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Haas F1 Drivers Qualify In Top 11 In China

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 14 2018

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean during qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

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Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen qualified 10th and 11th, respectively, on Saturday for the Chinese Grand Prix. Round 3 of the 21-race FIA Formula One World Championship is scheduled for Sunday on the 3.387-mile/5.451-kilometer/16-turn Shanghai International Circuit.

Grosjean set the fifth-fastest time in Q1 for the American-owned team with a lap of 1-minute, 33.238-seconds. Magnussen was seventh-quickest at 1:33.359. Only the top-15 drivers moved onto Q2.  Grosjean posted the sixth-fastest time in that session with a lap of 1:32.524 to advance to Q3. Magnussen qualified 11th at 1:32.986, just missing the top-10 cutoff to get into Q3 by 0.016-seconds.

Q3 featured the heavy hitters of Formula One, with 16-time champion Scuderia Ferrari, four-time/reigning champion Mercedes and four-time champion Red Bull combining to take the top-six spots. Grosjean slotted into the 10th position, knocking down a lap of 1:32.855 to earn his second-best qualifying effort of 2018.

Taking pole was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. The four-time World Driving Champion put down a lap of 1:31.095 to claim P1 by 0.087-seconds over teammate Kimi Räikkönen, the 2007 world champion. The track record lap _ besting the previous mark of 1:31.678 by 0.583-seconds set last year in Q3 by Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes _ gave Ferrari a front-row lockout for the second straight race.

This was Vettel’s 52nd career Formula One pole, the German’s second of the season and fourth at Shanghai. Räikkönen, of Finland, has qualified second in every race this season.

Grosjean bookended his best qualifying effort of 2018, a seventh-place drive in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

“This morning we had our problem (with the brake-by-wire) and the team did an amazing job to put the car back together,” said Grosjean, driver of the Ferrari-powered No. 8 VF-18. “There was a lot of work on the car. The engineers changed quite a lot on the setup last night to give me a better feeling in the car, which was great to have today. So, I’m really pleased with all of that.

“I was very pleased to get through to Q3. Our position in Q3 is not ideal. On the last lap, we didn’t have the grip we had earlier on in the session. We just need to analyze that and make sure we understand why. Tomorrow, the first stint is going to be the key. We’re starting on the (Pirelli Purple) ultrasoft, and everyone behind is going to start on the better tire (the soft), but we can work from there.”

Tire choice during qualifying varied between the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire and the Purple ultrasoft tire. Grosjean ran the ultrasoft exclusively in Q1 and Q2. He switched to the soft for his first run in Q3, but returned to the ultrasoft to set his fast lap. Magnussen used the soft tire for his first run in Q1 before transitioning to the ultrasoft to set his quick time. He stayed on the ultrasoft in Q2.

“It’s a little bit disappointing to not progress into Q3,” said Magnussen, driver of the No. 20 VF-18. “I had a bad out-lap, and with these tires, at this track, it’s a very narrow window to get them to work. If you don’t hook it up perfectly on the warmup, you lose a lot of performance. On top of that, it wasn’t a perfect lap. I think P11 is perhaps not so bad a qualifying position. We have a free choice of tire to start the race, so that’s a bonus. The car is pretty good. If we can hook it up tomorrow and have a good race, I’m sure we can score some points.”

As noted, tire choices were strategic for both qualifying and the race as the top-10 drivers must start on the tires they used to qualify. Those outside the top-10 can start the race on a new set of tires of their choosing. With the Purple ultrasoft good for only a handful of quick laps before a drastic performance dropoff due to degradation, the Yellow soft is the preferred tire, as it strikes a balance between performance and durability.

Frenchman Grosjean will start on the same set of ultrasofts he used to qualify. Magnussen, of Denmark, can bolt on a new set of softs for the race.

“It was quite a good qualifying,” said Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 team principal. “We’re in quite a good position to be in the points (Sunday). If there’s a place you want to qualify 11th, this is the place, and that’s where we are with Kevin. With Romain, we were already happy just to get him out in time for qualifying, as we had the issue in FP3 with the brake-by-wire. It was a good job from the team to get the car ready again, and we ended up qualifying in the top-10. I’m looking forward to tomorrow because I think we’ve got a very good chance to get two cars in the points for the first time this year.”

Before Grosjean, Magnussen and the rest of their Formula One counterparts participated in knockout qualifying, they completed one final practice (FP3).

Magnussen performed a 19-lap stint on the Purple ultrasoft tire to start and then followed with a six-lap drive on Yellow softs. It was on the softs that Magnussen earned his quick time _ a 1:34.329 on his 22nd lap that put him sixth overall. Grosjean, on the other hand, was limited to just six laps. He ran only on ultrasofts after the brake-by-wire issue created an overheating problem with his rear brakes. Grosjean could only muster a best time of 1:35.756, earned on his fourth tour, which placed him 20th.

The top of FP3 provided a prelude to qualifying, as Vettel was fastest with a lap of 1:33.018 that was 0.451-seconds better than his nearest pursuer, teammate Räikkönen.

Haas F1 Team debuted in the FIA Formula One World Championship in 2016, becoming the first American F1 team since 1986. Haas F1 is based at the same Kannapolis, N.C., campus that houses Stewart-Haas Racing, the championship-winning NASCAR Cup Series organization American industrialist Gene Haas co-owns with retired three-time champion Tony Stewart.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, April 14 2018
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