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Sakhir Circuit
The sun sets at Bahrain's Sakhir Circuit

Having unveiled the livery for the VF-21 it will campaign throughout the 2021 FIA Formula 1 World Championship last week, Uralkali Haas F1 Team now travels to Bahrain this week for three days of pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Heading into its sixth year of Formula 1 competition, the American squad ventures into the new season with an all-new driver line-up of rookie pairing Nikita Mazepin (22) and Mick Schumacher (21). Both drivers showcased their talents in last season’s Formula 2 championship – both scoring a pair of feature race wins, with Schumacher going on to lift the title and Mazepin finishing fifth overall at season’s end.

Schumacher will commence testing on the morning of Friday, March 12, with Mazepin behind the wheel in the afternoon. The pair will continue to run half a day each – alternating sessions throughout the remaining two days of the test at the 5.412-kilometer (3.363-mile), 15-turn track – home of the season opening Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, March 28. 

 

VF-21 Physical Unveil

On Friday, March 12, Uralkali Haas F1 Team will perform a physical unveil of the Haas VF-21 at 8:30 a.m. local time on the pit lane outside of its garage stall at Bahrain International Circuit. Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher will kick off the day’s activities officially pulling the cover off the VF-21. The drivers will pose for photographs before preparations continue ahead of the 10 a.m. track opening and the start of 2021 pre-season testing.

 

Testing Driver Line-up

Friday 12 March

Early session (10:00-14:00 local): Schumacher
Late session (15:00-19:00 local): Mazepin

Saturday 13 March

Early session: Mazepin
Late session: Schumacher

Sunday 14 March

Early session: Schumacher
Late session: Mazepin

 

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal

Travel restrictions over the winter have undoubtedly disrupted any hopes of a ‘normal’ off-season and build-up to testing. What issues has the team faced in relation to those disruptions and was there any relief, in terms of the team’s workload, in the sense that much of the car is a carry-over from 2020?

“There were quite a few issues with it – the pandemic and all the travel restrictions. Everything was more difficult. For the first time we did the car build in the U.K. and not in Italy. This was only possible as we had a lot of carry-over parts from last year - the car at its base level was the same as last year’s. Otherwise things would have been more difficult. For example, we couldn’t fire the engine up before going to Bahrain. 

"All the systems have been checked but we can only fire up in Bahrain as the Italian engineers and mechanics, if they’d traveled to the U.K., they’d have had to quarantine there. And then when they would have gone back to Italy, they’d have gone into quarantine there too. There just wasn’t enough time. It was quite disruptive, but as always, we find ways around it.”

 

With just a day and a half of testing scheduled for your two rookies in the VF-21 – what are your expectations from the test both for them and the team with such limited track time?

“On one side we have an advantage as the car is such a carry-over, or a lot of it is carry-over from last year. We know it better than you would normally know a new car. But obviously we’ve got two rookies. Mick (Schumacher) drove last year’s car in Abu Dhabi and Nikita (Mazepin) hasn’t driven for us at all yet. The expectation is to do as many laps as possible and get as much data as possible from the new parts of the car with the new regulations on reduced downforce. That’s all we can do. We have limited time, so we just have to try to get the most out of it.”

 

Are there positives to be gleaned testing and racing at the same venue to kick start the 2021 season?  Bahrain has often been touted as a pre-season test venue but what are the challenges from the team-side in going to a ‘fly-away’ circuit over a more traditional European circuit?

“I think going to Bahrain to test this year was an obvious choice after the postponement of Australia to later on in the year. We’ve talked every year about going to Bahrain instead of going to somewhere in Europe, but always for cost reasons it wasn’t possible. This time, going to Bahrain, it’s financially better than going to anywhere in Europe because we then have our first race there. Everything goes there then stays there. Again, we have to thank Bahrain for stepping up to make all this possible – making test and race venues available to us when we struggle everywhere else. We can learn how this works and maybe in the future we can come back to Bahrain for testing. Let’s do this year first though then we can decide on the future.”   

 

Building relations within the team and working practices have been adapted to allow Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher as much time with their respective engineers and crews ahead of testing. What’s the feedback you’re receiving with regards to their integration into the team and their knowledge and understanding of the various protocols they’re learning?

“Up to now everything has been positive, which is nice to hear, but there’s still work to be done. The team likes the two young guys, they have adapted quickly, and they have so much enthusiasm for this. The drivers obviously like the team too. They can see we have a bit of a family atmosphere within the team because we are pretty small. I haven’t heard any negatives. One of my jobs will be to keep all the positives up for the rest of the time they are with us over the next years.” 

 

What are your emotions walking into the circuit at the start of a new season? Is there a sense of relief after another busy off-season to be back at track, is there excitement surrounding the unknowns ahead in the season, or is it just another day at the office for you?

“Except for the last bit about being another day at the office, it’s really all of it. It’s a new season – especially for us this year, we’re thankful that we can still be here, and we have new drivers too. There’s a lot of excitement but obviously we know it will not be our strongest year. We’ll build up strong for the future though with what we take from this year. It’s all good. I’m pretty happy to be going back to a race track because at the moment we have too much time to think about other things. Once we get going everything is focused on going racing – there’s less time for BS. I’m really look forward to it.”

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