Testing Ends On A High For Haas F1
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean spent some unexpected time at the beach in Spain Friday before recording his quickest lap of the FIA’s two-week Formula One World Championship preseason testing schedule at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Grosjean’s quickest time on the last day of testing around the 2.892-mile/4.655-kilometer/16-turn layout was a 1-minute, 21.110-seconds, which also was his quickest lap of four preseason sessions. The 30-year-old Frenchman set his fast time on his 61st lap riding on a new set of Pirelli P Zero Purple ultrasoft tires.
The time placed Grosjean 10th overall among 13 drivers participating during a session led by Scuderia Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen. The 2007 World Driving Champion, Raikkonen registered a hot lap of 1:18.634-seconds. Meanwhile, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz and Williams’ Lance Stroll completed the most laps (132).
Grosjean recorded 76 laps/219.792 miles/353.78 kilometers in his No. 8 VF-17 to raise his two-week testing total to 346 laps/1,000.799 miles/1,610.63 kilometers. With new teammate Kevin Magnussen of Denmark running 369 total laps/1,067.326 miles/1,717.695 kilometers during the same period, Haas F1 Team racked up an impressive 715 laps/2,068.125 miles/3,328.325 kilometers during its 2017 preseason test program.
“Well, you never feel totally prepared after testing and before you head to Australia,” said lead driver Grosjean, referring to the season-opening grand prix in Melbourne on March 26. ”We only have eight days, of which you only get four as a driver and one of those was the wet day I had last week. Yes, the big teams are ready, but for us there are still a few unknowns going to Melbourne.
“That’s the charm of Formula One. That said, I think we have some good ideas where we can improve the car and, hopefully, the updates we’re going to get in Australia will go our way. I think both myself and Kevin have identified where we can gain some performance.”
This year’s test mileage total defined the growth experienced by American industrialist Gene Haas’ team since its inaugural 2016 season. During last year’s preseason test at Barcelona, Haas F1 Team logged 474 laps/1,371.037 miles/2,206.47 kilometers between Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez of Mexico. Grosjean and the 24-year-old Magnussen combined to shatter that mark by 241 laps/697.088 miles/1,121.855 kilometers while working with a second generation car built under drastically different regulations compared to 2016.
Magnussen’s best lap on Thursday also was his quickest of the preseason _ a 1:20.504-second run on his 62nd lap utilizing Pirelli’s P Zero Purple ultrasoft tire. That time placed Magnussen fifth among 13 drivers participating.
The VF-17 features an advanced aerodynamic package designed to create a higher level of downforce. A wider front wing, larger barge boards, a lower and wider rear wing and a diffuser that expands 50 millimeters (two inches) in height and width make up the chassis changes. Teams also are dealing with wider tires from Pirelli _ 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) in the front and 80 millimeters (3.1 inches) in the rear for a 25-percent increase that brings the front tires to 305 millimeters (12 inches) and the rear tires to 405 millimeters (15.9 inches).
The new regulations were key to dropping lap times by as much as five seconds compared to when teams last visited Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
Grosjean and his team were forced to overcome adversity en route to his quickest lap. A mid-morning spin at Turn 5 beached the No. 8 in the gravel trap, resulting in a red-flag stoppage. With no damage to the car, Grosjean was able to continue, albeit for only 19 laps before a sensor issue stranded him between Turns 9-10. The team recovered nicely, with Grosjean totaling 44 laps before the mandatory lunch break. His best time of the morning was a 1:21.429-seconds on his 35th lap with a set of Yellow soft tires.
The afternoon delivered further challenges despite a successful start with two, five-lap stints on Red supersoft tires. A switch to Purple ultrasofts shortly after 4 p.m. (local time) yielded Grosjean’s best lap. The final 75 minutes of the session were set to mirror Thursday’s program, during which Magnussen performed a race simulation. Grosjean was 14 laps into a run on a used set of Yellow soft tires when another red-flag halted proceedings. Grosjean brought the VF-17 back to the garage, where a water leak was discovered _ jettisoning the remaining 30 minutes of on-track running.
“Definitely not our best day today,” said Team Principal Guenther Steiner, who has overseen every practice session dating to last year. “We had quite a few issues with the handling of the car. We couldn’t find a good balance. In the afternoon we had a few problems and we stopped early due to a water leak. We couldn’t get it fixed in time. We didn’t finish our race simulation, unfortunately.
“All in all, the test was _ up until today _ pretty good. We now go back and see what happened today, analyze data and see what we can do to get ready for Melbourne.” Practice for the Australian Grand Prix begins on March 24 with qualifying on March 25.
As was the case during its inaugural season, Haas F1 Team is a technical partner with Scuderia Ferrari, F1’s oldest and most glamorous organization. That arrangement with the factory in Maranello, Italy, includes the power unit, gearbox and mechanical components such as suspension and brake systems on the second generation VF-17.
Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American team in the globetrotting series since 1986. Founded by Haas, Haas F1 Team is based on the same Kannapolis, N.C., campus as his championship-winning NASCAR organization, Stewart-Haas Racing. The chairman of Haas F1 Team, Haas also is the founder of Haas Automation, largest CNC machine tool-builder in North America.