first time these three compounds have been packaged together in 2018.
  • The Yellow soft tire has been used in every grand prix this year. The White medium tire was utilized in the most recent race – the Bahrain Grand Prix. The Purple ultrasoft tire was used in the season-opening Australian 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 Purple ultrasofts). Haas F1 Team’s drivers have selected the following amounts:
    • Grosjean: one set of White mediums, four sets of Yellow softs and eight sets of Purple ultrasofts.
    • Magnussen: two sets of White mediums, three sets of Yellow softs and eight sets of Purple ultrasofts.