Canadian Grand Prix Preview: Power PlayJune 3, 2019
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (June 01, 2019) – Back-to-back point-paying finishes have Rich Energy Haas F1 Team pointed in the right direction as the FIA Formula One World Championship heads to North America for the Canadian Grand Prix June 9 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.
With eight points from the last two races – six from driver Kevin Magnussen’s seventh-place finish in the May 10 Spanish Grand Prix and a point apiece from Romain Grosjean’s 10th-place drives in Spain and the May 26 Monaco Grand Prix – Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is tied for sixth in the constructors’ standings with Toro Rosso, one-point behind fifth-place Racing Point and two points ahead of eighth-place Renault. It’s emblematic of an incredibly tight midfield, where only four points separate fifth from ninth in the constructors’ ranks, with fourth-place McLaren an attainable 14 points ahead of the Haas outfit.
Grosjean and Magnussen are eying another points haul in Montreal, where their Haas VF-19s will be outfitted with Ferrari’s latest spec 1.6-liter V-6 while rolling on the softest tires in Pirelli’s lineup. This combination should bode well for the American team, as the 4.361-kilometer (2.710-mile), 14-turn semi-street circuit on Isle Notre Dame is a power-sensitive venue with a series of fast straights that lead into heavy-braking corners, making Circuit Gilles Villeneuve one of the toughest tracks on brakes.
In seven career Formula One starts at the circuit, Grosjean has three top-10 finishes, including a career-best second-place effort earned in 2012, which was his first Canadian Grand Prix. Magnussen also owns a top-10 in Montreal. He finished ninth as a rookie in 2014.
Familiarity with the track coincides with familiarity with the tires, as the same compounds Pirelli brought to the most recent grand prix in Monaco – the C3, C4 and C5 – will be utilized in Montreal. Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has found these softer compounds more amenable to obtaining the tire’s optimal working range and then staying there, allowing Grosjean and Magnussen a better opportunity to put that enhanced Ferrari power to the pavement and score another round of points.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
You trialed the latest Ferrari engine in Monaco. How did it perform and what are your expectations for it as you prepare for a more power-sensitive track in Circuit Gilles Villeneuve?
“The performance of the new engine was very good. There were no complaints. Monaco, as we know, is not a track where the power makes a big difference. It’s always good to have it, but it doesn’t make a big difference. In Canada, we’ll really see how much better the engine is. We are hoping it’s a good boost and doing what it should be doing.”
The tire compounds you ran in Monaco will be the same for Montreal. Considering these three compounds are the softest available from Pirelli, will they allow you to extract the kind of performance you want out of them, as the team has historically been able to make the C3, C4 and C5 compounds work?
“We’re a little bit more hopeful than maybe where we were about four weeks ago. The soft family (of tires) in Monaco worked pretty well on our cars, so hopefully we can get them to work – get them up to temperature – in Canada, as well. We’ll only know this after Friday practice. It’s too early to tell.”
You’re coming off back-to-back points-paying finishes with your runs at Barcelona and Monaco. After struggling in Bahrain, China and Baku, do you feel you have a handle on what you need to marry the characteristics of the Haas VF-19 with the Pirelli tires to get the best out of both?
“I think we have a handle on the car, but we’re not 100 percent sure about the tires, because it’s so track-specific if the tire gets up to temperature or not. The only proof is when you get there and run on a Friday to see what you can get out of it. We are a little bit more optimistic than we were about four weeks ago.”
Qualifying remains Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s strong suit, with Magnussen earning best-of-the rest status at Monaco with a strong sixth-place qualifying drive that eventually became fifth when Pierre Gasly was handed a grid penalty. Considering how tight the midfield is again this year, is qualifying perhaps even more important than the actual race since it has so much influence in the outcome of the race?
“Qualifying is always important, but it isn’t always the case, as we saw in Monaco. We qualified Kevin sixth, then started fifth with Gasly’s penalty, but we got home with no points from the car. The race is still important – it’s not just a qualifying race. For sure, qualifying is always important, though. It helps you to see how fast you really are.”
Only four points separate fifth place from ninth place in the constructors’ standings. The midfield has always been tight since Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s debut in 2016, but can you provide some insight into the level of competitiveness this year and, specifically, how a good race can turn out great from a points perspective and how a bad race can quickly drop you down the ladder?
“Everybody’s close together, even fourth place is not far away, because if one team has a good result with both cars going, it’s easy to move up to fourth. Everything is very tight, especially between fifth and ninth. I think it’s good for the championship, and this has happened mainly because everybody’s struggled at some stage, so far. It will get more and more interesting as we move forward in the season. At some stage there will be two or three teams that move a little ahead, if everything goes to plan for them, but I still think it’ll be very tight. Everybody seems to struggle at certain kinds of tracks, but we’re not all struggling on the same ones. It’ll be interesting throughout the season.”