Abu Dhabi Grand Prix: PreviewNovember 25, 2019
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Nov. 25, 2019) – The checkered flag has yet to drop on the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, but after 20 races spread across the globe, the finish line is clearly in sight as the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is set for Dec. 1 at Yas Marina Circuit.
With only five point-paying results in the 20 races run so far, Haas F1 Team occupies ninth in the constructors’ standings, 29 points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo and 27 points ahead of last-place Williams. The performance ended a burgeoning trajectory for the only American team competing in Formula One. After back-to-back eighth-place finishes in the 2016-2017 constructors’ standings where Haas F1 Team scored 29 points and 47 points, respectively, the organization battled at the top of the midfield in 2018, finishing an impressive fifth in the standings and nearly doubling its points haul from the year before with a final tally of 93 points.
The success of 2018 has made 2019 a bitter pill to swallow, but the silver lining of enduring a season of adversity is that it has made Haas F1 Team a battle-tested and resilient group – one that is ready to bounce back in 2020.
The fourth-year outfit turned its attention to 2020 in late August following the FIA-mandated summer shutdown. While it still worked to get the most out of its current car, the learnings of what didn’t work in 2019 have helped shape the direction of next year’s car. That said, opportunities to perform and learn even more exist before the final checkered flag in Abu Dhabi. This was absolutely the case in the penultimate Brazilian Grand Prix a fortnight ago where Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen advanced to the third and final round of qualifying for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
The opportunity for more bright spots like the one earned in Brazil exist in Abu Dhabi. Grosjean owns three point-paying finishes at Yas Marina Circuit – fourth in 2013, ninth in 2015 and another ninth last year. And Magnussen earned his best Abu Dhabi Grand Prix result last year when he finished 10th behind his teammate as Haas F1 Team scored its fifth double-points result of 2018.
The race begins at twilight and ends under the lights, providing an appropriate environment for a 2019 season in its own twilight.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
Abu Dhabi is the season finale, and it’s also the finale of Haas F1 Team’s fourth year. It’s been a tumultuous one, but as the adage goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. With the adversity the team has faced this season, do you actually feel stronger going into 2020 because of how this year’s experiences have forced the team to adapt and troubleshoot?
“It was obviously a tough year for us in our fourth season. You learn and, overall, we’re pretty strong anyway. We had to learn some lessons to get better. Next year will be a new book and, hopefully, we go back to the kind of performances we had in 2018.”
If there is one thing you could do over this year, what would it be?
“One thing I would do is to just do something different after we introduced the upgrade in Barcelona. I would listen a little bit more to the drivers and be a little bit more self-critical.”
Did this year produce a silver lining in relation to next year in that when it comes to car development, you know which direction not to go in 2020, and that you also have personnel who are a little more battle-tested?
“Yes, I would say there is a silver lining. We started to react during the summer break to work on the 2020 car – to try to avoid the mistakes we’ve made this year. We don’t want to repeat them. We’re just moving forward, analyzing and working hard on the 2020 car.”
You have a record 22 races next year. How impactful will the shortened winter testing schedule be on team personnel?
“For sure it will be tough next year having 22 races for the first time. I’m sure we’ll learn some lessons there – how to deal with things better. On the other side, the shorter winter testing and then no in-season testing – that will help a little bit with having more races. It’s a bit less travel and less work for testing. The team will be challenged a lot. Team personnel will be at a limit.”
Do you expect the 2020 season to be a bit of an arms race in Formula One, where in the year before the cost cap is implemented, teams will go on spending sprees to bulk up their respective infrastructures before the $175 million budget restriction is in place for 2021?
“As always, the big teams will always have an advantage. They just have more resources and more people to develop the 2021 car to the new regulations, while at the same time developing a 2020 car. The budget cap comes in place in 2021. In the first years I don’t see a big difference in how the pecking order between the teams stacks up. There will still be the big three and then the rest. We know that. Hopefully, the gap closes a little bit to the big ones over time. For sure, we will try to do our best with whatever we have got to develop a good 2021 car.”