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“Desert Yields High-Water Mark for Haas F1 Team”
Second-Year Team Looks to Emulate First-Season Finish at Bahrain Grand Prix
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (April 10, 2017) – After securing its best starting spot in its still young history with a sixth-place qualifying effort March 25 in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team comes into the third race of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir looking to emulate its best finish.
In last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean finished an impressive fifth, effectively one-upping his debut with the American team two weeks prior when he finished sixth in Australia. Not since Shadow Racing – another American team – debuted in 1973 with consecutive points-scoring finishes by Californian George Follmer had an organization earned two top-six results in its first two races.
The back-to-back point-scoring efforts raised eyebrows in the paddock and staked Haas F1 Team as a legitimate Formula One outfit. But in a sport that moves at lightning pace, one’s efforts in the last race, let alone last season, quickly fade. Two races into its sophomore season and with all of 23 races under its belt, that fifth-place finish in the desert remains Haas F1 Team’s high-water mark.
Now the globe-trotting series returns to Bahrain fresh off the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.
After enduring a double DNF (Did Not Finish) in Australia, Haas F1 Team bounced back with a points-paying finish in China. New-for-2017 driver Kevin Magnussen led the way with a strong eighth-place result and Grosjean delivered a spirited, 11th-place performance after starting 19th. The four points earned by Magnussen placed Haas F1 Team seventh in the constructor standings, four points behind sixth-place Williams and four points ahead of an eighth-place tie among Renault, Sauber and McLaren.
Is another points-scoring campaign in the offing, just as it was last year at Bahrain? Haas F1 Team certainly thinks so as its drivers have performed well at the 5.412-kilometer (3.363-mile), 15-turn track.
Grosjean has scored points in four of his five career Formula One starts at Bahrain. His best finish is third, earned twice in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013, and that third-place run in 2012 marked Grosjean’s first career podium. Grosjean finished seventh in 2015 and, of course, fifth last year.
Magnussen has two Formula One starts at Bahrain – one in 2014 with McLaren and the other in 2016 with Renault, where he finished just outside the points in 11th.
But beyond each driver’s finishes at Bahrain is their collective ability to gain positions, regardless of their starting spots. In each of Grosjean’s podium performances, he came from starting spots of seventh and 11th, respectively. In fact, in every Formula One race he’s run at Bahrain, Grosjean has been able to overtake and advance, picking up 23 positions in all. Magnussen has proven he can also dispatch his competition at Bahrain, as he drove from 22nd to 11th in last year’s race.
The ability to overtake stems in part from Bahrain’s generous run-off areas, allowing drivers to push hard without the consequence of running into an unforgiving wall. Substantial track width also provides drivers options when it comes to attacking, as there is plenty of asphalt to tread on while pursuing one’s prey.
But every track has limits, regardless of how much pavement is available, and in 2017 those limits can be found abruptly.
Significantly wider tires from Pirelli, by 60 millimeters (2.4 inches) in the front and 80 millimeters (3.1 inches) in the rear, have brought change to a car’s handling. The 25-percent increase from 2016 to bring the front tires to 305 millimeters (12 inches) and the rear tires to 405 millimeters (15.9 inches) means that finding the balance between running the fastest line possible through a corner without spinning off course rests on a knife’s edge. The amount a car can naturally slide is very limited. The loss of grip is sudden, making the car difficult to catch.
“They (the tires) are done to function in a certain way of sliding, and soon as you go out of that you lose all the downforce,” Grosjean said. “As the downforce is massively high, then the drop is massively bigger – when it is gone, it is gone.”
Add in the fact the Bahrain International Circuit is in the middle of the desert. Sand can pose a problem – to the level of grip on the racetrack and to the performance of the car, with the engine’s air filters checked thoroughly and often.
It’s a gritty environment that often showcases a driver’s and team’s grit, as evidenced by Haas F1 Team and its drivers. With Formula One headed back to Bahrain, Grosjean and Magnussen are bullish on the opportunities that can be secured in Sakhir.