KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (April 8, 2019) – When Shanghai International Circuit hosts its 16th Chinese Grand Prix April 12-14, it will also serve as the site for a massive milestone in Formula One’s storied history – its 1,000th grand prix.
Nine hundred and ninety-nine races ago on May 13, 1950 at Silverstone Circuit in England, the first Formula One race was contested. Driving an Alfa Romeo 158, Giuseppe Farina won that inaugural race – a 70-lapper around a 4.649-kilometer (2.889-mile) layout on the current grounds of the British Grand Prix. The car was advanced for its time, but incredibly rudimentary in today’s world, where hybrid engine machinery and carbon-fiber parts long ago replaced the 1.5-liter, straight-eight engine and metalwork Farina and his counterparts considered cutting edge.
It is appropriate then that China – home to both old-world ways and brave-new-world technology – is also home to such an incredibly significant marker for Formula One.
Shanghai International Circuit perfectly embodies the yin and yang of Formula One’s history. The 5.451-kilometer (3.387-mile), 16-turn track debuted in 2004, and it’s one of the many new-age tracks penned by Hermann Tilke, whose trademark design cue is a long backstraight followed by a hairpin corner.
The 1.4-kilometer (.869 of a mile) backstraight is the longest in Formula One. It is the equivalent of 11 soccer fields laid end to end, or the same length of three-and-a-half aircraft carriers lined up bow to stern. Current-generation Formula One cars surpass 340 kph (211 mph) on this straight, which is located between turns 13 and 14. Juxtapose that with the top speed in 1950 at Silverstone, which was around 220 kph (137 mph).
Another distinctive aspect of Shanghai is its “snail corners”, which comprise turns 1-4 and turns 11-13. The high-speed straight combined with these sharp corners pose a conundrum for teams, as they must balance the amount of downforce needed to negotiate these vastly different aspects of the track.
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is still learning this balance. In just its fourth Formula One season, the American squad has only 64 grands prix to its name as it goes up against counterparts with decades of experience and hundreds of grand prix starts. Yet the team is fighting at the top of the midfield, keeping many establishment names at bay and occasionally nipping at the heels of such championship stalwarts as Red Bull, Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes.
Its driver lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen is responsible for its best season – a fifth-place finish in last year’s constructors’ standings. The duo is back with Rich Energy Haas F1 Team in 2019 with their collective eyes set on further gains, specifically, fourth among constructors.
Currently, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is fifth, tied with McLaren. Alfa Romeo sits fourth with a two-point advantage while the French manufacturer Renault is two points back in seventh.
It’s a poignant battle for points, but Rich Energy Haas F1 Team comes to Shanghai with back-to-back point-scoring results in the Chinese Grand Prix, all care of Magnussen. The 26-year-old finished eighth in the 2017 Chinese Grand Prix to score his first points as a member of Rich Energy Haas F1 Team, and was 10th last year. And while Grosjean hasn’t yet scored for Haas at Shanghai, the veteran pilot has logged three point-paying drives in the Chinese Grand Prix, with the 32-year-old’s best result being a sixth-place effort in 2012. And in the 2017 race, Grosjean just missed finishing in the points as he came home 11th.
Increased speed theoretically increases one’s points tally. With Rich Energy Haas F1 Team having sent both its drivers to the final round of knockout qualifying in the last two races, the speed of its Haas VF-19s is inherent. The trick, however, is translating that speed into race pace and delivering those coveted points.
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team did this in the season opener in Australia, yet found it elusive in the series’ last race in Bahrain. China is the next opportunity to showcase its speed, and for the sport to showcase the speed of its evolution.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
One thousand grands prix – that’s quite a number. From May 1950 at Silverstone to April 2019 in China, Formula One has seen an incredible transformation. What’s it like to be a part of this sport and a participant in such a milestone event?
“It’s an honor for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team to be a part of it. We’re the youngest team in the sport, and to be here when the sport reaches such a milestone, it’s an honor. Formula One is one of the biggest global sports. It’s been there a long time, so we should celebrate this.”
What was it about Formula One that first made you a fan of the sport, and how old were you when you began following Formula One?
“I think I was around seven when I started watching Formula One. It was all about the noise and the speed, at the time. The cars were very cool. Throughout my career, I always kept an eye on Formula One, and then I was eventually able to be a part of it.”
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is still the youngest team in Formula One, and the Chinese Grand Prix marks just its 65th grand prix. Yet in just four years, the team is battling at the top of the midfield with the Formula One establishment that has decades more experience. How are you doing it?
“There’s no big secret. We’ve got a good team of people and they’re very dedicated. They work hard. That’s how we’re doing it. We always try to do the best with what we’ve got. We all like to be doing what we’re doing. We enjoy it, and that’s why we can achieve the results.”
What’s your reaction when people refer to Rich Energy Haas F1 Team as a satellite team to Scuderia Ferrari?
“I don’t really care. Some of the people that say that, I don’t really know what they mean by it. I think they don’t know what they mean with it. It’s normally the people that cannot understand why we’re doing such a good job. They just say we’re copying Ferrari. There are clearly written rules – what you can and can’t do – and we do everything to the rulebook. I don’t really care if they have a bad opinion about us.”
Do you think there would be as much talk about satellite teams if Rich Energy Haas F1 Team was at the bottom of the midfield instead of the top?
“Nobody would care if we were at the bottom. Everybody would be happy. That’s what everyone was expecting. That’s where they thought we would be when we got into Formula One. It’s developed over the years with people getting more critical. It goes hand-in-hand with our classifications. After a while, you get used to it. You live with it and don’t care.”
In each year of is existence, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has become better – more efficient, more polished – and it has resulted in a faster racecar. Is the Haas VF-19 the best racecar the team has produced?
“I would say so, but not only the car, the team is getting better. That’s normal, as you learn over time. The only thing you cannot buy is time. You have to give yourself time to get better, so that’s what we’re trying to do. As long as we keep on improving, we’ll be good.”
What makes the Haas VF-19 so good, and how do you see it performing at Shanghai?
“It’s a good car, but we still need to find where we really are. It looks like we’re in the top group of the midfield. Obviously, with the new regulations a lot of things changed. It’s an evolution. We used what was good on the previous car – we didn’t reinvent it – but we adapted it in a very good way to the new rules. Everyone did a very good job over the winter. I expect us to still be in the upper midfield in Shanghai.”