Haas preview the Australian GP

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Romain Grosjean is refusing to set any goals for the
Melbourne race while Kevin Magnussen says it would be a “boost
to have a good beginning” with points at the start.


Romain Grosjean
Haas F1 Team tested at Barcelona for eight days over a
12-day span. How did it go and how did it prepare you for
Australia?

“It went well. You could really see a difference from last year
when we had our first winter test. The team was much more
ready, everyone knew what they had to do. We had a few small
problems, as you would expect, but generally, everything was
sorted very quickly. We got some mileage that was very good.
Everyone was back to work discovering the new car. It went
well. I don’t think you’re ever fully prepared to go to
Australia with only four days driving the new car. It’s the
same thing for everyone, so we have to make the most of it.”

How would you describe the VF-17?
“It’s a pretty sexy car. It’s got a lot of potential, which we
haven’t unlocked yet. It’s a good baseline, though, and so far
it feels pretty good to drive. There are a few things I’d like
to improve and make better for the first few races, but I think
it’s a car that should give us some good races.”

Much has been made about how physical these new cars
are to drive. After testing in Barcelona, how did your body
feel?

“I didn’t feel too bad. But let’s put it this way, if I’d been
in the same condition as I was last year, I would have been
destroyed. We pushed really hard in our training. We may
actually have overdone it. It’s not as bad as we thought it
would be. The cars are going to be challenging and some of the
races this year are going to be epic, especially where it’s
warm with a high-speed track, it’ll be very hard on the body. I
like the challenge and I like to think that we can always get
more prepared and better trained. It felt good as we did the
proper training. The cars are much harder to drive than last
year.”

Was there any particular area of your body where you
felt the effects of increased g-forces?

“No. I think the whole body, in the first week of testing, was
getting back used to it. The neck is painful, and the back,
you’re getting used to the positioning of your legs. In the
second week, everything feels much more normal. No real big
aspects from testing, but as I said, we had pushed the training
hard and that’ll be the case again before Australia, before
China and the early part of the season. We’ll build more muscle
and make sure all the areas are covered.”

Tires are 25 percent wider this year, but have you
noticed any change in the characteristics of the various tire
compounds or have they remained consistent from last
year?

“I think Pirelli did a good job in making the tires more
forgiving and less sensitive to overheating. Hopefully, that
will allow us to follow another car closely, slide a little bit
and not overheat and lose grip. Let’s see if it is as we think
it will be on the track. If so, we can push the car much harder
and have more fun.”

With lap times coming down by roughly five seconds,
where is the time being found? Corner entry? Corner exit?
Both?

“Both, and mid-corner I’d say as well. The high-speed is much
faster and low-speed we brake later and we carry more speed.
Basically everywhere except from a straight line where we’re
losing time.”

The Ferrari 062 appeared fast and reliable in testing.
How did it feel compared to last year’s engine?

“It felt pretty good. Ferrari has made a good step. The
drivability was very good. We haven’t yet had qualifying
maximum power, which you only get at the racetrack, but I’ve
got a good feeling that this engine is going to be nicely
pushing us on the straight.”

Speed is obviously the name of the game in racing. But
with new cars built under new regulations, how important is
reliability, particularly at the start of the
season?

“Reliability early in the season is always tricky. All the cars
have more stress, more g-forces, and so on. All the designers
have been working hard trying to understand what the
requirements are and that’s why we go winter testing, as well.
We try to see where there are areas we can make things better.
Clearly in the early season, there’s always a chance that
reliability is not perfect, but you can gain from that.”

Haas F1 Team’s debut at last year’s Australian Grand
Prix was pretty remarkable, with your sixth-place finish the
best debut for any Formula One team since 2002 when Mika Salo
finished sixth for Toyota, also at the Australian Grand Prix.
Can you describe that moment and what it meant for you and the
team?

“It meant a lot. It was a result we were clearly not expecting
after a tough qualifying. We had a brilliant race. When we took
the checkered flag, for us, it was clearly as good as winning
the race. It was fortunate but perfect.”

Did that result validate your move from Renault to Haas
F1 Team?

“I didn’t need that to validate the move. I knew the day I
signed that it was the right choice for my career. Of course,
good results are always a good thing, but I was already
convinced that I’d made the right choice.”

How important is it to start the year with some
point-paying finishes, as it can give the team some cushion for
the rest of the season when some of the bigger teams further
develop their cars?

“I think this year it’s actually going to be the opposite. This
year, if you had to choose, I think you’d want to start slow
and finish hard, and not the opposite. This is because in 2018
the cars are going to be very similar to 2017, and therefore if
you’re finishing on a high it means you’ve understood the
regulations and everything’s going well. Your next car will be
on that trend. We really want to keep the development going and
push through the year, improving race after race.”

What are your goals for the season-opening race in
Australia?

“I don’t really set goals. Let’s see how it goes. We’ll do our
best and, hopefully, we’ll remember it as well as Australia
2016.”

What is your favorite part of the Albert Park
Circuit?

“I love the backstraight with the high-speed corner – turns 10
and 11.”

Explain a lap around the Albert Park
Circuit.

“Going down the main straight and heading into turn one, you
always get the sun in your eyes. It’s quite a nice corner,
right inside corner, fourth gear with a little bit of inside
curb then outside curb. Turn three is a bit of a tricky corner.
You have to be careful on exit and well placed for the next
left, which is turn four. Turn five, if you’ve got a good car,
it’s flat out. Turn seven is then a right inside corner in
third gear. It’s quite a good corner as well, with a bit of a
tricky curb on exit. Turn nine requires big braking. Total
application is very important because you’ve got the back
straight and you’re very close to the wall on exit. Then you
have my favorite corners between (turns) 11 and 12 and 13. It’s
high speed, sixth gear probably. It’s a good feeling. Going
into (turn) 14, you have lots of braking as you’re carrying
quite a bit of speed in there. (Turn) 15 needs just a bit of a
lift off (the throttle), right inside corner, pretty cool to
drive. You then need to be well positioned for the last braking
point into the left-hand side, where it’s quite tight. The last
corner you want to stay flat out, but it’s a bit of a tricky
one with a bump in the middle. I enjoy Albert Park. It changes
a lot during the weekend. It’s not a permanent circuit, so the
grip is changing a lot. The race start is quite late, but it’s
one of my favorite grand prix. It’s not an easy track to get on
with. It’s very hard on fuel consumption as well. For the first
race of the season, it’s going to be interesting.”

Kevin Magnussen
Haas F1 Team tested at Barcelona for eight days over a
12-day span. How did it go and how did it prepare you for
Australia?

“I think it went well. On my days I got a lot of laps, lots of
kilometres, and some very good testing done. It was good to
learn about the car, especially this year with the cars being
very different to last year. It was very useful. Now I’m just
waiting to get back in the car in Australia and get racing
again.”

How would you describe the VF-17?
“I think it’s fast. The first impression you get when you drive
it is how much grip there is. The thing about this year is that
everyone has gained a lot of grip and I’m sure everyone had
that impression when they got back in their cars. Hopefully,
we’ll be competitive. Hopefully, it’s a car that we can work
with and improve over the year. The first feelings are
positive.”

Much has been made about how physical these new cars
are to drive. After testing in Barcelona, how did your body
feel?

“After the first day it was a bit tough. I could definitely
feel my neck. After my second day, and for the rest of the
test, I was fine. It’s good to feel that the work had paid off
and that I’m fit enough to race. I’ll keep working, and I’m
even more motivated to train now that I can feel the
difference. That’s really good.”

Was there any particular area of your body where you
felt the effects of increased g-forces?

“The neck was the big one. I could even feel it in my legs,
keeping my knees apart, and just keeping my legs upright. That
was certainly something I’ve never felt before through the
corners. My glutes were being worked in the car, which was
something completely new. It’s good to feel that. It’s what we
want. We want to go fast and we want to be pushing the car
hard. These cars allow that.”

Tires are 25 percent wider this year, but have you
noticed any change in the characteristics of the various tire
compounds or have they remained consistent from last
year?

“It’s still a little early. It’s hard to even say after the
test in Barcelona because the temperatures were not
representative of a lot of the races we’ll do. Some will be a
little cold, but I guess in Australia we could be in a
situation where temperatures will be the same as Barcelona. In
that case, the tires are going to behave well. They are durable
and you can push them hard. You can push relatively hard for a
whole stint. We’ll see when we get to the hotter races how the
tires behave.”

With lap times coming down by roughly five seconds,
where is the time being found? Corner entry? Corner exit?
Both?

“It’s both. It’s from when you hit the brakes to going full
throttle. That’s the place we’re gaining the time. You could
say we’re gaining more than those five seconds in the corners
because we’re then losing time on the straights compared to
last year. We have to gain more than those five seconds back in
the corners. It’s pretty impressive.”

You have the honour of being the only person to have
sampled each current Formula One engine supplier – Mercedes and
Honda with McLaren, Renault with Renault Sport F1 and now
Ferrari with Haas F1 Team. How does the Ferrari 062 feel
compared to those other engines?

“To be honest, none of the engines feel very different. They
all seem pretty similar. They sound a bit different, and
operationally they’re slightly different engine to engine, but
the Ferrari is very easy to work on. It’s easy to understand
and the drivability is very good. Also, the power seems to be
good this year, so I’m very happy.”

Speed is obviously the name of the game in racing. But
with new cars built under new regulations, how important is
reliability, particularly at the start of the
season?

“It’s important every race. Reliability is number one. You need
to be able to finish a race, and then you can make it perform
well after that. We were reliable in testing. We didn’t have
any big issues with the power unit at all in testing, and
neither did Ferrari. I think that’s a good sign and the power
seems to be good as well. No complaints.”

Haas F1 Team had a remarkable debut last year in the
Australian Grand Prix. And in 2014, you also had a remarkable
Formula One debut at Australia, starting fourth and finishing
second to Nico Rosberg. How were you able to achieve such a
strong result in your first Formula One race?

“I think I just went into it with a smile. I enjoyed it. I
didn’t really think too much about the race. I had nothing to
lose. I just went for it. I drove at my best, had a bit of luck
as well, and I ended up on the podium. It was a great
experience and a memory I will have forever. It’s always going
to be quite cool to say that I finished second in my first
Formula One race, although it would have been nice to win. I’ll
do that another time.”  

How important is it to start the year with some
point-paying finishes?

“It’s always important to have a good start to the year just to
kick-start everything. It gives you a boost to have a good
beginning. The end is important too, but it’s always nice to
start off the year with a good race. We’ll do our best and see
what we get.”

What are your goals for the season-opening race in
Australia?

“My goal for the season, and it’s the same for the team, is to
try and improve on the result from last year, which was very
good. Going on to then finish eighth in the constructor’s
championship, with 29 points, was a great result for a
first-year Formula One team. To improve on that, even just a
little bit, would be a good target.”

What is your favorite part of the Albert Park
Circuit?

“I think turns one and two are quite cool. I also like the
faster bits like turns eight and nine, and through the big
chicane.”

Explain a lap around the Albert Park
Circuit.

“It’s a bumpy track, especially at turn one, which makes it a
bit difficult to brake late. If you don’t lock up there, that’s
the first step to a good lap. You then have a slow section
through turns three, four and five. Braking there is always
tricky. You have a lot of shadows from the trees around the
park. Finding your braking point is always difficult. You start
going faster on the back. You have the big chicane and then,
finally, you finish off the lap with a difficult section,
including tricky slow corners through (turns) 14, 15 and 16.”

Enjoy
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One
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