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Romain Grosjean & Kevin Magnussen
Romain Grosjean & Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Team

It’s bom dia to Portugal as Haas F1 Team gets ready for its maiden visit to the country, which returns to the Formula 1 World Championship after a 24-year absence.

City-based courses in Porto and Lisbon both played host to grands prix in the early years of the championship but it was in 1984 when the Portuguese Grand Prix sparked into life at a facility located on the outskirts of the capital city in Estoril. The likes of Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher all triumphed at the circuit but after 1996 Formula 1 sought pastures new, and Portugal was left out in the cold. 

Fast-forward to 2020 and Portugal is back in the fold, only this time the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve – also referred to as Portimao in deference to the nearby coastal town – is the venue for world championship competition. It will be the first time that a Formula 1 grand prix has taken place at Portimao and it will be the second brand-new venue on the 2020 calendar after September’s trip to Italy’s Mugello. 

The recently resurfaced 15-turn 4.653km-circuit is renowned for its medium and high-speed sections, relative width that promotes various racing lines, and undulating topography that enhances the challenge. Neither Romain Grosjean nor Kevin Magnussen have raced on the sweeping curves of the Algarve venue and thus it is completely new territory for Haas F1 Team and its drivers, as the team strives to add more points to its 2020 tally. 

The Portuguese Grand Prix will take place from October 23 to 25, with two 90-minute practice sessions on Friday, final practice and a three-part qualifying hour on Saturday, the results of which set the grid for Sunday’s 66-lap grand prix. Lights out is due for 13:10 local time (09:10 EST/13:10 BST).   

 

 

Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 Team

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

The Eifel Grand Prix, courtesy of the weather, was effectively a two-day race weekend. What was the biggest challenge for the team prepping for qualifying and the race off the back of a solitary practice session – did they embrace an ‘adapt and innovate’ mentality? 

“The biggest challenge was to wait out Friday not knowing what to do. That was – I wouldn’t say challenging, but it was boring, and not well invested time. I think we adapted well, and it’s more like the old days of racing – you have to be a lot quicker in thinking what to do and making bolder decisions, hoping you don’t get them wrong. You don’t have that much time to look at data, you need to go a little bit by the seat of your pants. I think our guys did a good job on that one.”

 

With Imola shortly to follow as an official two-day race weekend, and with the format likely to be utilized more in an ever-condensed Formula 1 schedule, what are the pros and cons in your opinion of such a format - taking into consideration the needs of the teams, sponsors, broadcasters, the series, the promoters and of course, the fans?

“In my own opinion, a two-day event works well. It allows us to get more races in, which in turn means more fans around the world could get the chance to see us. The cons, which I don’t know if they’re cons – that’s for Formula 1 to look into it, its for the promoters, as a Friday gives more possibilities to get fans in. Financially it’s a good day for them. I don’t know all these things as I’m not involved in them, but on the sheer practical side of going racing, I have nothing against two-day events. Maybe some events we go to we could put on a Thursday and Friday test – we can make something out like we do with pre-season testing and the broadcasting of that. These are just ideas, I don’t know if they make sense but maybe we should look into that.” 

 

Looking at the positives from the Eifel Grand Prix weekend - the team was one-deleted lap time away from landing both cars in Q2 in qualifying, with Kevin ultimately making it into Q2 for the fourth time in 2020, and Romain’s ninth place effort in the race delivered his first points of the season. In a year where the challenges are obvious, how much of a boost to the team are those performances and how can you capitalize on them moving forward down the home stretch? 

“For sure, the time disqualification for Romain in qualifying was disappointing because it was very close, but in the end very close was also over the limit. It would have been fantastic to have both cars in Q2, but at the moment we are happy with one. Finishing ninth in the race, it was the boost we need at the moment. It lifts everybody’s spirit. We keep on showing what we can do in a challenging year with a car that’s not performing as we want it. We always try to squeeze every little bit out of it. This comes at the right time as there is not so many races left anymore. Knowing that we can do it, everybody will put that little extra effort in to try to make it happen again. It’s actually a great feeling to again score some points. When you get them all the time you don’t realize it anymore. Given we’ve only had them twice this year, it’s quite a high.” 

 

The Portuguese Grand Prix is perhaps the biggest unknown of the season as it marks Formula 1’s race debut at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve. From what you’ve been briefed with regards to simulator feedback etc what are your expectations for the team heading into the weekend? Will the layout of the circuit be more favourable to the characteristics of the VF-20?

“I think this year, with the exception of the high-speed tracks like Monza and Spa, the rest of the circuits are very similar. As long as we don’t have really long straights, the car is just where we are – and that’s not in our best year. In general, I quite like the challenge of having a new track and the opportunity to learn new things. It looks like in those circumstances we perform better. With more unknowns there are more things we bring to the table which can help us. We don’t have the resources of the bigger teams and the experience of having been at circuits for many years. Every new race track has new challenges, and it seems like with the new challenges – our guys react pretty quickly. Let’s hope this happens also in Portimao.”
 

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