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Grosjean In Cockpit For Haas As F1 Testing Continues

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 8 2018

Romain Grosjean took to the track in the No. 8 Haas F1 Team’s VF-18 Ferrari on Wednesday. (Photo by Andy Hone/LAT Images)

Lap times dropped dramatically Wednesday at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya, as preseason testing for the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship reached the halfway mark of its second week in Spain.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo set the day’s quickest time _ and overall _ around the 2.892-mile/4.655-kilometer/16-turn layout at 1 minute, 18.047-seconds while completing the most laps with 165. In comparison, four-time World Driving Champion Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Ferrari posted the quickest lap during last week’s weather-plagued sessions at 1:19.673 on Feb. 27. The German star also ran the most laps that day with 98.

Meanwhile, American-owned Haas F1 Team’s Romain Grosjean returned to testing Wednesday, adding 78 laps/225.576 miles/363.09 kilometers to the 55 circuits he logged on Feb. 26, the opening day of testing. Grosjean’s quickest time was 1:20.237 on his 25th lap shod on a set of Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires. While that placed the 31-year-old Frenchman eighth among 14 drivers who turned laps, it was Haas F1 Team’s fastest time thus far in 2018 testing.

“It’s good to be back in the car. I enjoyed the day,” said Grosjean, driver of the No. 8 Ferrari-powered VF-18. “The team has been doing a good job since the last day I drove, which was the first day of testing. The car felt very nice. The positive feeling I had early-on is still there and I’m still enjoying driving it. We had a bit of an issue in the afternoon which cost us track time, unfortunately. But the time we’ve had on track has been quality time. The most important thing is that I have a good feeling in the car.”

Preseason testing marks the debut of all 2018 cars featuring the FIA-mandated “halo” frontal cockpit protection device.

Wednesday started for Grosjean with an installation lap at 9 a.m. local time on White medium tires. Timed runs quickly followed for Grosjean with three stints on the Yellow soft tire, logging 30 laps before a switch to the supersoft compound for two additional runs totaling 20 laps.

For the second consecutive afternoon, time was surrendered in the garage as the team worked to fix an oil leak discovered after a 13-lap run on medium tires. Grosjean returned to the circuit with 20 minutes left on the clock. Armed with a set of used supersofts, Grosjean maximized the remaining run time by adding 11 laps before switching to used softs for three, final grid formation laps.

“Another day of testing has gone by,” said Guenther Steiner, team principal. “We again had a little bit of down time and we didn’t do our whole program. It was good to have Romain in on a dry day due to the time he missed last week (Wednesday) because of the weather and to get his impression of the car. It wasn’t ideal today, but we’re still positive about it. We have two more days to go and, hopefully, we can get more laps in.”

Teammate Kevin Magnussen is scheduled to test on Thursday with Grosjean completing the second and final week of the preseason on Friday. 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. 

Magnussen began Week 2 of testing on Tuesday by logging 96 laps/274.740 miles/442.225 kilometers with a best time of 1:21.298, sixth-quickest of the session. The 25-year-old from Roskilde, Denmark, was eager to build upon his 132-lap total from last week’s test, which was disrupted by a wintry weather mix.

Magnussen rolled out of the garage under blue skies promptly at 9 a.m. local time for reconnaissance laps before a 15-lap timed drive on the Pirelli P Zero White medium tire. A switch to the Yellow soft tire followed, with Magnussen logging three stints totaling 31 laps. It was during the first of those runs on softs where Magnussen posted his quickest lap of the day on his 23rd tour.

Ferrari’s Vettel set Tuesday’s quickest time at 1:20.396 and ran the most laps, 171.

Track time in the afternoon for Haas F1 was lost due to an Energy Recovery System-related component issue. Time spent in the garage resulted in a shortened run plan, with Magnussen returning to the track with just over an hour remaining. Working on a race simulation, Magnussen started with a 16-lap stint on a used set of Red supersofts before pitting for a new set of softs which he ran for 17 laps. A final, 12-lap run on new supersofts raised his lap total to 96.

“It was a good day. We got a lot of laps done,” said Magnussen, driver of the No. 20 VF-18. “We started working properly with the car and not just doing systems checks, installation laps and aero runs. I’d say it was our first proper day, also with the weather being a bit warmer and representative of what we’re probably going to have in the season. It’s still not quite there, but it’s getting closer. I’m happy and positive after the day.”

Team Principal Guenther Steiner termed Magnussen’s outing “productive” overall. “We had a few small problems, but they are normal in testing, so I would call them minor ones and we got them sorted,” Steiner said. “We almost did 100 laps, which if we keep on going like this, we’ll be fine.”

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.

The VF-18 is an evolution of the team’s second car, the VF-17, which carried industrialist and team-founder Gene 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 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 Thursday, March 8 2018
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