Australian Grand Prix: PreviewApril 6, 2022
Haas F1 Team is preparing for a return to Albert Park, Melbourne, for the Australian Grand Prix, Round 3 of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.
Formula 1 first travelled to Australia in 1985 when Adelaide hosted the season finale but 11 years later the event moved states to Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, with the leafy roads of Albert Park converted into a temporary racing facility. Track activity at the popular event, located a short tram ride from downtown Melbourne, has not taken place since March 2019. 2020’s event was cancelled as the pandemic worsened, while 2021’s running was axed because of travel constraints. Now, after a prolonged wait of over 1,100 days, Formula 1 cars are finally due to return to Albert Park.
It is a venue that evokes happy memories for Haas F1 Team. It is where the Formula 1 race journey began, at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, scoring sixth place on debut. It was also the location for Kevin Magnussen’s own Formula 1 debut, in 2014, when he went home with a trophy after classifying a superb second.
For 2022, though, Kevin Magnussen and Melbourne first-timer Mick Schumacher will be tackling a slightly tweaked Albert Park layout compared to Haas F1 Team’s previous outing in 2019.
For the first time in 26 years significant alterations have been made to the parkland circuit in order to promote better racing and facilitate more overtaking. This includes the widening of several turns, reprofiling of certain corners, with the biggest change being the removal of the old turn 9/10 chicane, creating what is set to be a power-heavy section along Lakeside Drive. Organizers estimate a reduction in lap times by around five seconds compared to 2019 despite just 28 meters being shaved off the optimal racing line.
Haas F1 Team heads to the Australian Grand Prix fifth in the Constructors’ Championship, on 12 points, after classifying in the points at the opening events in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Guenther Steiner – Team Principal
Two races down and points achieved in both. Is it still too early in the season to understand if this is representative of every team’s pace, and are points in every race a realistic target for Haas F1 Team now in the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship?
“I think it’s realistic that we can aim for points in every race, at least for the first half of the season and then we will see if teams make big upgrades or if they gain a lot of pace. I’m optimistic that we can keep this form, we just have to try to score points with both cars.”
Having observed Kevin and Mick working together for three weeks straight in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, how would you describe their relationship and what impact has this had internally within the team?
“I think the relationship between them is pretty good. For Mick, he can have a reference now with Kevin, and Kevin is trying to help Mick with his experience which he got from driving Formula 1 cars for six years in his career. Internally, the team works very well together on both sides of the garage – with engineers and mechanics – it’s a very good atmosphere at the moment.”
We’re heading back to Melbourne after an enforced absence from Australia due to Covid restrictions. When you look back on the cancellation of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix – and everything that’s happened since that moment – what stands out for you the most in terms of how Formula 1 has adapted and ultimately thrived since then?
“The outstanding thing is that we were lucky and FOM and all the teams did a good job in 2020 after the pandemic hit. We were back on the road after four or five months of thinking how to do this best, had a good calendar that year and we just kept on going. It could’ve had a big impact but obviously I think Formula 1 made an opportunity out of a challenge which was given to us. Formula 1 is in a good place at the moment with fans and exposure, so I think in bad times everybody did a good job to get to where we are now.”
This weekend marks the milestone of Haas F1 Team’s 125th race in Formula 1, coming at the same location as its very first start. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride but what are your enduring memories of not only that first remarkable race weekend – which included Romain Grosjean’s sixth-place finish – but of the team and its people across the past six seasons?
“First of all, yes, it was a rollercoaster and we’ve had a lot of downs on the rollercoaster ride over the six years but quite good ups as well. I’d say more than 50 percent of the people that were there at the first race are still with us, so that for me is an achievement. It’s been a very good ride, there’s been some challenges in the ride, but it’s been fantastic. The most memorable moment for sure was the sixth-place finish in our first race and second, the fifth-place finish in the championship in 2018 which we will try to replicate hopefully soon.”