After 4 very different and less than ideal results, including a turn 1 exit for Romain Grosjean in Sochi, Russia, Haas F1 heads to Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain for Round 5 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. It’s a great challenging circuit where you rarely have time to rest with long corners, long straights and tricky chicanes.
There are a lot of areas that are going to test the set-up of the VF-17’s chassis and the two Haas pilots lifting and throttle application skill. The circuit is a mix of very long corners such as turn 3 and shorter, sharper corners such as the complex of turns 7-9.
Typically, most teams have a lot of data about how their cars will behave here since it is used in pre-season testing. Haas made a big 241 lap improvement in their 2017 Catalunya testing over 2016, running a total of 715 laps in 2017. Grosjean and Magnussen traveling 3,328.325 kilometers (2,068.125 miles) on the 4.655-kilometer (2.892 mile) circuit in their VF-17.
New FIA regulations for 2017 should even out the playing field this year with teams still learning the best ways to apply the data they gained from their first season of testing at the track under them in pre-season. The bigger and faster cars have increased the width of the front wing, the size of the chassis, larger barge boards, a lower and wider rear wing and diffuser that expanded 50 millimeters in height and width. Tyres too have changed to compensate for this, the fronts now 60 millimeters and the back 80 millimeters, a 25% increase from 2016.
Another possible curveball may be the shark-fins this year, with speculation they may be susceptible to cross winds which are a danger in Catalunya especially at turns 3 and 9. If that’s the case will there be any difference between a true shark fin look like what Haas have vs the more square elements like what Williams, Force India and McLaren have?
Another thing will make this weekend spectacular is the upgrades. Let’s just say you don’t want to miss any practice sessions, many teams plan to roll out huge upgrades to their cars for the first time and Haas F1 is no different, saying in their team press release: “…in the Spanish Grand Prix, where competitive arms race of technological bits and pieces are debuted by teams up and down the pit lane. Haas F1 Team is no different, bringing a significant upgrade to its VF-17, the details of which are being kept close to its vest.”
It is unknown however if these upgrades will make any improvement to the brakes which were not solved in Sochi as I thought they might be. Haas did one session on Carbon Industrie brakes then went straight back to Brembo. Grosjean then preceded to be very animated on radio that he was not happy, but Magnussen didn’t seem to be too bothered, and Gunther Steiner seemed to imply the issue was a driver issue not a car issue.
There will be a couple of tough areas on the brakes most so being turn 1 after the long pit straight. The start of this season is not what Haas wanted and now we must aim big to get in a good position for the rest of the it. A very clean weekend and a double points finish will be what the team should be aiming for. Much easier said than done in this new and exciting 2017 Formula 1 Championship.
By Jeremiah Doctson