• US Grand Prix Preview: Austin Powered

US Grand Prix Preview: Austin Powered

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 28, 2019) – After a difficult Mexican Grand Prix, there truly is no place like home as Haas F1 Team heads home to the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.

The only American team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship, Haas F1 Team finally gets to race on home soil after the majority of its Formula One brethren enjoyed home grands prix of their own. Part of that Texas soil includes Haas Hill, located between turns 18-19 on the 5.513-kilometer (3.426-mile), 20-turn track, where throngs of Haas F1 Team fans have gathered since 2016 to cheer on the organization that in less than four years is already 21st on the list of teams that have scored the most points in their Formula One histories – and this is in a sport enjoying its 70th anniversary and celebrated its 1,000th grand prix back in April.

Despite a frustrating season that currently has Haas F1 Team ninth in the constructors’ standings, seven points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo and 27 points ahead of 10th-place Williams, the American squad remains bullish on its chances at COTA. Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have both earned points-paying drives at COTA. In the second Formula One race at the track in 2013, Grosjean finished a career-best second to the dominant Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel. It’s one of three point-paying results Grosjean has achieved in his seven career Formula One starts at COTA. Teammate Magnussen finished in the points in his first Formula One start at COTA in 2014 when he came home eighth. And in his most recent Formula One start at COTA last year, Magnussen finished ninth, although not according to the record books. That’s because in post-race technical inspection, FIA Stewards determined that Magnussen’s racecar consumed more than the maximum allotment of 105 kilograms of fuel during the 56-lap race.

Having a thirsty engine is appropriate for a team that has remained hungry, even after finishing an impressive fifth in the constructors’ ranks last year. Haas F1 Team’s strong showing in 2018 coincided with the incredibly stout performance of its counterpart in NASCAR – Stewart-Haas Racing. Gene Haas, founder and chairman of Haas F1 Team, co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. That outfit racked up 16 wins, 15 poles, 60 top-fives, 115 top-10s and 3,949 laps led in 2018 between its four-car NASCAR Cup Series team and two-car NASCAR Xfinity Series team.

The Formula One paddock will get a taste of what Stewart-Haas Racing is all about on Thursday when Stewart himself brings his No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Mustang onto the track for a demonstration run. Then, he’ll turn the seat over to Grosjean and Magnussen, who will each get to wheel the 1,452-kilogram (3,200-pound) racecar around America’s only purpose-built Formula One track. It will be a stark contrast between the 733-kilogram (1,616-pound) Haas VF-19 that the duo will race throughout the United States Grand Prix weekend.

Contrast best describes a lap around COTA. It is a counter-clockwise circuit – one of only five on the 22-race Formula One calendar, joining Azerbaijan, Singapore, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Just 14 percent of a lap around COTA is spent under braking, with drivers at full throttle for nearly 60 percent of their lap. High speed and rapid changes of direction comprise the layout between turns two and 10, with this first sector akin to the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex at Silverstone Circuit in England. The end of the lap from turn 12 through turn 20 before hitting the frontstretch features low-speed combinations of mainly second-gear corners. The long backstraight, however, prevents teams from running maximum downforce as drivers want to retain as much speed as possible to either attack or defend through the tight turn 12. This corner, along with the uphill run to turn one and the hairpin in turn 11, provide good passing opportunities.

All of this makes the United States Grand Prix a race no one wants to pass up, and it’s one with special purpose for Haas F1 Team.

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

Sports are big in America and right now, baseball’s World Series is underway, basketball and hockey have started their respective seasons, and football is right in the heart of its season. And in motorsports, NASCAR is in the semi-final stage of its playoffs, with the third-to-last race of the season happening just a few hours away on Sunday in Fort Worth. It’s a crowded landscape. How can Formula One, and the United States Grand Prix in particular, stand out from the crowd?

“I think Formula One has made good progress over the last few years in the United States. The viewing figures are up and the United States Grand Prix in Austin is almost always sold out. I think progress is being made. It is difficult, as it’s a crowded space there with sports, but viewership is increasing. I think Circuit of the Americas has helped a lot to achieve that, and I think Haas F1 Team – with Gene Haas investing in the team – has also helped achieve a lot in terms of making it more popular in the United States. I’m sure there’s a lot more to come.” 

It appears Formula One is closer to having a second race in America, perhaps as early as 2021, in Miami. How helpful will a second race in the United States be to increasing Formula One’s popularity in America, as well as the popularity of Haas F1 Team?

“Absolutely, it will help. For Haas F1 Team, more races in America is good. But, more than for Haas – Formula One in general – having more races in the United States is good. Miami is a place where I think Formula One is already followed quite a lot. Having it near a big city is always nice and cool. We hope it will happen.”

On Thursday, your drivers will get a taste of a NASCAR stock car with instruction from three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. What can they expect when they drive that 3,200-pound (1,451-kilogram) Ford Mustang around COTA?

“I’m sure the guys will love it, as will Tony – he likes to do this stuff. For Tony to be back in a big car, on a big circuit, it’ll be cool. Our drivers, I’m sure they will enjoy it. Kevin tested a sprint car last year and he loved it. NASCAR cars are big, powerful machines. I think people will enjoy seeing it.”  

You’ve managed NASCAR teams and Formula One teams. While the style of cars and the technology associated with the cars are different, are there some similar methodologies when it comes to finding speed and getting the most out of team personnel?

“Absolutely. All motor racing at the top level – and NASCAR is top level, and Formula One – it’s all very similar in terms of trying to get the best people for the job. The opposition is always pushing. There’s never a day where you can rest. You just need to work harder and smarter than anybody else – then you have success. They are very similar, not as cars and technology, but in terms of managing a team, there’s not a big difference.”