There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…

In the same week where The Smithsonian has launched a campaign on Kickstarter to raise $300,000 USD aimed at preserving the ruby red slippers worn by Judy Garland in the beloved 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”, the Haas F1 team clicked its collective heels together and after 17 races finally gets to come home.

It took nearly eight months but the first F1 team based in the United States in 30 years gets to race on its home soil as the Formula One circus takes over The Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas this weekend.

Weather is not expected to play nearly the role in this year’s race weekend as the forecast calls for only slight chances of scattered showers as opposed to the monsoon-like thunderstorms that washed out one practice session and pushed qualifying to race morning last year.

Haas F1 Team are coming off a tough Asian swing that finished on a bit of a high note as both Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez made into Q3 for the Japanese Grand Prix 2 weeks ago in Suzuka.

Haas F1 Team comes into the fourth to last race of the 2016 season as the most successful new Formula One team in recent memory. The 28 points Haas F1 Team has earned so far this season are the most of any new team in this millennium.

Delivering those points to Haas F1 Team has been Romain Grosjean. The veteran Formula One driver will make his 100th career start in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix. In COTA’s second Formula One race in 2013, Grosjean finished a career-best second for Lotus F1 team.

Grosjean’s teammate, Esteban Gutiérrez, has been knocking on the door of a points-paying finish all season long with five 11th-place finishes, each one spot shy of a coveted Formula One point. Gutiérrez looks to break that streak at COTA before heading to his own homecoming a week later – the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.

Gene Haas – Team Owner

“As an American team, having an F1 race on American soil is incredibly important,” Haas said. “We come to COTA having scored some points and proving that we can hold our own with the established teams of Formula One. We’re looking forward to our first home race.”

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal

After a run of misfortune in Singapore and Malaysia, Haas F1 Team righted the ship in Japan. You put both cars into the final round of qualifying for the first time in team history. Even though no points were scored in the race, the speed of the cars and their balance was on full display. How much confidence does this give you entering the United States Grand Prix?

“It’s difficult to say, but I think we learned a lot again. We keep on learning. We found a good balance for the car. With our new front wing we figured out how to set that one up. I hope we can do well in Austin like we did in Japan, but nothing is for sure. You know, everybody else will do a good job. So, we will see where we come out. The thing is we know the car can be quick. We just need to get the best out of it.”

How significant is the upgraded front wing to the car’s overall performance?

“I think it was very significant. The delay in getting it to work is like when you are at a grand prix and you have problems in FP1 and FP2 – you focus on trying to find out what the tire is doing and the data on the tire and basic things. You cannot develop a new part on the car. We had problems in FP1 and FP2 in Singapore and Malaysia, so we didn’t do a good job of finding out about the wing. But in Japan, we had good practice sessions and, sure enough, the wing came alive in Japan.”

You’ve had some milestone moments in Haas F1 Team’s inaugural season. How important was it to get both cars into the final round of qualifying in Japan after coming tantalizingly close all season long?

“In F1, getting into Q3 – it’s one of the things you need to do on speed. You don’t get lucky to get in there. In the race there are other circumstances, but on a one-time lap you need to be fast. For me, it means as much as achieving points at the first race in Australia. To get both cars into Q3 is fantastic and I think everyone on the team would agree. I wouldn’t say we were surprised because we felt like we were very good. We got it done. It was a fantastic moment. ”

Romain Grosjean – Driver #8 VF-16

The United States Grand Prix will be your 100th Formula One start. It’s quite a milestone. What are your thoughts on achieving this mark?

“Yes, it’s great. To be fair, when I started in Formula One I thought it’ll just be one race after the other, then here we are at 100 grands prix, 10 podium finishes, a few points and lots of good memories, and some a little more difficult. The good thing is, I don’t know when I’m going to stop, but I think I’ve still got plenty of room in front of me to keep going and to keep trying to win. Definitely 100 grands prix is quite something in my lifetime.”

Driving for an American team, how appropriate is it that your 100th start comes on American soil?

“For us, it couldn’t be better. I’m so proud to be part of this team and so proud to be able to bring the cars into Q3 in qualifying and bring points to the team. We’ve been working very hard and everyone is really giving 100 percent. It probably means more for us than other people.”

When you first began racing, just getting to Formula One was the goal. Now you’re here and you’re established. What do you want to achieve next — for yourself and for Haas F1 Team?

“For myself, I want to be world champion, ideally twice. That’s been my dream since I started. I always wanted to be in Formula One but, on top of that, I want to be world champion. For Haas, the first goal was to score points and the second one was a top-five finish. We’ve done those two. The next goal is to be wearing the team’s colors on the podium. That would be very nice. I’d like to bring the first win to the team, which would be unbelievable. I think the whole idea is wonderful and having the support of Gene (Haas) means a lot to all of us. The way Guenther (Steiner) and all the people involved are running the team is just something very special. I want to be the driver that everyone remembers at Haas.”

In joining Haas F1 Team, you took a leap of faith in the vision Gene Haas had for an American Formula One team. What has it been like to be a part of this endeavor and what makes Haas F1 Team different from other Formula One teams?

“It’s been a great adventure. From day one I liked Gene’s approach to Formula One and to the sport. He knows what he’s talking about, so that made me think it would be a great adventure. We have had ups and downs, as you would expect, but generally it’s been a wonderful first year. I still have a lot of faith in the team and I think the future is going to be bright for us.”

Esteban Gutiérrez – Driver #21 VF-16

You’re racing for an American team in the United States Grand Prix. Because of that, does walking into the paddock at COTA and driving out of the garage and onto the track take on greater significance or give you an added sense of pride?

“It’s important to represent America around the world, but now that we get back home and go to Austin for the U.S. Grand Prix, it’s something very special because we are on American soil. That gives a special touch to our weekend. More motivation and great energy from the people to achieve a fantastic result.”

Last year at COTA you were a reserve driver with Scuderia Ferrari and a week away from being named as a driver for Haas F1 Team. As you return to COTA for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, can you reflect on what this season has been like?

“It’s been very challenging, but very positive in many ways. During the first year the team has scored points. We’ve faced a lot of downsides or technical issues that we had to solve together as a team in many races. There have been a lot of challenges, but at the same time, scoring points and making it into the Q3 has been very special as a new team, and I am sure that this success will bring the team forward in the coming years.”

At COTA, you’re representing an American team on American soil. Next week at the Mexican Grand Prix, you’re representing your home country in your home race. How big are these two weeks for you?

“It’s going to be an intensive experience – something that I will enjoy so much because it’s probably the two most special events for me this year. It comes at a great time of the year where we can share all this passion with all the people that have been supporting us from America and from Mexico.”

When you first competed at COTA, what did you think of the venue?

“I thought it was fantastic. It was the United States Grand Prix, but it was also like a Mexican Gran Prix. A lot of Mexicans went there. It’s not far away from my hometown, and that made it a very nice combination because America makes very great events and the atmosphere was very special. I could not have asked for a better experience. Now that we have a full United States Grand Prix and then a full Mexican Grand Prix, the experiences are more intense.”

Did You Know?

The United States Grand Prix dates back to 1950 when the Indianapolis 500 counted as a round of the world championship. Eleven times from 1950 to 1960, points scored at Indy were added to a Formula One driver’s season tally. And in 1959 America hosted two Formula One races when in addition to Indianapolis, the United States Grand Prix was held at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway. It served as the ninth and final round of the 1959 season. In 1960, Formula One moved to Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway before finally settling down for a 20-year tenure at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International from 1961 to 1980. From 1976 to 1980, Watkins Glen was joined by Long Beach, California, on the Formula One schedule, with the United States Grand Prix West taking place until 1983. After Watkins Glen fell of the calendar, Las Vegas took its place for two seasons (1981-1982) with the Caesars Palace Grand Prix being held on its hotel parking lot. In 1982. America hosted three Formula One races when in addition to Long Beach and Las Vegas, Detroit was added to the schedule. Detroit hosted Formula One on a bumpy street circuit for seven years, with its last grand prix coming in 1988. Dallas made a one-race appearance in 1984 when Fair Park was converted to a Formula One circuit for the Dallas Grand Prix. Phoenix was next up for Formula One from 1989 to 1991 before a nine-year absence of the sport from America’s shores. But then Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George built a road course within the confines of the historic 2.5-mile oval and Formula One returned with the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis from 2000 to 2007. Sadly, very sadly for this Indy native, Formula One in America fell of the calendar again. It wasn’t until COTA was constructed in 2011, becoming the first purpose-built Formula One facility in the United States, that Formula One was able to return to America with the 2012 United States Grand Prix. Since then, COTA has been America’s one and only home for Formula One.

Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to COTA:

  • 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)

Two of the three available compounds must be used during the race. Teams are able to decide when they want to run which compound, adding an element of strategy to the race. A driver can also use all three sets of Pirelli tires in the race, if they so desire.

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

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

Image Courtesy of me.

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