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Haas F1 Turns Attention To Australia

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 4 2016
Testing in Spain is over for the Haas F1 team.(Photo by LAT Photographic)

Testing in Spain is over for the Haas F1 team.(Photo by LAT Photographic)

Haas F1 Team closed its inaugural preseason testing schedule Friday by opting to divide-and-conquer, with teammates Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez combining to turn 91 laps around the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain.

With official practice for the 2016 season-opening Australian Grand Prix now two weeks away, Grosjean and Gutierrez logged the organization’s highest single-day lap-count of two tests spread over 12 days (Feb. 22-25 and March 1-4) at the 2.89-mile/4.655-kilometer/16-turn circuit. The American-based team banked a total of 474 laps during preseason testing _ 281 laps last week and 193 during a problem-plagued second week.

“This was our last day testing before Australia,” said Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team, who has been overseeing the teething process. “We’re as well-prepared as we can be at this moment. It’s been a challenging month. We put the car together, went to the test _ it’s been day-and-night work. Thanks go to the whole team. They’ve done a fantastic job. See you in Australia.”

Haas F1 Team will make its competitive debut in the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship during practice in Melbourne on March 18. Qualifying is scheduled for March 19 and the race runs March 20, with NBC Sports Network providing the domestic broadcast.

The team headed by chairman Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation, is the first American-based organization to compete in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 30 years. Haas F1 Team is based at the same Kannapolis, N.C., campus as Stewart-Haas Racing, multiple champions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Grosjean originally was slated to drive the No. 8 VF-16 throughout Friday. But due to the mechanical gremlins Gutiérrez encountered in the No. 21 car on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Mexican was afforded additional seat time during the afternoon session.

Grosjean totaled 52 laps prior to the lunch break, delivering a fast time of 1-minute, 25.255-seconds on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire. The Frenchman added 14 circuits before handing the VF-16 over to his teammate. Gutiérrez clicked-off 25 laps, his stints including outings on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft and Red supersoft compounds. The latter option allowed Gutiérrez to set a best lap of 1:25.422-seconds in the final 30 minutes of testing.

The Haas F1 pair covered 262.99-miles/423.60-kilometers Friday on a circuit that will play host to Round 5 of the globe-trotting series on May 15.

“Our final day has been very different from the previous days,” said Grosjean, formerly of Lotus F1 Team. “It’s been a very positive day for all of us. The guys did an amazing job last night to understand the problem with the brake-by-wire. They got it solved for today. It was a big relief to be able to drive the car and drive it well. There are still a few places where we can improve massively, but we’re working on it. I’m looking forward to getting to the first race now. We can fine-tune the car there. ‘Let’s go racing,’ as Gene would say.”

Gutierrez was especially pleased with his extra seat time after a frustrating two days earlier this week. An “anomaly” with the turbocharger on the Ferrari 061 V-6 powerplant limited Gutierrez to a single installation lap in the No. 21 car on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Gutierrez was limited to 23 laps due to problems with the car’s fuel system.

“It was great to be back out on-track for the last day of the test,” said Gutierrez, a former test driver for Scuderia Ferrari. “I felt we were able to find some direction, which we were pursuing, as well as finding some solutions to a few issues we’ve had.

“Overall, it was a great experience to be part of a new team. Now I feel we’re ready to go racing. I’m very grateful to my team. They’ve worked relentlessly over the last few weeks and the results have clearly paid off. After getting to know the car, the next step is to go back to what I love, which is competing and racing. We all share the same passion. I look forward to Melbourne.”

The Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton, the three-time/reigning World Driving Champion from Great Britain, and German teammate Nico Rosberg are prohibitive favorites to again dominate a 21-race schedule which includes the fifth annual U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on Oct. 23.

But Sebastian Vettel, the four-time World Driving Champion from Germany, showed the strength of Scuderia Ferrari by setting Friday’s quickest lap in 1:22.852-seconds. A three-time winner last season for the Prancing Horse, Vettel also logged the day’s most laps at 142 in the SF-16-H. Vettel topped the Barcelona timesheet on three of his four test days.

Hass F1 Team is a technical partner with Scuderia Ferrari, an arrangement that includes the power unit, gearbox and mechanical components such as suspension and brake systems in the VF-16. Grosjean record the first “offs” in the car during a combined 78 laps around the circuit on Thursday. Despite a series of glitches encountered over the last two weeks, Steiner indicated the fledgling team is on-schedule.

“We made a lot of progress,” Steiner said. “We sorted our problems from yesterday with our brake-by-wire and got some laps in. We had a driver swap this afternoon to allow for some setup changes. It gave Esteban a few more laps before going to Melbourne.”

After Gutierrez struggled through two problem-plagued days that produced only 24 combined laps, Grosjean logged 225.61-miles/363.09-kilometers around the circuit on Thursday. Fifty-nine of those laps were run in the morning session. A solid 40-lap stint included a pit stop for a new set of Pirelli P Zero White medium tires. But the run ended with Grosjean going off at Turn 4 while under braking, resulting in the session being red- flagged.

A mixed afternoon followed, as ongoing development of the car’s brake-by-wire system resulted in a stop/start session, with two further stoppages limiting Grosjean’s run time to 19 laps. Grosjean rallied to set his best time of the day at 1:27.196-seconds on his 63rd lap on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire.

Day 7 of the split, two-week test was paced by Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 F1 World Driving Champion, at 1:22.7650-seconds for Ferrari. Second-year F1 regular Max Verstappen of The Netherlands posted the most laps at 159 for Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Grosjean and Gutierrez combined to complete a total of 281 laps during the team’s historic first four-day preseason test at Barcelona last week, with the latter running a race simulation and live pit stop practices during Day 4 on Feb. 25.

While Gutierrez sat Wednesday, Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams posted the day’s quickest lap in 1:23.261-seconds. Carlos Sainz Jr. of Spain and Scuderia Toro Rosso logged the most laps at 166.

On Tuesday, Gutierrez completed 23 laps/66.53-miles/107.065-kilometers with a best time of 1:26.661-seconds during his third run of the morning on the Pirelli P Zero White medium tire, the favored compound for the majority of participants. The VF-16 sat-out the afternoon session as the team worked to rectify the problem with its fuel system.

Rosberg posted Tuesday’s quickest lap in 1:23.002-seconds in his Mercedes, while the 18-year-old Verstappen ran a session-high 144 laps for Scuderia Toro Rosso.

Haas F1 Team completed its four-day preseason testing debut on Feb. 25 with Gutierrez running a race simulation and live pit stop practices. Gutierrez completed 89 laps/257.21-miles/414.29-kilometers last Thursday, recording his fastest lap of the day at 1:27.802-seconds during the simulation period on the Pirelli P Zero White medium tire compound.

Gutiérrez’s 89 laps-completed on Feb. 25 marked the team’s highest total to-date around the Barcelona layout. Recording 26 of those laps during his morning outing on the Pirelli P Zero White medium tire, Gutiérrez’s fastest lap before the midday break was 1:29.088-seconds.

Grosjean recorded his fastest lap of last week at 1:28.399-seconds in the team’s debut practice on Feb. 22. His 31 laps all were run on Pirelli’s P Zero White medium tire. Gutiérrez was the sixth-quickest driver Tuesday with a best time of 1:25.524-seconds recorded on his 70th of 79 laps, when the VF-16 was shod on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire.

Grosjean’s best lap on Feb. 24 of 1:25.874-seconds also was run on the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire, and was second-quickest of a session topped by German Nico Hulkenberg’s 1:23.110-second effort for Force India.

Vettel and his blood-red Ferrari paced the sessions on Feb. 22 and Feb. 23. Vettel topped the opening day time sheet at 1:24.939-seconds and lowered that mark to 1:22.810-seconds on Feb. 23.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 4 2016
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