The Belgian Grand Prix Sunday at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps began well for Haas F1 Team, but a red-flag period scuttled the team’s strategy, leaving drivers Esteban Gutiérrez and Romain Grosjean 12th and 13th, respectively.
Grosjean got a great jump at the start avoiding the chaos of the first turn of the opening lap by diving low through La Source and jumping to fifth. He was passed by Force India’s Sergio Perez on lap four but quickly settled into sixth place. Gutiérrez also took advantage of the lap-one carnage, where four cars were eliminated outright, and advanced from 18th to ninth.
Kevin Magnussen brought the safety car on lap sixth with a MASSIVE shunt out of Eau Rouge allowing both drivers to duck into the pits and change tires, a strategy that was quickly negated a couple of laps later when the red flag was display to repair the tire barrier that was knocked out of place by Magnussen’s crash.
The red-flag stoppage allowed the drivers who didn’t pit a free pit stop, as they were able to change tires on pit lane. (When will this stupid rule change?) This was incredibly advantageous for them, as no track position was lost. The positions they gained by staying out prior to the red flag were kept and the positions Grosjean and Gutiérrez picked up on the racetrack were essentially lost.
Nonetheless, 34 laps remained once the red flag was lifted, which meant plenty of opportunity remained.
As an energy-recovery system issue affected Grosjean’s speed, Gutiérrez was able to leapfrog his teammate for 11th on lap 18.
At the race’s halfway mark, Gutiérrez was 11th and Grosjean was 12th. Gutiérrez pitted for a new set of Pirelli P Zero White medium tires on lap 22 and Grosjean followed on lap 23, also opting for White mediums.
With pit stops having cycled through by lap 26, Gutiérrez was 13th and Grosjean was 15th.
With seven laps remaining, Gutiérrez and Grosjean were running 12th and 13th, respectively, with a five-second margin between them. As the laps wound down, Grosjean was able to cut into Gutiérrez’s advantage, but time ran out and the checkered flag waved, leaving the duo 12th and 13th.
Thirteen rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points.
Romain Grosjean – Driver #8
“Well, it was a very good start and a very good first lap. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any top speed in the beginning of the race. Something was not going quite right. It took a lot of time to solve that. My last stint wasn’t bad. I made up a lot of time on everyone, but the damage had already been done. We had a shot at a good finish today. On the positive side, I’m much happier with the car than I was recently, so that’s at least great. It’s just a shame we lost an opportunity for a good result.”
Esteban Gutiérrez – Driver #21
“It wasn’t the result we expected. We were fighting very hard to get into the top-10 and even though we didn’t manage to get there, I think we did well. The balance of the car felt good and we had reasonable pace. This is one of the things we need to keep up for the coming events because it’s what’s going to keep us consistent and help us get the most out of the car. I feel very grateful for the team. They did a great job and had some great pit stops. We lost some time on the safety car before the red flag, but sometimes it goes that way. We finished P12, so I’m not completely satisfied, but we will keep pushing.”
Guenther Steiner – Team Principal
“A very interesting and exciting race for the fans. For us, it was a bit up and down. We got away very well, but then with the red-flag scenario, we were pushed back and couldn’t get further to the front. In general, both drivers showed good speed. We had a small issue with Romain’s car with the energy recovery system, which the team fixed within a few laps and in the end we finished 12th and 13th. We would’ve liked to get in the points, but that didn’t work out. However, we showed we can do it if the circumstances are right. We still hope to get some more points this year and we look forward to Monza.”
Image courtesy of Haas F1 Media