Spanish Grand Prix: PreviewAugust 11, 2020
A preview of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, featuring our latest Q&A with Team Principal Guenther Steiner.
After two races at Silverstone it is a voyage to another familiar terrain for the Haas F1 Team with the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya playing host to Formula One’s rearranged Spanish Grand Prix.
Barcelona is a city where artistry, culture and sporting excellent is often interwoven, from the hands of Gaudí to the feet of Messi, and every year Formula One adds its piece of history to Barcelona’s landscape.
Barcelona has been on Formula One’s calendar since 1991 and for several years it has been the exclusive location for pre-season testing, giving an indication of the running order and the potential strengths and weaknesses of the respective competitors. The attributes that make the 4.655km circuit ideal for testing means it provides an all-round assessment of a Formula One car’s ability.
But despite the familiarity it will be a new challenge for teams with the championship due to visit in August for the first time in the circuit’s 30-year history, after the grand prix was postponed from its original May date. A lot of focus will be on tire usage, on account of the high-energy nature of the corners and the expected hot weather in the height of Spain’s summer, while it will also show how each team has progressed since pre-season testing was held way back in February.
Haas F1 Team’s maiden outing in Formula One came at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya during pre-season testing in 2016 and the Catalan circuit has been favorable to the team. Kevin Magnussen placed sixth in 2018 while in 2019 a second straight double Q3 appearance was followed by both cars classifying inside the top 10 in the race. Courtesy of myriad test days, and the annual Spanish Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team has more experience of Barcelona than any other venue. Its machinery has completed over 24,000km of running at the circuit – more than halfway around the world – which is equivalent to 5,160 laps.
Formula One’s Spanish Grand Prix runs from August 14 to 16, with Friday playing host to two 90-minute practice sessions, Saturday featuring final practice and qualifying, prior to the 66-lap race on Sunday, with lights out set for 15:10 local time (09:10 EST/13:10 GMT).
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone had a couple of highlights for the team in Romain’s Q2 performance on Saturday and Kevin’s trademark getaway at the start of Sunday’s race. Are those things you feel the team can build on as the season continues to unfold?
“How we are performing at the moment, I think this is the best we can get out of it. Setting some highlights is good for the team and it’s good for the fans – they can still see that we’re there and we’re fighting every moment of a weekend. Romain’s lap in Q1 qualifying to get into Q2 was fantastic. Kevin’s made a lot of good starts this year. In the future we just need to make sure we have some good races.”
With tires and tire management having dominated much of Formula One’s double-stint at Silverstone – is that simply part of the package in modern Formula One racing, is it now a skillset which young drivers need coming up through the ranks?
“The tires are obviously the dominating factor now, but not only now, they were over the last years. It’s always been how well you can use your tire. I think it’s the same now already in the feeder series, in F2 and F3, the young drivers need to learn how to manage these tires. In my opinion tires should not be the main focus in racing. They should be part of racing, but not the main focus. Hopefully, by introducing the new tire in 2022 – the 18-inch wheel, things change.”
Is there value in going to Spain now and comparing the data from the VF-20 with what was learned in pre-season testing in February, or does the temperature difference racing there in August simply negate any possible comparison?
“Having data is always very good, and we’ve got a lot of data from Spain from both testing and racing there. But referencing the previous questions, the tires are a very big factor in what you’re doing. The temperature, for sure, plays a big role in how you can use your car. The good thing is we can go back and compare our performance, and what we achieved in February, to what we’re achieving now. So, it’s good to have something to compare. I’m looking forward to it.”
It was pre-season testing in Spain back in 2016 that Haas F1 Team debuted its VF-16 prior to its first season in Formula One. What are your memories of being at the track in February 2016 and preparing to show the motorsport world the fruits of your labors putting a new Formula One team together?
“I think, without a doubt, it was a big moment for myself and the team, because putting a complete new Formula One team together in the way that we did it, it hadn’t been done in a long time. It was one of the highlights of my life, and the highlight of Haas F1 Team because it was our first time on the circuit. It’s always good to back there and think about that moment when we rolled out of the garage – it always gives me goosebumps. I always remember that moment each year when we arrive in Barcelona.”
The Spanish Grand Prix has often proved to be a happy hunting ground for the team, including last year’s double points score with Romain and Kevin. What are your highlights from racing there and what do you think is on offer for the team this weekend?
“Last year, with the double points-score, having had a bit of a difficult season up until then, it was very good. In another way it maybe wasn’t so good as we believed in our upgrade, which then ultimately, we put back on the shelf and went back to the Melbourne spec. Getting the points last year was a nice moment, but maybe for going forward in the season the package was the wrong thing to do. You learn out of all this and I hope we don’t make that mistake again. For this weekend, hopefully the racetrack suits our car, it’s not such a power sensitive circuit. Hopefully we can get something done, it will be difficult like every track this year, but it looks a little bit better for us. We’ll find out on Saturday and Sunday this week.”