Fresh off a double-points finish in the Spanish Grand Prix May 12 at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team heads into the sixth round of the FIA Formula One World Championship May 26 at Circuit de Monaco intent on a repeat performance.
Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen delivered the organization’s first double-points result in the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix when Grosjean finished eighth and Magnussen 10th. Barcelona marked Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s eighth double-points effort since its 2016 debut and, more importantly, provided a much-needed reset after three finishes outside the points dropped the squad from fourth to eighth in the constructors’ ranks. But thanks to the seven collective points earned in Barcelona, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team bounced back to sixth in the standings, two points behind fifth-place Racing Point with a two-point margin over seventh-place Alfa Romeo.
A driver’s finish at Monaco is often predicated on their qualifying effort. When Grosjean finished eighth in 2017, he started eighth. And Magnussen’s 10th-place drive came from 11th on the grid. Qualifying has been Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s strong suit in 2019. Only once has its two drivers qualified outside the top-10 this season, and if there ever was a venue where another top-10 qualifying performance was needed, it’s Monaco.
The 3.337-kilometer (2.074-mile), 19-turn street circuit is the most iconic and challenging track in Formula One, featuring many elevation changes and the tightest corners on the 21-race calendar. Monaco is the series’ shortest circuit and is home to the sport’s slowest corner – the hairpin turn six – which drivers navigate at a pedestrian 50 kph (31 mph) while in maximum steering lock. The track has remained relatively unchanged since 1929 when Anthony Noghes, son of a wealthy cigarette baron, proposed a grand prix through the streets of Monte Carlo and along the French Riviera. That inaugural race on April 14 was won by William Grover-Williams in a Bugatti and it came on the same basic layout that challenges today’s Formula One drivers.
Ninety years later, the layout remains tight and unforgiving, putting a premium on passing. But when Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s season-long qualifying prowess is combined with its recent form from Barcelona, the only American team in Formula One makes for a good bet in Monaco.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
Barcelona delivered Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s first double-points finish of the season and its eighth since joining Formula One in 2016. Scoring points is always good, but how much of a shot in the arm was it for the team to have a strong weekend from beginning to end that yielded some tangible results?
“Obviously, having a result like this boosts the confidence of the whole team, because the previous three races were not very good at all. We didn’t score any points. A result like Barcelona, where we had a very good weekend – it’s a big boost – and it gives us confidence with the potential of the car going forward.”
You brought numerous upgrades to Barcelona, but it was Grosjean who began the weekend with the upgrades on his car while Magnussen ran with the previous specifications. Walk us through this process and how it hastened the team’s learnings regarding the Haas VF-19.
“We had the possibility to do the back-to-back with the two cars, between what we now call the old spec and the new spec. It’s always good to know what you’re doing and if it works, so if you can do a back-to-back it’s always the best way to do it. You can prove things. Data’s data obviously, and the wind tunnel’s the wind tunnel, but the car is the car. We utilized this to our advantage and tested both specs of car. We came out clearly that the upgrade kit is better, so that’s why we then put it on Kevin’s car for Saturday and Sunday.”
Getting the tires into the proper operating window and then keeping those tires in that operating window had been the team’s challenge prior to the Spanish Grand Prix, but that didn’t seem to be a problem in Barcelona. What made the difference?
“The biggest difference is the layout of the racetrack. The Barcelona track allows quite a lot of energy into the tires, and therefore we could heat them up, which didn’t happen in the other three races. We were pretty confident coming to Barcelona that it would work but, again, we needed to prove it, and we know now that at circuits like this it works. Hopefully going forward, by using the softer type of tires over the next few races, that will help as well, and we can get the heat into the tire. Monte Carlo and Canada will not be easy for us, but we will try our best to get the tires to work and get a good result.”
Can what you learned about the Haas VF-19 and its relation to its tires carry over to Monaco?
“I think the biggest difference for Monte Carlo will be the choice of the tire. We’re running the C4 and C5s from Pirelli – the softest types of tires we can use. With those tires, we hope we can get the temperature into them and have a good result. We have to try, and we’ll only find out on Thursday what is happening.”
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has proven strong in qualifying this year, placing both its cars into the final round of knockout qualifying in all but one race this year. Knowing how important qualifying is at Monaco, is that the team’s best asset to secure another points-paying performance?
“In Monaco, you always have to qualify well to get into the points. In qualifying, we’re normally very good. We’ve been in the top-10 with both cars in four races out of five. Hopefully, we can do the same in Monte Carlo. If we get in at the front of the field in qualifying, normally in the race you can keep the other people behind – even if the race pace isn’t as good. Qualifying is crucial, though.”