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Miscues Cost Haas In F1 Opener

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 25 2018

Romain Grosjean and his Haas F1 team had a frustrating start to the 2018 season on Sunday.

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

The Formula One season-opening Australian Grand Prix was shaping up as historic for the America-based Haas F1 Team as the race neared its half-way point. Then, disaster struck, leaving Gene Haas’s organization wondering how things could go so disappointingly bad.

The Haas team, with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen teaming for their second season together, had shown improvement through preseason testing and then in practice and then qualifying in Melbourne.

After that qualifying, Magnussen started fifth and Grosjean sixth. The only cars ahead of them on the starting grid on Sunday were sport powerhouses from Mercedes AMG (with defending world champion Lewis Hamilton at the wheel), Ferrari and Red Bull.

When the race went green, the Haas drivers were able to retain their top-five positions and hopes were high for good finishes – perhaps a first-ever podium finish.

Then came pit stops and heartbreak.

Magnussen came in first, on Lap 22 of 58 at the 3.295-mile, 16-turn Melbourne circuit. During his stop, his crew failed to successfully attach a rear wheel. Once back on the track, Magnussen pulled his VF-18 Haas car off the track and his race was over.

Two laps later, Grosjean’s crew repeated the exact same mistake and the outcome was exactly the same as he pulled off the track on Lap 24.

“It was a disappointing end to a very promising weekend,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said. “We had two failures on the pit stops – didn’t tie the wheels on correctly, so we had to stop the cars. As much as you don’t want to say it, it’s racing. It happens, even though it shouldn’t. It’s almost unbelievable to have this in one race, and on two cars, while running fourth and fifth.

 “It’s very disappointing. The good thing we can take away from this is that the car is competitive. We just need to get our heads up again, to get well prepared for Bahrain. We’ll focus on that one and get our pit stops sorted out.”
Grosjean officially finished 16.
“We had a good car all weekend,” the native of France said. “I was happy with our low- and high-fuel pace. I had great pace today, and I’m sure I could have stayed a bit more with the frontrunners if I’d been in front of Kevin early in the race. We’ll now analyze everything and work out what happened exactly. We’ll come back stronger as we always do. It’s a lot of points lost today, but if we can repeat that performance over and over, we’re going to forget this very quickly.”

Magnussen was credited with a 17th-place finish.

“It’s a very tough one to swallow for the whole team. To have both cars not finishing – having been in such good positions and with so much anticipation – it’s just heartbreaking to finish like that. We’ll get on top again. We’ll fight back. I’m beyond disappointed right now, but we’ll get over it.”

Defending Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton looked dominating for most of the season-opening weekend at the Australian Grand Prix. Then came race day and it was Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel who took advantage of a late virtual safety-car situation to leapfrog past the Mercedes of Hamilton and get the victory.

Hamilton finished second.

Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen finished third.

Rounding out the top five were Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull and Fernando Alonso of McLaren.

Hamilton started from the pole and looked to be the driver to beat. But when Grosjean’s Haas F1 Racing car stopped on the track and the safety-car period was called, it gave Vettel his shot.

Vettel benefitted from the slowing of action by pitting and when he came out he had the lead.

Hamilton stayed on the Ferrari’s rear end much of the rest of the race but was unable to make the pass for the lead. Then, in the closing laps, Hamilton’ car fell off the pace and the British driver hand to hang onto his second-place standing.


| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, March 25 2018
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