Russian Grand Prix Preview: Sochi SojournSeptember 24, 2019
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Sept. 24, 2019) – After navigating the streets of Singapore last weekend in the Singapore Grand Prix, the FIA Formula One World Championship heads to Sochi for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix. The 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile), 18-turn Sochi Autodrom demands a lot of grip and the Haas VF-19’s that drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will pilot in Sochi will have elements of the first-generation spec used in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and the third-generation spec that debuted in the German Grand Prix in an effort to attack the challenges of the Russian circuit.
Sochi is an exceptionally long and technical circuit, characterized by hard braking into low-speed corners. There are 12 right-hand and six left-hand corners, with a 650-meter (2,133 foot) straight between the first and second turns. Of Sochi’s 5.848-kilometer (3.634-mile) layout, 1.7 kilometers (1.056 miles) are run on public roads. The surfaces of both the public road and the purpose-built portions are incredibly smooth, and the track has remained consistent between its debut in 2014 and in Formula One’s subsequent visits. Tire degradation is minimal compared to most tracks, allowing for teams to employ a one-stop strategy while still giving drivers the freedom to push hard.
Haas F1 Team has pushed hard all year long, despite its ninth-place standing in the constructors’ ranks, where it is 25 points ahead of 10th-place Williams and nine points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo. With the freedom to always think outside the box, Haas F1 Team continues its push to reclaim the speed it showed at the beginning of the year by blending its pages from the past with the technology of today.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
While these car-to-car comparisons Haas F1 Team has run in past grands prix are unconventional, it has provided data in real-world conditions. Has this at least helped paint a more accurate picture of why the cars are performing the way they are as opposed to an open test where you can only simulate race conditions?
“The more kilometers you do, the more you learn. Doing it in racing or testing, it doesn’t make a big difference, but maybe you can see if the tire doesn’t overheat as much. At the moment, we’re in a phase where we know what the car is doing, we’re just trying to find the better spec for each circuit – that’s why we’re doing it. We’re not experimenting with it anymore. We’re actually putting the packages on how we think it is best suited.”
You recently announced that Haas F1 Team will retain its driver lineup of Grosjean and Magnussen for 2020. Their collective experience and, more specifically, Grosjean’s experience with the team since he’s been a part of the organization since its inception, was cited as a key factor in maintaining your driver lineup. How valuable has their experience been?
“The aim is to keep stable things that work in the team. At the moment, we don’t have a driver problem, we have a problem with the car. We don’t want to lose sight of that. Instead, we’ll focus on other aspects that we need to focus on. We leave the other stuff alone.”
As team principal, there is always something on your to-do list, but how helpful is it to have Haas F1 Team’s driver lineup finalized for next year so you’re able to focus on other elements of the team?
“It’s helpful, as now my main focus is on next year’s car – to try to make it the best possible from the situation we’re in this year. I’m pretty sure we’ll get out of it because we have a good understanding. It’s also decision time on the 2021 regulations, which are not only down to me, but it takes some work being involved and making sure the regulations are what we would like them to be.”
With all that you’ve learned this year about the Haas VF-19, how has it affected the direction of next year’s car?
“Obviously, all this work is brought forward to next year, because next year’s car will be an evolution, as there’s no regulation change. This year it was a new regulation, so whatever we learn on this car we can implement on next year’s car. That was our aim from halfway through the season when we realized we were struggling with our car. We want to make sure not to make the same mistakes on next year’s car – that was our main aim from midway through this season.”