KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (July 30, 2019) – Fresh off a double-points effort in last Sunday’s German Grand Prix where Rich Energy Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen finished seventh and eighth, respectively, to deliver the team’s best collective result of the season, the American outfit heads to Budapest for this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 4.381-kilometer (2.722-mile), 14-turn Hungaroring is a tight circuit that many drivers liken to a full-size karting track. It is the slowest permanent venue in Formula One, a change from the recent run of power circuits. Slow, however, doesn’t mean easy. Despite an average speed of 200 kph (124 mph), which is notably slower than the average speed drivers normally experience in Formula One, the Hungaroring requires precision and preservation. It is a physical track, demanding a lot from the drivers who, in turn, demand a lot from their car throughout the 70-lap race.
Tire management is a crucial part of that strategy. The track is a seemingly never-ending succession of corners, where typically hot weather combined with a high amount of traction, braking and lateral energy demands work the tires and the driver hard. As such, an extreme level of fitness is required for the drivers, who are seemingly always turning the wheel amid high temperatures with scant amounts of air flowing through the car.
For Rich Energy Haas F1 Team, those air currents will again flow over two different aero specs on the Haas VF-19s wielded by Grosjean and Magnussen. For the third straight race, Grosjean will use the aero spec first seen in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. Magnussen, meanwhile, will have the latest upgrade, which he experienced for the first time last weekend in Hockenheim. These in-season car-to-car aero tests are helping Rich Energy Haas F1 Team better understand why its strong, single-lap pace doesn’t carry over into race pace. And with the Hungarian Grand Prix being the last event before the FIA-mandated summer shutdown, time is of the essence.
When teams return from break, only nine races will remain in the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship. Rich Energy Haas F1 Team is currently tied with Alfa Romeo for eighth in the constructors’ standings, with each having 26 points. They have a healthy 25-point advantage over last-place Williams and are just five points behind seventh-place Racing Point and an achievable 13 points arrears the factory Renault team while Toro Rosso has only a 16-point edge.
Opportunity still abounds, both for future point-scoring finishes like the recent one in Germany and for improving the Haas VF-19. While Hungary always serves up a challenge for Formula One teams, the venue also serves as another mechanism for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team to improve its fortunes.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team
After comparing the team’s original aero spec on Grosjean’s car at Silverstone and Hockenheim with the second-generation spec Magnussen ran at Silverstone along with the third-generation spec Magnussen recently ran at Hockenheim, what is the gameplan for Hungary?
“Having compared the three specs at Hockenheim, we still haven’t come to a conclusion as to what is actually happening on our race pace – where we seem to be slow, but can do a good qualifying lap. So, we’ve decided to run again in Budapest – Grosjean with the Melbourne spec and Magnussen with the Hockenheim spec.”
After trialing these different aero specs, what will you do with all of the information before the FIA-mandated summer shutdown so that you’re ready for the next round of races in Belgium and Italy? More specifically, how much time do you have to do what you want before you’re forced to take a break for two weeks?
“You take all the data and just try to compare where we can improve and see where we went off the plan. At the beginning of the season we were looking very competitive, then in the races after Melbourne, that’s not been the case anymore. So, we need to understand what went sideways, and that is what you do when you compare two specs of car. Hopefully, we can get as much information as possible and come to a conclusion in which direction we need to work.”
Considering the amount of work the team has put into sorting the Haas VF-19s finicky nature, how important is the shutdown for Rich Energy Haas F1 Team personnel to take a break and come back refreshed for the final nine races of the season?
“Hopefully, we end up on a high, which may or may not happen, but it’s a good thing if we can. Normally, as you cannot work, the only thing you can do is recoup some energy and be ready for when we get going again in Spa.”
While physical work on the current car and next year’s car stops during the summer shutdown, it’s difficult to turn off one’s brain. Do you find yourself scribbling down ideas or thinking about what needs to happen next, or are you able to actually tune out Formula One for two weeks?
“You never tune out of Formula One at this level where I work. You’re always thinking about it, but you’re not there consciously thinking about it in an office. You do other things. That’s sometimes very good, as you can think a little more with an open mind than you do normally when you’re in the middle of a battle. You try to chill, but you’re always thinking about what you can do better and what needs to be done straight after shutdown.”
Work continues on the 2019 car and directions are being determined for the 2020 car, but an overview of regulations for the 2021 car has been revealed. What are your thoughts on the 2021 car, which features a new ground effect design that includes a much simpler front wing?
“For 2021, the detail is not very clear at the moment. In general, I think the devil is in the detail, and we need to work on that to make sure we’re not taking a wrong way here. If it is for the benefit of the sport, I have nothing against making changes. If we’re not convinced that it will work, we shouldn’t run the risk of changing too much.”