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Haas Test In Spain Gets Off To A ‘Sloppy’ Start

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 2 2018

Formula One testing at the Circuit de Barcelona in Spain, was slowed by wintery weather this week. (Photo by Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Perhaps Formula One tire supplier Pirelli needs to develop a compound for snow.

American-owned Haas F1 Team wrapped up a weather-plagued first week of testing for the 2018 FIA Formula One Word Championship Thursday with Kevin Magnussen turning 96 laps at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. A combination of snow, rain and cold temperatures conspired to give the garage area at the famed Spanish circuit a bone-chilling feel more typically associated with Central New York.

That wintry mix kept nearly all teams from logging substantive laps on Wednesday, the third of four sessions around the 2.892-mile/4.655-kilometer/16-turn layout. The track remained wet the entire day, with the runoff areas covered in snow and slush throughout the morning and early afternoon.

Slightly warmer temperatures returned Thursday, but the effects of Wednesday’s snow and rain were evident as the track remained thoroughly wet. Magnussen, who logged 36 laps in his testing debut on Tuesday, rebounded with 96 laps/277.678 miles/446.880 kilometers in the No. 20 Ferrari-powered Haas VF-18. His best lap of 1 minute, 20.317-seconds placed fourth-quickest overall among 15 drivers participating.

The week-long test was the first for all cars featuring the FIA-mandated “halo” frontal cockpit protection device. Thursday’s time sheet was topped by four-time/reigning F1 World Driving Champion Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes at 1:19.333 during a session which saw Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly click-off a chart-topping 147 laps.

“It was a very good day,” said Magussen, who is in his second full season on the team founded by American industrialist Gene Haas. “We got a lot of laps and, finally, the weather decided to behave. It was nice to feel the car and get the first touch of the car’s balance and performance. I’m looking forward to continuing the work next week. We’re happy with what we’re seeing and we have something to work with.”

With those snow tires still on the drawing board, Pirelli’s Cinturato Blue full wet tire was the choice for Thursday’s opening stint, followed by the Green intermediate tire later in the morning. By early afternoon, the track was dry enough for drivers to switch to slicks.

Magnussen’s 36 laps on Tuesday computed to 104.129 miles/167.580 kilometers. Teammate Romain Grosjean opened the week with 55 laps/159.086 miles/256.025 kilometers in the No. 8 VF-18. Grosjean was unable to turn any laps Wednesday because of the wintry mix.

Magnussen hit the track when it opened at 9 a.m. local time Thursday, making three reconnaissance laps on full wets. He transitioned to intermediates at approximately 11:30 a.m., with two eight-lap runs. Haas F1 Team worked through lunch and shortly after 1 p.m., the track was dry enough for slicks. The car was fitted with a used set of Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires just before 1:30 p.m., prompting Magnussen to tip-toe around a still-slippery layout. A more involved, six-lap run that began shortly after 1:40 p.m. yielded a quick time of 1:24.286 on his 30th lap.

Magnussen subsequently went on to lower his lap times, first with a 1:22.768 on his 35th lap and then with a 1:21.764 on his next lap followed by a 1:21.509 on his 38th lap. His 39th lap brought him down to 1:21.477 before an even quicker tour on his next go-round generated a 1:21.135.

The Dane made the switch to Red supersofts at approximately 3 p.m. He performed back-to-back seven-lap stints before a nine-lap run, with a 1:21.509 on his 56th lap during the second stint being the best. Magnussen pushed during the last 90 minutes, recording a 1:20.640 on his 73rd lap and a 1:20.317 on his 81st lap. A three-lap stint on Yellow softs followed by a 10-lap drive on supersofts ended the day.

Haas F1 Team’s totals for the first week were 187 laps/540.893 miles/870.485 kilometers, with Magnussen accounting for 132 laps/381.807 miles/ 614.46 kilometers.

“I think it’s a good end to a difficult testing session,” Guenther Steiner, team principal, said Thursday. “The first few days were compromised by the weather but today we got 96 laps in. We made some progress and we understand the car a little bit better. Next week we need to start from where we are now, get better, and then work toward being ready for Australia.”

The season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 25 in Melbourne, Australia, is the first of 21 races including the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. 

The week’s quickest time was set Tuesday by four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari at 1:19.673. The German star also ran the most laps with 98.

Teams get a four-day break before the final week of testing resumes on Tuesday, March 6, with Magnussen scheduled to be in the No. 20 Haas VF-18. Frenchman Grosjean will return to his car on Wednesday, with Magnussen getting his last preseason testing drive on Thursday. Grosjean is booked to wrap the final day of testing on Friday.

Grosjean’s 55-lap run on Monday featured a best lap of 1:22.578. That was 10th-quickest among 13 drivers on a time sheet topped by Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull at 1:20.179. The Australian’s 105 laps completed also were best-of-session.

“The first day with the car is always super-exciting,” Grosjean said. “My first feeling from the car is very positive, so that’s really good knowing conditions haven’t been easy with cold temperatures, a bit of rain and the new tarmac. We managed to get almost 60 laps. We didn’t have any major problems with the car. The main thing for the first day with the car is that the feeling is good.”

Just five drivers braved the elements and ventured onto the track Wednesday, with Fernando Alonso of McLaren logging little more than reconnaissance laps. The two-time World Champion from Spain totaled 11 laps, his best being a cautious 2:18.545. Red Bull’s Ricciardo and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley each made two laps, while Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Williams’ Robert Kubica drove a single lap apiece.

The VF-18 is an evolution of the team’s second car, the VF-17, which carried Haas’ organization to an eighth-place finish in the 2017 constructors standings. Grosjean and Magnussen combined to score 47 points in the VF-17 during Haas F1’s sophomore season, 18 points more than the total earned in the organization’s debut campaign in 2016.

Beyond refinement of the previous car, the VF-18 carries the significant addition of the halo and a drastic reduction in the sharkfin.

Haas F1’s eighth-place finish in the constructors standings last year outpaced the storied McLaren organization (ninth) led by Alonso and Sauber (10th) in a battle of “mid-pack” teams. While Haas F1 failed to reach its preseason goal of 50 constructor points, the 47 earned in 2017 were 18 more than the total posted during its debut season in 2016.

That inaugural season netted 29 points, most of any new team in this millennium. When Jaguar debuted in 2000 and when Toyota came on the scene in 2002, each organization managed only two point-paying finishes during their entire first seasons for a combined total of six points.

Grosjean, who has competed in every race in Haas F1’s history, placed 13th in the championship standings with 28 points. Magnussen finished 14th in the driver standings during his first year in the cockpit of the sister car.

Haas F1 Team is based at the same North Carolina campus that houses Stewart-Haas Racing, the championship-winning NASCAR Cup Series organization Haas co-owns with retired three-time champion Tony Stewart.

Founded by Haas in 1983, Haas Automation, Inc., is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools and the team’s primary sponsor. Haas Automation employs approximately 1,300 at its 1.1-million square-foot/102,000 square-meter headquarters in Oxnard, Calif. Haas Automation exports its machines to more than 60 countries through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, March 2 2018
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