• Italian Grand Prix: Preview

Italian Grand Prix: Preview

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Sept. 3, 2019) – Things happen fast in the FIA Formula One World Championship, and perhaps nowhere is this more pronounced than at Autodromo Nazionale Monza, home of the Italian Grand Prix.

The 5.793-kilometer (3.6-mile), 11-turn circuit in the suburbs of Milan is the fastest track in Formula One, punctuated last year when Kimi Räikkönen broke a 14-year-old mark for the fastest lap in Formula One history when he set a new track record in qualifying. With a lap of 1:19.119, Räikkönen shaved nearly half a second off Juan Pablo Montoya’s previous record of 1:19.525, set during practice for the 2004 Italian Grand Prix. Räikkönen’s average speed of 263.587 kph (163.785 mph) was 1.345 kph (.836 mph) faster than Montoya’s 262.242 kph (162.950 mph).

Speed is the name of the game in Formula One, particularly at this time of year when the series goes from one high-speed, low-downforce track to another. Fresh off the Belgian Grand Prix last Sunday at the renowned Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, Formula One heads to Monza for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

Two long straights separated by a few chicanes and some wide, sweeping corners best describes Monza .These characteristics allow teams to bring a low-downforce package where their drivers are able to approach speeds in excess of 350 kph (217 mph) to earn an average lap speed of more than 260 kph (162 mph). It’s no wonder the fastest laps ever recorded in Formula One have taken place at Monza.

Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has shown outright speed all year long, but its conundrum has been translating single-lap speed into race pace. Drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean started eighth and ninth, respectively, Sunday at Spa, yet finished 12th and 13th. As frustrating as that performance was, it provided a silver lining with the data gathered from Spa being useful at Monza.

The team’s last points-paying drive came three races ago in the German Grand Prix where Grosjean finished seventh and Magnussen came home eighth. Being held scoreless in the last two races has Rich Energy Haas F1 Team sitting ninth in the constructors’ standings, 25 points ahead of 10th-place Williams but six points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo while seventh-place Racing Point is 14 points ahead.

While Monza stands for speed, it also represents opportunity, and Rich Energy Haas F1 Team aims to secure both this weekend.

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team

In the series’ most recent race in Belgium, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team returned its cars to a single aero spec. After running its two cars in different aero specs in the three races prior to Belgium, how helpful was it to have both cars theoretically bringing back the same data?

“Now knowing what we want to go forward, it’s always helpful because when you organize the fly-aways, having two different car specs makes everything even more difficult because you have to fly around double the amount of spares, as obviously some of the parts are different. Looking back now and having an understanding of our development work, it worked out, it’s good. Now being back to having the same car makes the rest of the season a lot easier, logistically.”

Will you continue with both cars in the same aero spec at Monza, and will the time spent at Spa-Francorchamps – a high-speed, low-downforce venue similar to Monza – assist in your preparation for the Italian Grand Prix?

“You’re learning in every race and whatever you learn, you take it forward to the next event. Monza, being a low-drag circuit – the lowest on the calendar – for sure, having run something at Spa with just a little bit more downforce than needed in Monza, it will help us learn and get prepared for Monza. You need the lowest drag possible at Monza because of the long straights. We will have, like every year, a different rear wing.”

As teams begin turning their attention to next year, they also have an eye on 2021 where significant technical regulations will influence a new generation of Formula One technology. A key element of these regulations will be a standardization of parts in order to reduce costs. What’s your take on parts standardization, and are there certain pieces of the car that can be the same for everyone and other pieces that should never be standardized?

“I think we have to be careful that we’re not changing the DNA of Formula One, which is about developing your own car. I think as long as we have a cost cap like the one proposed now going into 2021, standardization doesn’t really make sense. Everybody should be free to spend their money where they want. If we have some standard parts where we level the playing field, like pit equipment, that’s OK, but on the car, the DNA of Formula One means your own development. We are well under the budget cap being proposed, so I don’t know if it’s really a money-saver in the end. It hasn’t been defined what will be standardized parts. It’s maybe too early to talk about it or be critical about it. We have to wait a little bit until we know exactly what the aim is.”

Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has supplier agreements with Ferrari and Dallara. Those are relationships you fostered and have nurtured since the team’s debut in 2016. How comfortable would you be with a supplier you didn’t have that kind of relationship with – one that was mandated by the series?

“If the series mandates certain parts, for sure they’ll have done their due diligence, and it should be in accordance with the teams so that they are all happy. I can live with that. If they just go to some suppliers, and if we feel they cannot do the job, we should have a say in it. The 10 teams know more about building a car than all the other authorities.” 

You have one of the best seats for how the 2021 rules package is shaping up. Will the DNA of Formula One car construction stay intact, where each team is a constructor building their own racecar?

“The DNA has to stay, otherwise it’s not Formula One anymore. It would be a spec series, and we know how that normally goes. I think the commercial rights holder will make sure the DNA stays intact and that Formula One stays as Formula One. That’s what it needs to be.”

What’s the best way to bridge the gap between the top teams in Formula One and the midfield – a budget cap or parts standardization? Can they coexist or are they mutually exclusive?

“I think a budget cap should do the job. Everybody’s free to spend their money where they want to spend it. If somebody spends the money in a better way, good for them. They’ll be faster. That’s part of running a Formula One team.”