• Austrian Grand Prix Preview: The Right Side of History

Austrian Grand Prix Preview: The Right Side of History

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (June 25, 2019) – The Styrian Mountains provide a fitting backdrop for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team as it embarks upon the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix. The young American team continues to look upward in the Formula One standings at a venue that has proved to be a happy hunting ground in the past.

Last season’s Austrian Grand Prix saw Rich Energy Haas F1 Team earn its best collective result to date, with Romain Grosjean finishing fourth and teammate Kevin Magnussen right behind him in fifth. It was the squad’s 50th grand prix and the superb finish came at the site of the last Formula One victory by an American team. It was 1976 when Irishman John Watson drove a Penske PC4 to the win over the Ligier of France’s Jacques Laffite with a convincing 10.79-second margin of victory.

While a win by anyone other than Mercedes, Scuderia Ferrari and Red Bull still seems distant – with Kimi Räikkönen’s Australian Grand Prix victory for Lotus in 2013 the last win by a team other than the big three – the points haul that comes with a best-of-the rest finish remains strong. Rich Energy Haas F1 Team scored 22 points in last year’s Austrian Grand Prix, bumping it up to fifth in the constructors’ standings.

Currently, the fourth-year team is ninth in the constructors’ ranks with 16 points, one behind eighth-place Toro Rosso yet still a manageable 16 points away from fifth-place Renault. It’s a deficit that another potential, double-points finish in Austria can erase.

The 4.318-kilometer (2.683-mile), 10-turn Red Bull Ring has suited Rich Energy Haas F1 Team well since the team’s debut in 2016. Grosjean has three straight top-10 finishes and has improved his result each year, as he came home seventh in 2016, sixth in 2017 and, of course, fourth in 2018. Magnussen has two top-10s in four career starts at the track. He finished seventh in his first Formula One race at the Red Bull Ring and fifth in last year’s race.

With only three point-paying finishes in the eight races run so far this season, Austria can provide welcome reprieve for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team. History, after all, is on its side.

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team

How helpful is it to have back-to-back grands prix where the same tire compounds are being used? More specifically, is there carryover in tire data between France and Austria since the tires are the same?

“There should be something, but with the struggles we have with the tires this year, I would not jump to the conclusion to say we can take the data we get from France and take it to Austria. The Austrian track is a different layout and the tarmac roughness is different.”

Does the Red Bull Ring’s quick yet compact layout lend itself to getting the tires into their proper operating window and, just as importantly, keeping them in that window?

“I don’t think anymore about the tires – if they work or not, I always wait for Fridays. Then I get a little bit closer to knowing what they’re doing, but we have no confidence in saying when and where they’ll work on our car.”

Rich Energy Haas F1 Team earned its best collective result in last year’s Austrian Grand Prix when Grosjean finished fourth and Magnussen finished fifth. It was more than a best-of-the-rest result as the team was just one position shy of the podium. How was that result achieved?

“When you’ve got a good car and you find the right setup, it’s pretty easy to do. There were a few retirements in the race from the big three teams in front of us and we finished as we did. Once you’ve done it, it seems to be easy. But to get there, it’s very difficult. I don’t know if we can achieve it this year, but for sure we’ll be trying.”

The collective decision was made by the Formula One industry to delay the presentation of the 2021 rules package until October. Why was this necessary, and how does it impact a smaller outfit like Rich Energy Haas F1 Team compared to the bigger teams?

“In general, it’s better. We keep the same governance to define the details of the regulations, as we have now. If it would be announced now, the international sporting code would be the governance and the teams would have no say in it. The FIA, Liberty and the teams agreed for it to be extended. We collaborated together to finalize the regulations. The big teams will always have an advantage over the smaller ones when something new comes. I don’t think there will be a big difference by delaying it to October. We just need to do our best, as we always try to do. We will aim to get to a point in 2021 where we have a good car with those regulations.”

The 1976 Austrian Grand Prix at the previously named Österreichring is the site of the last Formula One victory by an American team. Despite the current draft of the 2021 regulations being somewhat green, do they provide hope that teams like Rich Energy Haas F1 Team can contend for wins by establishing a more level playing field?

“I think in 2021 we’ll be another step closer, but we will not be there yet. The budget cap is still high for us, but it’s low for the big teams. We need to be fair. The big teams cannot go down to a very small budget within a very short period of time. That wouldn’t be correct for their employees. So, it will take some time for the playing field to really be level. Hopefully, it will bring the field together a little bit more.”