It’s Back to Work time! Haas F1 Team Belgian GP Preview

Hockenheim, Germany.
Sunday 31 July 2016.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _V2I7307

It’s back to work time after the three week summer break for the Haas F1 Team and the rest of the Formula 1 teams.

It couldn’t come soon enough for fans

The season resumes this weekend at the greatest natural terrain road course on this planet, Spa-Francorchamps.

Haas F1 Team have accomplished much in their maiden season in Formula 1, with Romain Grosjean scoring points in 4 races, and Esteban Gutiérrez knocking on the points door with for P11 finishes.

Grosjeans’s points total of 28 have him in the 12th position in the driver’s championship and the team in eighth position in constructors championship, 14 points behind McLaren Honda in seventh and 22 points up on Renault in ninth.

No one would argue that the team have exceeded the expectations of a rookie team, build from the ground up.

But the season is just over half complete and with 9 races remaining, Haas F1 Team still have much to accomplish.

Gutiérrez scoring his first points in the Haas Ferrari powered VF-16 is top on the list and a double points weekend would be a almost an unthinkable occurrence at the start of the year.

On to Belgium. Spa is known for its reputation of being a driver’s track, thanks in large part to the signature Eau Rouge and Raidillon corners, which create a fast and sweeping uphill, left-right-left combination that drivers view with reverence and attack with gusto.

The 19-turn circuit is a favorite of Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez. Before securing his most recent podium when he finished third in last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, Grosjean clinched the 2011 GP2 Series title at the venerable track. And Gutiérrez, with two Formula One starts at Spa, has enjoyed some fine drives in the wet when he visited the circuit during his junior career in GP2 and GP3.

It’s usually said that “It’s either raining at Spa or it is about to” so a wet track is common, but it’s also common for other portions to be completely dry, as its vast layout means late-summer showers can drench some parts of the track while leaving others untouched. Slicks obviously won’t work in the wet, and intermediate tires and full wet tires obviously won’t work in bone-dry conditions. It’s a conundrum that has often greeted drivers at the Belgian Grand Prix. Preliminary weather forecasts are calling for beautiful warm, sunny weather all weekend. We will see.

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal
How do you prepare for the unpredictability of the weather at Spa, as one part of the course can be clear and dry while another portion can be wet and slippery?
“You can prepare for the race by getting the team’s times down for when you need to change the tires. Otherwise, I think the driver’s experience comes into play here – what to do and when to do it. It all comes down to the driver and what they want to do next.”

How helpful is it to now have clear instruction as to what can be said on the radio and when during a race weekend?
“It’s nice to know that you can’t get fined now for something you didn’t have intentions of doing. Before it wasn’t clear on what was right or wrong to say, so it was difficult to obey the rule. Now we can say what we need to say. If somebody goes back now and listens to the instructions that were given to the drivers, they realize it wasn’t something said to make them go faster but rather solving the problem at hand. It allows us to get a read from the drivers now on the tires and other information that becomes useful to help us perform better. I don’t think it makes racing any less interesting by telling them something. For me, I don’t think there is a gain or loss, but it makes it easier for the team since now the information can be more clear.”

Fuel management played a role at the German Grand Prix, as the Hockenheimring saw drivers at full throttle for two-thirds of every lap. But Spa is 1.5 kilometers (.932 of a mile) longer than the Hockenheimring and drivers are on the throttle just as much. How much does fuel management play into your strategy at Spa?
“Fuel management is about the same, and it’s very important because the car needs the right time to lift off. Now with the radio communication, it is helpful because the engineer can give advice rather than in the past when the driver would ask and the engineer could not answer.”

Spa has high-speed straights and corners combined with a tight and twisting section, especially between turns eight and 15. How do you set up the car to tackle all the different aspects of the track? Do you have to make sacrifices in one section to gain an edge in other sections?
“Like in Hockenheim, we play between levels. It comes between using a low downforce and high topping speed at a low track or using the downforce in the twisty section and losing a little bit of speed in the fast sections.”

Romain Grosjean – Driver #8
How do you prepare for the unpredictability of the weather at Spa, as one part of the course can be clear and dry while another portion can be wet and slippery?
“Basically, you don’t. It’s something that’s out of your control. You don’t really worry about it. When it comes to qualifying or race day, yes, you have to make decisions, but it’s never black or white at Spa.”

Spa has been called a driver’s track. Why?
“It’s just a great track. There are very high-speed corners and there are a lot of turns, different types, some high speed, some low – just a good variety overall. It gives you a good feeling to drive.”

Spa has high-speed straights and corners combined with a tight and twisting section, especially between turns eight and 15. How do you set up your car to tackle all the different aspects of the track? Do you have to make sacrifices in one section to gain an edge in other sections?
“You always see different approaches at Spa. Either you’re fast in sector one and sector three, which are the high-speed sectors, or you’re fast in sector two, which has more of the corners. Both work pretty well, so it’s a matter of how you want to approach the race.”

Can you describe the sensation you feel inside the car when you drive through Eau Rouge and Raidillon? Are you able to take that section flat out?
“The first lap you go through flat out, you feel sick, like you’re on a rollercoaster because it goes up and down. You’re thinking, will I make that for the race? But, once you’ve done it once, it’s all ok and you just enjoy the g-forces.”

How important is it to enter Eau Rouge in clean air to ensure you have the maximum amount of downforce available?
“It’s certainly a corner where you don’t want to have a mistake. Qualifying in clean air is certainly quite good. On the other hand, if you get a big tow, you can have a massive advantage going into turn five. There’s a bit of an argument for both philosophies there.”

Esteban Gutiérrez – Driver #21
How do you prepare for the unpredictability of the weather at Spa, as one part of the course can be clear and dry while another portion can be wet and slippery?
“I think you need to make quick decisions throughout the weekend, especially during the race as it’s a way to gain an advantage. Making a wrong decision can be very detrimental, but that’s what’s special about Spa. It’s a very long track and it can sometimes only rain on one part of the track, on one or two corners, and if you’re on slicks you just need to deal with it. Ultimately, you only want to come in for full wets if it’s raining throughout. You really have to be ready and open minded during the weekend.”

Spa has been called a driver’s track. Why?
“It’s a track that has a lot of corners, as well as being a very long track where you can gain a lot of time if you do everything properly and if you’re consistent throughout the lap. This also depends on how much downforce you have on the car as the circuit has a lot of high-speed and fluid corners, which are important factors.”

Spa has high-speed straights and corners combined with a tight and twisting section, especially between turns eight and 15. How do you set up your car to tackle all the different aspects of the track? Do you have to make sacrifices in one section to gain an edge in other sections?
“It’s a track where you have to compromise a lot because you don’t want to lose too much speed on the straight and you don’t want to lose too much downforce in the corners. It’s important to have an efficient car to find the best compromise between aero and the mechanical set up.”

Can you describe the sensation you feel inside the car when you drive through Eau Rouge and Raidillon? Are you able to take that section flat out?
“Those two corners are usually flat out. It’s an amazing feeling approaching Eau Rouge. It goes up and you can feel the compression at the beginning of the corner and as the car is moving though the corner. As you go uphill, sometimes the car is jumping on the curb at high speed. It’s amazing. It’s difficult to describe it because you have to experience it.”

How important is it to enter Eau Rouge in clean air to ensure you have the maximum amount of downforce available?
“Even in the race sometimes you have to be flat out if you are running behind someone you want to overtake. It’s a corner you don’t require much downforce to make it flat out. Usually, we reduce the downforce at Spa because of the long straights and you want to have the least drag possible in those areas. It’s a compromise of how much downforce you set. Even with a low configuration of downforce, Eau Rouge becomes quite challenging, but usually very nice if you can take it flat out.”

Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to Belgium:

  • P Zero White medium – less grip, less wear (used for long-race stints)
  • P Zero Yellow soft – more grip, medium wear (used for shorter-race stints and initial portion of qualifying)
  • P Zero Red supersoft – highest amount of grip, highest amount of wear (used for qualifying and select race situations)

Pirelli provides each driver 13 sets of dry tires for the race weekend. Of those 13 sets, drivers and their teams can choose the specifications of 10 of those sets from the three compounds Pirelli selected. The remaining three sets are defined by Pirelli – two mandatory tire specifications for the race (one set of P Zero White mediums and one set of P Zero Yellow softs) and one mandatory specification for Q3 (one set of P Zero Red supersofts).

Haas F1 Team’s drivers have selected the following amounts:

  • Grosjean: two sets of P Zero White mediums, four sets of P Zero Yellow softs and seven sets of P Zero Red supersofts
  • Gutiérrez: one set of P Zero White mediums, five sets of P Zero Yellow softs and seven sets of P Zero Red supersofts

All images courtesy of Haas F1 Media

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

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