Spanish Grand Prix: PreviewMay 29, 2023
MoneyGram Haas F1 Team’s 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship challenge continues with Round 8, the Spanish Grand Prix, at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.
Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg both have vast experience of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya from Spanish grands prix and a myriad of test days. Magnussen scooped a best result of sixth for MoneyGram Haas F1 Team at Barcelona’s 2018 race while Hulkenberg’s highest classification at the circuit was also sixth, achieved in 2017.
Spain’s grand prix can trace its roots back to 1913 and after spells in Barcelona’s district Pedralbes and Montjuic Park, Madrid’s Jarama, and Jerez’s eponymous circuit, the purpose-built Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya assumed permanent host duties in 1991.
The 4.6km circuit acts as a firm test of a car’s aerodynamic prowess and tire usage, with a plethora of long-radius corners and quick direction changes. Teams and drivers also have extensive knowledge of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya through its many years as a host venue for pre-season testing, and consequently is it the circuit at which MoneyGram Haas F1 Team made its public on-track debut, back in February 2016.
For 2023 there has been one major change to the layout of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The awkward slow-speed chicane towards the end of the lap has been scrapped, restoring the circuit to its pre-2007 layout, meaning the lap will conclude with two medium-to-high speed right-handers. That will result in an overall faster average lap speed and it is hoped will facilitate better racing along Barcelona’s pit straight.
Ayao Komatsu – Director of Engineering:
We’re now entering Round 8 of the 2023 FIA Formula 1 World Championship – how would you assess MoneyGram Haas F1 Team’s season so far?
“I think considering this is the second season after really just concentrating on survival, we are doing well. I think the good thing is baseline car performance is pretty good. That’s actually even slightly better than we anticipated, so that’s positive but what’s lacking is the consistency across tracks and also race pace.
"That’s what we’re working on, but I think we’re working across departments better, so it’s very positive. So far, I think it’s slightly better than I expected but because the potential is there, we can see it, we just need to improve the race performance.”
There have been multiple updates brought to the VF-23 this season – something that hasn’t been possible over the past few seasons. What does the ability to develop the VF-23 bring to the mindset of the team, and yourself, as someone who’s been with Haas since the first race?
“It’s really positive for the team because the first major upgrade we brought to track in Miami, it just worked. It’s not as simple as saying coming from the wind tunnel, this is a big gain and this should work, which happens quite often and you don’t actually see it, but this one was the opposite – it didn't make a huge difference in the wind tunnel in terms of headline numbers, but we believed it was worthwhile introducing it due to certain details we saw.
"At the track, we saw exactly the behavior change we expected, and in fact, it was actually better than anticipated. Then, following that philosophy, we brought a front wing to Monaco which was meant for Imola, but in Monaco you can’t measure anything so we will measure it this week. Team morale-wise, it’s brilliant.”
After watching Nico settle into the team and seeing his working relationship with Kevin, has the pairing surprised you at all or is this level of experience and reliability what the team was needing?
“Nico has brought exactly what we were looking for. From Abu Dhabi testing, it was really clear that he can feel the car really well, so his feedback is very accurate, he’s very calm and he rarely makes mistakes. Even when things are less than ideal, he just stays calm in the car and gives you the feedback in real-time which doesn’t put engineers on edge, it means they can just focus.
"Whenever he’s running, we can get a decent amount of data and he is able to somehow comment on car behavior in a way that engineers can relate to. He’s really accelerating our development and our set-up direction, and Kevin is benefitting from that as well. If you look at Monaco, okay – we weren’t competitive as a team – but if you look at both driver performances, they were nip and tuck in every session.
"They learn from each other and have different limitations which helps the other one, but the very fundamentals of the car, they are both clear about what we need to improve, which is exactly we needed."
Looking at the Constructors’ Championship as it stands, this season is gearing up to be a hotly contested battle for the midfield places. How does MoneyGram Haas F1 Team step up to the challenge and be consistently competitive and consistent?
“The midfield is really tight. In qualifying, at most races, we almost have it. If we put everything together and we send the car with the correct set-up, at the correct time, it’s operationally good and then the driver performs, we can be up there fighting with Alpine. With race pace, we’re not quite there yet but that’s the bit we’re really focusing on.
"If you look at Miami, we finished P10 with Kevin which was a bit disappointing, but nobody retired. Apart from the big teams – Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes and Aston Martin – we were only beaten by Pierre Gasly, and with a little bit of improvement I feel we could’ve been there with him until the end. All departments internally are working better together, we’re where we should be I think in our second year of revival.”