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.

Sayonara Japan, Hello USA!

Suzuka Circuit, Japan.
Sunday 09 October 2016.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _SBB9737

After 2 completely miserable race weekends in south east Asia, Haas F1 Team arrived in Japan full of optimism.

In addition to being a favorite for both Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez, Suzuka Circuit had provided both drivers with some of their best career finishes in the past.

While not experiencing an entirely trouble-free Friday, the team avoiding the extreme drama of Singapore and Malaysia and looked to be finally able to take advantage of recent engine updates and a new front wing and appeared to be well position to make a run at Q3 on Saturday.

Friday was not a fluke.

For the first time in the team’s short history, both drivers were able to pilot their VF-16’s into the top 10 and participate in the run for the pole in Q3.

Here’s how qualifying went down:

Q1
Grosjean: 7th quick (1:32.458), advanced to Q2
Gutiérrez: 11th quick (1:32.620), advanced to Q2
Cutoff: 16th-quick Fernando Alonso of McLaren (1:32.819)

Q2
Gutiérrez: 7th quick (1:32.155), advanced to Q3
Grosjean: 8th quick (1:32.176), advanced to Q3
Cutoff: 10th-quick Sergio Perez of Force India (1:32.237)

Q3
Grosjean: 8th quick (1:31.961)
Gutiérrez: 10th quick (1:32.547)
Pole Winner: Nico Rosberg of Mercedes (1:30.647)

Grosjean would roll off on Sunday from the seventh spot after Kimi Raikkonen was penalized five grid spots for a gearbox change. It was easily the best combined starting spots for the Haas F1 drivers.

Both drivers got away cleanly as the lights went out but Grosjean was pushed wide in turn 1 by the Sahara Force India of Nico Hulkenberg and lost a couple of spots down to ninth, one spot ahead of his teammate.

The team opted for a 2 stop strategy as did much of the field but were just off on the timing for hitting the pits and after the first round of stops were complete, Grosjean had dropped to 14th and Gutiérrez had plummeted to 20th with 38 laps left to reclaim some positions.

When the second round of stops had cycled through, Grosjean had regained three spots to P11 but Gutiérrez could not make up any ground and was mired down in P20. Grosjean would make a run at Valtteri Bottas for the last points paying spot in the final laps but come up short as the teammates had to settle for finishing a disappointing P11 and P20.

Nico Rosberg beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 4.978 seconds after Max was able to hold off Lewis Hamilton in a spirited last lap battle. Hamilton would finish third. The victory allowed Rosberg to extend his lead in the championship standings to 33 points over Hamilton with but 4 races remaining in the 2016 campaign.

Seventeen rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points. The American squad maintained its 19-point gap to seventh-place Toro Rosso and the 20-point advantage it holds over ninth-place Renault. Mercedes clinched the constructor championship via Rosberg’s victory and Hamilton’s podium.

Four races remain on the 2016 Formula One schedule, with the series heading to Haas F1 Team’s home race in two weeks. The United States Grand Prix takes place Oct. 23 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Romain Grosjean – Driver #8
“Well, we struggled on the first stint with a green track, and with the soft tires, we had a lot of graining. But then the car was flying. It was really good. I had some good overtakes. I don’t think I’ve ever been as frustrated as today at the end of a race. I thought we deserved much more. With the pace of the car, I was much faster than the Williams’. We just got the life on the hard tires wrong. We could have pitted earlier for the last stint, but overall the pace was amazing. It shows a lot of promise for the future. I’m optimistic about these updates and the pace we had in the car.”

Esteban Gutiérrez – Driver #21
“Everything started pretty good. We’ve been working a lot on getting the best out of our start and today that proved to be better. On the first stint, things were going well. We were managing the gap, pushing to get higher up to the front of the grid. I then came into the pits and I ended back out behind a lot of traffic, and that was it. I was trying to push forward, trying to overtake, and then I had an incident with Carlos (Sainz Jr.). He braked a bit early, closing the door, and I had nowhere to go as I was preparing the corner to overtake him on the straight. After that, I had some damage on the front wing which wasn’t ideal. Unfortunately, this is how the race went. It was not what we wanted, but now we need to keep pushing and keep a good rhythm and really put in a good performance as we head to our home race in Texas.”

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal
“Not really the race we wanted today finishing 11th again with one car and 20th with the other having started seventh and 10th. I think a few things happened today – everyone else had a good race and everybody finished, so nobody dropped out. We tried to take the fight to the Williams, but we didn’t manage it in the end. They were able to make a better strategy by starting on tires they wanted, but that’s racing. This weekend we’ve seen that our car shows speed and we were also competitive in the race. So we’re able to take that away from here.”

We’ll see y’all in Texas in 2 weeks!

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Media

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

It’s a New Day

Haas F1 Team are looking forward to moving on from a disastrous pair of races in southeast Asia on the streets of Singapore and at Sepang circuit outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia as the F1 calendar arrives in the Land of The Rising Sun, Japan.

The Japanese Grand Prix Sunday at Suzuka Circuit this weekend marks the last of a three-race stretch through the Far East. Despite recent disappointments, (3 DNF’s out of 4 finishes) the Suzuka Circuit offers a reprieve for Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez.

Grosjean led 26 laps in the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix before finishing third behind the dominant Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. And in last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, Grosjean finished in the points with a solid seventh-place effort.

Gutiérrez scored the first points of his Formula One career when he finished seventh at Suzuka during his rookie season in 2013. The affable driver has been knocking on the door of another point-paying result all year long, with five 11th-place finishes in the last 12 races.

Grosjean and Gutiérrez look forward to Suzuka, and not just because it’s their next opportunity to displace the late-season misfortune that has befallen them. Suzuka is a driver’s track, where racecars can be pushed to the absolute limit even without being stuck to the track via maximum downforce.

Five races still remain in 2016, giving Haas F1 Team five more opportunities to solidify its position among its far more established counterparts.

This will be the sixth Japanese Grand Prix for Grosjean. He has started P4 twice and has a P3 podium finish in 2013.

Romain Grosjean – Driver #8 VF-16
You’ve been quoted as saying that Suzuka is your most favorite track in the world. Why?
“It’s always difficult to say exactly why. I think it’s the flow, the corners, the high-speed nature of the track. There’s a risk as well with all the gravel and the narrow parts of the circuit. Overall though, it’s not one thing, and sometimes you don’t know why you like something, you just do.”

You led 26 laps in the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka before finishing third. That is the most laps you’ve led at any Formula One venue. Talk about that race and how you were able to run out front for so long.
“I was fourth on the grid and made a really good start. I led from the first corner. Then Red Bull played its strategy. They put one car on a two-stop (strategy) and the other on a three-stop strategy. We led 26 laps, but we lost position to them. It was great, though. I remember telling myself to not go out as all the world’s TVs were on me. It was a great feeling to be leading. I loved it. I remember going to the train station after the race and it was packed with all the fans. It was hectic, but memorable.”

There seems to be a delicate balance at Suzuka in regard to downforce. Too much and you go slowly down the straights. Too little and you won’t have the confidence to attack the track’s twists and turns. Obviously, the level of downforce is predicated on how comfortable you are at speed. How do you achieve this balance?
“It’s one of those tracks where you need quite a lot of downforce and a really good car in the high-speed corners. There are some important low-speed ones as well. It’s about getting the right confidence in being able to push to the limit in those tricky sector-one turns. It’s not an easy track to set up the car, but definitely a really good one to be on.”

Gutiérrez has competed in the Japanese Grand Prix twice before with a P7 points scoring finish in 2013.

Esteban Gutiérrez – Driver #21 VF-16
Suzuka is home to your last point-scoring finish – a seventh-place result in the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix. You’ve been knocking on the door of a point-paying finish all season, with five 11th-place finishes to prove it. How hungry are you to finally score some points and what will it take to go from just knocking on the door of a top-10 finish to kicking that door down?
“I’m extremely hungry to get a top-10 finish. Everyone on the team is pushing very hard for it. The crew is very motivated. Everyone keeps the same approach even though it can be sometimes a little bit frustrating, but instead of the frustration, it’s even more motivation for us to do a better job and get into the top-10. We have been extracting the most from the car and we expect to keep doing it.”

Understeer through the esses between turns three and seven is often at the top of the to-do list at Suzuka. How do you address understeer and at what point does a change to help the car in one section of the track hurt it in another section?
“It’s all about where you spend most of your time, and most of your time is spent in sector one in the corners. There is a lot of cornering at Suzuka, so you focus on having a good car there and the rest you try to cope with it. You want an optimal setup for the first sector.”

Would you call Suzuka a driver’s track?
“Yes, I would. It’s a very nice track. It’s a track every driver enjoys but, obviously, it depends upon having a good car. It’s a track that I enjoy a lot.”

Can the driver make more of a difference at Suzuka than at some other tracks?
“The driver can make a difference because Suzuka requires a lot of precision. You have a lot of sequences of corners, so the more precise you can be and the more aggressive you can be, the quicker you’ll be into the corners. You want to be very precise without losing the rhythm.”

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal
Even though it is Haas F1 Team’s first season and it’s been very productive, is it disappointing to have the kinds of issues you experienced in Singapore and Malaysia come about so late in the year?
“It’s not like we’ve been having these problems. We’re just having them now. We just need to deal with them and continue finding solutions. This is a time for us to show how strong we are. We’ve faced adversity before. We always dig our way out of it. We get things done because we just keep working. And the only way to get out of the situations we’ve been in is to keep working. You can say that you are unlucky, but you make your own luck. When these things happen you analyze what took place, prevent that it happens again and never give up.”

High-speed stability in regard to mechanical stiffness and aerodynamic balance seem to be the key to success at Suzuka. What do you do to achieve that?
“You can’t do a lot more than what your car has already, and we are pretty confident that what we’ve got is working well. We just need to find a balance for the weekend. Japan is high speed and there are some challenging corners, but it’s a nice place to be and I hope we can find a good setup and show what we can do.”

Power is another important and obvious aspect to a successful race weekend at Suzuka. You received the most recent upgrade from Ferrari at Monza. How has it performed and how crucial is it to have at a track where we’ll see some of the highest speeds of the season?
“Power is always important, but much more important at races like Spa, Monza and Suzuka. The latest update from Ferrari was very good. It helped us a lot at Spa and Monza. We got into Q3 in Monza thanks to the power upgrade from Ferrari. I think it will help us in Suzuka as long as we find a good balance for the car.”

There seems to be a delicate balance at Suzuka in regard to downforce. Too much and you go slowly down the straights. Too little and the driver won’t have the confidence to attack the track’s twists and turns. Obviously, the level of downforce is predicated on how comfortable the driver is at speed. How do you find this balance between the needs of the car and the needs of the driver?
“It’s one of those things that go hand-in-hand. Once you find the quickest way around the track by balancing top-end speed versus downforce, the driver is quite happy because he wants to be quickest around the track. For them, the happiest is when they get a good lap time.”

Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to Suzuka:

  • P Zero Orange hard – less grip, less wear (used for long-race stints)
  • P Zero White medium – more grip, medium wear (used for shorter-race stints and for initial portion of qualifying)
  • P Zero Yellow soft – 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 Orange hards and one set of P Zero White mediums) and one mandatory specification for Q3 (one set of P Zero Yellow softs).

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

  • Grosjean: three sets of P Zero Orange hards, three sets of P White mediums and seven sets of P Zero Yellow softs
  • Gutiérrez: two sets of P Zero Orange hards, four sets of P Zero White mediums and seven sets of P Zero Yellow softs

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Media via Twitter

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

Haas F1 Team Thrilled to Leave SE Asia

Sepang International Circuit, Sepang, Malaysia.
Saturday 01 October 2016.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _SBB5519

After back to back races that were certainly the worst in the short history of Haas F1, the team has to be glad to see southeast Asia in their proverbial VF-16 rearview mirrors.

Romain Grosjean experienced mechanical problems in FP1 in Singapore and never turned a timed lap, then spun and crashed in FP2 damaging the rear wing and suspension, necessitating a gearbox change which would cost him 5 spots on the starting grid. His woes continued in Q2 as he spun near the end and backed his VF-16 into the wall, bringing out a virtual safety car that slowed teammate Esteban Gutiérrez on a fast lap, possibly preventing him from advancing to Q3.

Both drivers finished with disappointing qualifying runs; Gutiérrez in P14 and Grosjean one spot behind in P15.

Race day was not much better especially for the Frenchman as brake-by-wire issue prevented him from even making it to the starting grid.

Gutiérrez drove a steady methodical race, making up 3 spots to claim his fifth eleventh place finish of the season.

Haas F1 Team managed to remain eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points. Seventh-place Toro Rosso increased its margin over the American squad to 19 points as Daniil Kvyat finished ninth, while ninth-place Renault cut the gap on Haas F1 Team to 21 points as Kevin Magnussen finished 10th.

Hopes were higher last weekend in Malaysia at Sepang circuit as Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez were set to test a new front wing that was fitted to each of their Haas VF-16s.

Grosjean was P13 in FP1, Gutiérrez P14, but in the heat of FP2 Grosjean could only manage P20 while Gutiérrez once again ran P14.

For the 11th straight time in qualifying, both Haas F1 Team drivers advanced to Q2. The two drivers utilized the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tire throughout qualifying on Saturday. Grosjean wound up 12th fastest with a lap of 1:35.001 and Gutiérrez followed in 13th with a lap of 1:35.097.

However the race would prove even more frustrating than Singapore for Haas F1 Team, as drivers Esteban Gutiérrez and Romain Grosjean suffered double DNFs (Did Not Finish).

Gutiérrez started 13th in the 22-car field but sustained a punctured right-rear tire in the aftermath of the opening-lap skirmish between the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and championship leader Nico Rosberg. After limping his way back to the pits he rejoined in P20.

Running 10th with the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr. less than a second behind, Grosjean set his sights on holding the position and earning another point-paying finish for Haas F1 Team. On lap nine, those aspirations quickly went away.

As Grosjean applied the brakes to slow his Haas VF-16 after shooting down the long straight into the hairpin turn 15, his pedal went to the floor. The car twitched side-to-side and the wheels eventually locked, sending Grosjean off track and deep into the gravel trap. He emerged from his car unhurt but deeply unsatisfied.

Things went from bad to worse on lap 41 when Gutiérrez lost his left-front wheel on the short straight leading into turn nine. Gutiérrez deftly steered his three-wheeled Haas VF-16 to a safe area well off the racing surface. After climbing from his car, he joined his teammate back in the paddock.

Gutiérrez posted a 19th place finish, Grosjean ended up in P20.

Sixteen rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points. The American squad maintained the 19-point gap to seventh-place Toro Rosso while ninth-place Renault cut Haas F1 Team’s margin to 20 points as Jolyon Palmer finished 10th.

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal

“After we saw light at the end of the tunnel yesterday after qualifying, where I think we did a pretty good job, it got dark again today. We don’t really know yet what happened with both of the cars. One had a brake failure and the other, obviously, lost a wheel. We’ll have to see what exactly failed with the brakes on Romain’s car. We lost a wheel on Esteban’s car, but we’re not sure yet why. The pit stop seemed to be ok and he got going. We need to see if a mechanical part failed or if it wasn’t tight, but we don’t know yet. Obviously, we’re moving on to Japan. We’ll try to put ourselves in a better position again there.”

Next up, the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit this weekend.

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Media

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

Anybody got a calculator? Who can still win the IndyCar title?

The Verizon IndyCar season finale takes place this Sunday at the GoPro GP of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway in the wine country of northern California.

Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud has nearly an insurmountable lead over his teammate Will Power who is 43 points behind the Frenchman that has had the lead in the Championship battle for nearly the entire season.

It is not a total lost cause though as was the case last season, the final race pays double points. Last year that fact allowed Scott Dixon to catch Juan Pablo Montoya in points and snatch the title away from him as JPM tried desperately to pick up one more spot on the track to hang on to the points lead. Much like Pagenaud this year, JPM lead all of last season right up until the final checkered flag flew.

The scenarios are this:

If Pagenaud finishes ahead of power, it’s over. There’s nothing Power can do even if he grabs all of the available bonus points. Bonus points work like this:

  • 1 point for winning the pole
  • 1 point for leading a lap
  • 2 points for leading the most laps
  • 4 total bonus points available, max

Now if Power wins the race and collects the double points for the win, that would give him 50×2 or 100. If he grabbed all 4 available bonus points, that 104 points would put him up on Pagenaud by 61 points, forcing Simon to finish P4 or higher to hold on to his title. P4 in a double points race is worth 64 points so Pagenaud would win by 3 points.

P5 in a double points race is worth 60 points, so if Power wins, gets his 4 bonus points, but Pagenaud also picks up a bonus point by leading a lap and finishes P5, they finish tied on 616 points and Will Power would be the Champion by virtue of his 5 race wins to Pagenaud’s 4.

Bonus points could be big, but if Pagenaud finishes P4 or higher, he’s the new Champ even if Power gets them all and Simon gets none.

Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves are both 104 points behind Pagenaud tied for 3rd, but even if either of them were to win, collect all 4 bonus points, and Pagenaud DOES NOT DRIVE IN THE RACE, they would still only be tied in points and would not win the title because Pagenaud has won more races.

Got it?

Good. There will be a test later…

Image courtesy of indycar.com

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

Dixon Dominates at WGI

The Verizon IndyCar series returned to the iconic Watkins Glen International Raceway for the first time in 6 years this past Sunday.

With the IndyCar GP at the Glen being the penultimate round of the IndyCar championship battle, there was much at stake.

Simon Pagenaud’s season long points lead was down to 28 over Penske Racing teammate Will Power despite Power missing the first race of the season with what was determined to be an inner ear problem. Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Ryan Hunter-Reay were still looking for their first win of the season. Josef Newgarden, the series’ biggest free agent was still looking to show he deserved a top ride next year.

The lightning fast repaved Watkins Glen was the perfect setting for a championship showdown.

And then Scott Dixon rolled his #9 Target Chip Ganassi Chevy powered Dallara off the truck and on to the track. It quickly became obvious the race would be for second place.

Dixon was fastest in every practice session, cruised (albeit with a little excitement) into the Firestone Fast 6 then blistered the track with the fastest lap ever at WGI and the second fastest road course lap in the history of IndyCar on his way to the pole.

Will Power was just a tick slower for a P2 starting spot, just missing out on a valuable championship point but still 5 spots in front of championship leader Pagenaud.

At the drop of the green flag, Dixon was gone. Power slid into P2 and Pagenuad, with an exceptionally bold move into turn one, snatched away P3. Dixon would go on to lead 50 of the 60 lap race, but the end was not without some drama.

Power’s championship hopes took a hit (as did Power himself) when he and Charlie Kimball got together coming out of the esses, pushing Power hard into the outside armco barrier and destroying his race car. Power was initially not cleared to drive fearing a concussion but has since been cleared to resume driving by Dr. Geoffrey Billows, IndyCar medical director, after the Team Penske driver successfully passed concussion testing protocol today.

Power’s crash set up a round of pit stops that allowed everyone to pack their fuel tanks full and get 4 new tires.

The green flag came out with 18 laps remaining, the exact number that had been determined to be the maximum anyone could stretch a fuel run.

Well, mere mortals anyway. A group that does not include Scott Dixon.

Dixon has almost a miraculous ability to save fuel while turning faster laps than anyone else. And when the green came out, he resumed his position at the front of the field and as his competitors dialed back their boost and coasted and clutched and STILL needed fuel, Dixon, out for a Sunday drive through upstate New York, won easily.

Josef Newgarden nursed his car home to the second step on the podium, and Helio Castroneves took P3 by driving as hard as he could and stopping for but 2 seconds of fuel.

It was heartbreak for the second week in a row for James Hinchcliffe as his Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda coasted to a stop on the backstretch, out of fuel. Hinch lost in Texas last week to Graham Rahal by 0.008 seconds on a last lap, last corner pass.

Pagenuad didn’t take as much advantage of Power’s crash as he could have but still managed a seventh place finish, building his points lead to 43 heading into the double points, season finale in two weeks at Sonoma Raceway in northern California’s Napa Valley.

Click here to see the full run down.

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

So Close…Again. Haas F1 Italian GP Review

Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 04 September 2016.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _31I9585

Haas F1 Team just missed a point-scoring result in the Italian Grand Prix Sunday at Autodromo Nazionale Monza with drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez finishing 11th and 13th, respectively.

Grosjean overcame a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change that turned his 12th-place qualifying effort into a 17th-place starting spot. Despite the setback, Grosjean made the most of his start, rallying to 13th after the first lap. He then passed the Manor of Pascal Wehrlein on lap two to take 12th. From there, Grosjean settled in for a long haul, at least by Formula One standards. He was the last driver to pit, going 28 laps before swapping the Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires he used to start the race for a set of Red supersofts, a questionable tire choice considering the amount of racing that remained. Grosjean somehow managed those tires for the next 25 laps, with his one-stop strategy allowing him to finish 11th even while holding off the surging McLaren of Jenson Button in the closing laps.

Optimism was high that Gutiérrez would score his first points of the season as he began the race in 10th place thanks to a strong qualifying performance on Saturday. It was rendered moot, however, when wheel spin produced a terrible start and Esteban saw the field scream around him before the first chicane, dropping him all the way to 20th. Gutiérrez recovered a bit to climb to 18th by lap seven. By lap 24, he had climbed to 15th. He made his second and final stop at the end of lap 34, grabbing a used set of Red supersofts that helped him finish 13th.

Fourteen rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points. There was no movement on either side of the American squad, as seventh-place Toro Rosso and ninth-place Renault failed to score points in the Italian Grand Prix. Toro Rosso’s margin over Haas F1 Team is 17 points and Renault is 22 points back.

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the Italian Grand Prix by a stout 15.070 seconds over his teammate Lewis Hamilton, further tightening the championship battle.

Seven races remain on the 2016 Formula One schedule, with the next event coming in two weeks with the Singapore Grand Prix Sept. 18 at Marina Bay Street Circuit.

Romain Grosjean – Driver #8
“To be fair, I think we were just lacking a little bit of speed in the race to make the points. We tried a very aggressive one-stop strategy. I had a bit of graining on the softs in the first stint through those last few laps. That cost us a few seconds, but I don’t think I could have gotten the 12 seconds needed to get to P10 in the end. That was about the maximum today. We just need to learn what we can do better for the next race. I’m now looking ahead to Singapore. It’s one of the best races of the season.”

Esteban Gutiérrez – Driver #21
“It was a very disappointing start to the race losing a lot of positions. It was very tough to recover, but I did my best. I struggled in the first stint with the overall pace, starting with the scrubbed tires from qualifying and fighting with people which were on new tires. It wasn’t very easy, but we kept ourselves together and pushed really hard to recover everything we could, but what we lost in the beginning was too much to get back to where we started. Now we’ll look ahead to Singapore and we’ll be focusing on that to come back stronger.

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal
“Here we go again with an 11th- and a 13th-place finish. I think once we got going, it was a pretty good race. If you take off the first 20 seconds of it, we could have been in a different position with Esteban. He missed the start, and that put him back, but he recovered to finish 13th. Romain came from 17th to 11th with a good strategy and good driving and, overall, it was a good effort. Unfortunately, none of the big boys dropped out, so we ended up 11th again. We showed that we have some speed at this kind of track. Hopefully, we can bring that forward to some of the upcoming tracks we visit. Being ahead and fighting with McLaren is something we can be proud of. McLaren is a team that’s been around a long time, and we’re the newcomers. Fighting with them and racing with drivers of the caliber of Button and Alonso makes us proud. But, we still haven’t got any points from today.”

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Media

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442

Haas F1 Italian GP Preview & Qualifying Recap

Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Italy.
Saturday 03 September 2016.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _X4I6413

 

When Haas F1 Team debuted in the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship to become the first American Formula One team in 30 years, it did so with help from two Italian partners – Scuderia Ferrari and Dallara. It’s a collaboration that continues as Formula One comes into the final leg of its European stretch with the Italian Grand Prix Sunday at Autodromo Nazionale Monza.

Maranello-based Ferrari provides Haas F1 Team with its power unit, gearbox and overall technical support, and famed racecar builder Dallara has Haas F1 Team’s design staff embedded in its Parma headquarters.

Proof of the program’s success can be found in Haas F1 Team’s eighth-place standing in the constructor ranks, where after 13 races it is 22 points ahead of ninth-place Renault and only 17 points behind seventh-place Toro Rosso. The 28 points Haas F1 Team has earned so far this season are the most of any new team in this millennium. When Jaguar debuted in 2000 and when Toyota came on the scene in 2002, each entity managed only two point-paying finishes in their entire first seasons for a combined total of six points.

With Ferrari providing the horsepower and an upgrade package for Haas F1 Team, the outfit feels well-prepared for Formula One’s fastest track. The circuit’s long straights combined with teams’ low-drag configurations and new rear wing mean that speeds approach 360 kph (224 mph). Cornering speeds are relatively low and with the high-speed straights, tire wear is minimal.

After 2 optimistic practice sessions that saw Grosjean 6th quick and Gutiérrez 9th quick in FP1 and Grosjean 9th quick and Gutiérrez 14th quick in FP2 hopes were running high for both cars to make it into Q3 on Saturday.

A spin in FP3 for Grosjean forced a gearbox change for the #8 VF-16 which will result in a 5 grid-spot penalty for the Frenchman.

Qualifying Report:

Both Haas F1 drivers easily made it into Q2 as the new rear wing and engine updates appeared to be paying immediate dividends. Grosjean could only muster the 12th fastest lap in Q2 and was eliminated but Esteban Gutiérrez became the first Haas driver to make it to Q3 by turning the 7th quickest lap, splitting the 2 Red Bulls.

Gutiérrez acquitted himself well in Q3, even with the rear of his Haas VF-16 stepping out on him as he rounded the second Lesmo (turn four) during his qualifying lap. Gutiérrez ended the final round of knockout qualifying in 10th with a fast lap of 1:23.184 and Grosjean, after his 5 grid-spot penalty will start P17.

Lewis Hamilton claimed the pole with a blistering lap of 1:21.135, an average speed around 159MPH!

Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to Monza:

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: one set of P Zero White mediums, three sets of P Zero Yellow softs and nine sets of P Zero Red supersofts

Gutiérrez: two sets of P Zero White mediums, two sets of P Zero Yellow softs and nine sets of P Zero Red supersofts

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Media

EB 3-Sept

Haas F1 Belgian GP Review

Spa-Francorchamps, Spa, Belgium.
Sunday 28 August 2016.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Photographic
ref: Digital Image _X4I2504

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

…To be continued

11 weeks ago on June 11 the Verizon IndyCar series had just wrapped up a double-header in Detroit and was looking to the high banks and high speeds of Texas Motor Speedway and the Firestone 600.

Mother Nature had other ideas.

First rain delayed the scheduled Saturday night race to a Sunday afternoon start.

71 laps into the 248 lap race, it became a washout.

With the field behind the pace car after a huge crash involving Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden, the skies opened and the race was postponed until this Saturday night.

It marked the first time since Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2011 that an IndyCar race started on one day and would be completed on another. That one wasn’t quite 3 months!

James Hinchcliffe was leading the race when the red flag came out.

The cars will restart the race in Saturday nbight in the same order in which they were scored at the completion of Lap 71. The big deal in all of this is that Josef Newgarden, currently 3rd in the IndyCar Series points battle, and fastest car on the circuit when he crashed, will not be involved since he was taken out of the race prior to the red flag in the horrifying crash with Daly.

Feelings on the topic were mixed. Many drivers wanted to just restart the race from the green flag and run the full 248 laps. This would have allowed both Newgarden and Daly to compete. But with Newgarden being so strong in June and last week at Pocono and dominating the short oval at Iowa, the other key players in the title chase, Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Helio Castroneves, as well as Scott Dixon from Target Chip Ganassi Racing may end up thankful that IndyCar officials decided to pickup where they left off.

Not to mention The Mayor of Hinchtown, who will start as the leader.

Regardless we know that the remaining 177 will be action packed. TMS is a great track for IndyCar always producing wheel to wheel racing at 215+MPH.

The schedule will be incredibly condensed on Saturday with the cars hitting the track for their only warmup from 5:30 to 6:00PM CDT (10:30 – 11:00PM GMT) and the race resuming at 9:15PM CDT (2:15AM GMT)

The race most likely will have a major impact on the points battle. Simon Pagenuad’s crash combined with Will Power’s win at Pocono last week tightened the battle between P1 and and P2 to but 20 points.

Power will restart in P4 while Pagenaud is down in P15. Here is how the field will line up for the restart:

  1. James Hinchcliffe
  2. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  3. Mikhail Aleshin
  4. Will Power
  5. Ed Carpenter
  6. Gabby Chaves
  7. Helio Castroneves
  8. Charlie Kimball
  9. Carlos Munoz
  10. Juan Pablo Montoya
  11. Sebastien Bourdais
  12. Graham Rahal
  13. Alexander Rossi
  14. Scott Dixon
  15. Simon Pagenaud
  16. Tony Kanaan
  17. Takuma Sato
  18. Marco Andretti
  19. Max Chilton
  20. Jack Hawksworth
  21. Conor Daly
  22. Josef Newgarden

On thing for sure…it’s gonna be fun!

Eric Barnes @ebarnes442