Haas and Mercedes Abu Dhabi GP Preview

Haas F1: Sophomores No More

2016 Start
2016 Start

Knowledge is power. The phrase is attributed to Sir Francis Bacon, an English philosopher and scientist from the late Renaissance period. Despite those words being more than 400 years old, they remain relevant.

For Haas F1 Team, those words ring especially true. The only American team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship will finish its sophomore year in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Nov. 26 at Yas Marina Circuit. At minimum, they will have scored 18 more points than in 2016 when they became the first American Formula One team in 30 years.

That inaugural season netted 29 points, the most of any new team in this millennium. When Jaguar debuted in 2000 and when Toyota came on the scene in 2002, each entity managed only two point-paying finishes in their entire first seasons for a combined total of six points.

That Haas F1 Team has substantially bettered its points haul in 2017 while on the cusp of improving its constructors standing is due in large part to knowledge, specifically, the knowledge gained from participating at motorsports’ highest level for almost two years.

Eighth in the constructors standings with 47 points with still one race remaining, Haas F1 Team is just two points behind seventh-place Renault and six points arrears sixth-place Toro Rosso. A points-paying drive in Abu Dhabi could propel Haas F1 Team past these Formula One stalwarts and cap a solid sophomore season.

The organization’s second year will end when the checkered flag drops at the 5.554-kilometer (3.451-mile), 21-turn Yas Marina Circuit. Haas F1 Team will soon become rising juniors as they prepare for winter testing in late February and early March at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya before embarking on a 21-race campaign beginning with the March 25 Australian Grand Prix.

Preparation for 2018 began months ago when Haas F1 Team started developing its next-generation car while simultaneously running its 2017 car with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

Despite the dual workload, Grosjean has scored 28 points and Magnussen has tallied 19 points, a haul punctuated by two double-points results – May 28 in the Monaco Grand Prix when Grosjean finished eighth and Magnussen came home 10th, and Oct. 8 in the Japanese Grand Prix when Magnussen took eighth and Grosjean crossed the stripe in ninth. Eleven times this season Haas F1 Team has come away with points, more than double its amount of point-paying finishes from 2016.

Talent combined with knowledge is responsible for this uptick in performance, and with the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix beckoning, Haas F1 Team aims to parlay this combination into points one more time.

Guenther Steiner

Haas driver Romain Grosjean
Haas driver Romain Grosjean

Abu Dhabi is the season finale, and it’s also the finale of Haas F1 Team’s sophomore year. After having to build brand new racecars in back-to-back seasons under two sets of very different rules packages, how does this year compare to last year?

“It was very similar. The first year we had to build a new car completely, and the team, but we had a little bit more time. This year, again, we had to do a completely new car – we already had the team built up – but we still had to optimize it. The intensity was almost the same, but when I think about our 2018 car, the intensity is the same again. I don’t think there’s a lot of change in whatever you’re doing in Formula One. Everything is always on the edge, everything goes to the last minute, and it’s all at the highest level."

Were there any key learnings from last year that you applied to this year, be it in car construction, personnel or even race weekend protocols?

“You need to better yourself in every little detail. There is not one big thing that I would say we would do completely different, but there are a lot of things you optimize with hindsight."

Regardless of the outcome in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team will have surpassed its point tally from 2016 by 18 points. Are points scored the surest, most tangible examples of progress, or are there other elements of progress not everyone is able to see from the outside?

“I think points tell something, but not everything. Even if we race the same teams, there are different levels of performance. I wouldn’t have said we’ve gotten better if we had less points, but looking in from the outside, I think we’ve made progress at all levels. We wanted to better our position, but at this moment in time we are equal, so sure we will try to get better in Abu Dhabi. I was hoping to better our end-of-season position by one spot."

Prior to 2017, there were those who proclaimed that your second season would be harder than your first. Was this accurate, or were the challenges just different?

“The year-to-year challenges are different. We have to adapt as we do this. If you cannot keep up with the challenges, you shouldn’t be working in Formula One. The second year is always more difficult, but we knew this in year one. I think we successfully worked in year one so we didn’t fall back in year two."

What were the team’s challenges this year?

“The challenge is just to optimize everything and find the weak spots where we can gain performance with the least amount of changes."

What were the team’s strengths?

“We’ve been working together now for over a year – over two years with some people – so it’s just like we know each other better and we know what to expect. We know each other’s limits. That helps a lot when you do things. We’re well covered personnel-wise. We have enough people who are part of the team that we can lean on."

The way Haas F1 Team is set up is unorthodox, at least by Formula One standards. Does the team’s success in its second year validate Haas F1 Team’s approach?

“It shows this is a model that is, at least, not wrong. If there is a better model out there – for sure, there is always something better – but our model works. What we set out to do, we’re doing."

While the drivers and constructors championships have been decided, the midfield battle is still very much alive heading into Abu Dhabi. Haas F1 Team is currently eighth in the constructors standings, with seventh just two points out and sixth only six points away. Is bettering your point standing still possible?

“Absolutely. We will have a go at it. In Brazil, without the two accidents on lap one, I think we’d have had a good chance to get some points. Then again, we didn’t do it, so it’s just ‘if’ and ‘would’. We will, for sure, try hard in Abu Dhabi."

Is there a particular moment from this season that stands out the most for you?

“I think finishing with two cars in the top-10 in Japan, where a lot of people had written us off already in the season. Finishing eighth and ninth wasn’t so bad."

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]When the season starts, Abu Dhabi seems very far away, yet here we are. Has the season gone by quickly?

“Life has gone by quickly this year, not only the racing season. It’s an intense schedule. We do a lot of work and a lot of travel, and that’s not only for me, that’s for everybody on all the teams. Everybody puts in a lot of effort to put this show on the road. The season goes by quickly, and life goes by quickly."

Yas Marina Circuit is a showplace. What makes it stand out on the Formula One schedule?

“First of all, it’s the last race of the season, so that makes it stand out a lot. As a facility, it’s very nice and the location is very cool. Being there is a nice end to the season. It’s warm while it’s cold everywhere else where the teams are based."

With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool and, in turn, how does that affect tire management?

“When you go into the race weekend, we know which practice sessions to count on, and the ones that don’t count toward the race, where the ambient and track temperatures are hotter than in the race. We just adapt to that."

As you head into the offseason, how much “off" is there, or is that just a misnomer because preseason testing tends to arrive quickly?

“It arrives so quickly. Looking at my personal schedule, I’ve got just one weekend off between now and Christmas. The rest still involves traveling and doing things to get ready for next year. That’s part of the job. This season is nearly done, but 2018 really started three months ago. We just keep on going. I hope some of the race team, like the mechanics, who for sure work a lot harder than I do, can get a few weeks off so they’re ready to go for next year."

As we look ahead to 2018, how different is next year’s car in terms of design with the addition of the halo?

“The addition of the halo is new to Formula One, but all the rest of the car stays very similar. The regulations have changed very little. Aesthetically, it’s almost nothing, except the halo and the sharkfin. I think it will look different, but we’ll get used to it pretty quick."

What are the implications for the halo in terms of weight and the car’s overall aerodynamics?

“The weight of the halo is the same for everybody. On the aero development, it’s just one more part the aero group has to get into their development program to try and get the best out of it. It’s nothing too special. They’re used to the challenge. It’s just a new element introduced into their playing field. They will play with it to try to get it as efficient as they can.

Toto Wolff Talks Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi

We head to Abu Dhabi for the final race of the 2017 season with the same hunger and fire in our stomach that we took to Melbourne over seven months ago. During that time, we have pushed ourselves to new limits, bounced back from painful defeats and conquered new and unexpected challenges. Spurred on by strong rivals, we had to dig deeper this year than ever before. And that battle made both titles the most satisfying yet. Our target was to become the first team to win championships across a major regulation change and we are proud to have achieved that.

But regardless of what stands in the trophy cabinets back at base, our focus is always on the next race and the next championship. Our goal in Abu Dhabi is quite simple: to give the best of ourselves, to extract the maximum from our “diva" in her final race – and to win. We saw promising pace in both Mexico and Brazil, both circuits where we had expected to struggle more than we did, and this is a positive sign of the progress we have made in understanding our difficulties this year. But we have not been on the top step of the podium since Austin and we are determined to change that in Abu Dhabi.

Yas Marina is a circuit that holds intense memories for the team, with two title showdowns in the past three seasons. We have claimed three consecutive wins and very much intend to make it four this year. The circuit offers a range of slow to medium speed corners that perhaps are not our car’s most natural habitat, but our recent steps forward give us confidence that we can perform strongly there. Valtteri is on an upward swing of form, with two podiums in the past two races; and Lewis will be aiming to finish this historic season on a high. This is a goal that we all share.

Featured this Week: On Your Marks…

There’s perhaps no better visualization of Formula One as a team sport than in a pit stop, as the crews swarm around their cars, a blur of motion, teamwork and absolute precision in a split second. And this year, the Silver Arrows crew have proven themselves the best in the business, winning the DHL Fastest Pit Stop Award for the very first time.

The award, introduced in 2015, recognizes the outstanding teamwork and performance of the most consistent crew in F1 over the course of a season. It’s an accolade for the unsung heroes who make those critically important, race-deciding stops happen.

Massa pit stop
Massa pit stop

This couldn’t have been achieved without a huge effort from the pit crew and a concerted push by the team to develop and improve its equipment and techniques over the last few years in the drive to have the most consistent stops in Formula One. What good is one stop at 2s, if the rest are at 3s? The perfect pit stop is not about chasing records – it’s about consistency.

Much of the groundwork that sealed the award was laid over the winter months, as the race team returned to work after the Christmas break. Practice for the new season started almost immediately, with three programs of 20 practice stops per week to get them back in the groove.

The crew work through 15 stops a day from Thursday to Saturday of each race weekend, followed by five or more final equipment checks on a Sunday morning. With one race still to go, the team have completed an astonishing 891 practice stops this year so far.

That includes 70 practice nose changes – two of which have occurred in race scenarios. It took the crew just 9.1s to swap Lewis’ damaged nose and replace a punctured tire in Mexico, as he set off after Vettel on his way to the title. Stacking cars – stopping both Lewis and Valtteri one after the other on the same lap – is another high-pressure moment, which has occurred five times this year for a total of 10 stops. Include a five-second penalty for Lewis in Bahrain and the headrest incident in Baku and that’s a lot of stops.

The quality of the competition in recent years has forced every single team to raise its game. If every team can regularly target a low 2s stop, there is extra pressure to be quick. It also pushes teams to develop. With the margins shrinking year by year, there is an increased emphasis on consistent, clean stops.

This has been the mission of the Mercedes crew for 2017. The team clocked a scorching 2.35s stop for Lewis at Spa – but it was the Williams crew that saw the fastest pit stop recorded this year, as they pulled off a 2.02s time for Felipe Massa at Silverstone.

Measured across 49 stops in 19 Grands Prix, the Silver Arrows have recorded the fastest pit lane time of the race an impressive nine times this year and the best stationary stop six times. But, most impressive of all, the team has achieved the best average time for both cars through the pits on 12 occasions over the course of the season. The team has ranked in the top three average times on 17 occasions, missing out just twice all year – specifically in China and Bahrain, which were both the result of equipment failure. In simple terms, no team was more consistent through the pit lane in 2017.

Taking DHL’s race stationary times, the Mercedes crew lead the pack with a median time of 2.7s and a mean of 2.55s across the year. Red Bull were the second fastest squad on average, with the team from Milton Keynes clocking a median time of 2.8s and a mean of 2.7s. Williams might have had the quickest single stationary stop of the year at Silverstone – but the median for all their stops over the season was 2.9s, with a mean of 2.75s leaving them third in the charts.

To demonstrate just how competitive the battle to be the best in the pit lane was this year, the median for all 10 teams ahead of the final round was 3.1s, with a mean time of 2.9s. Ferrari came in fourth, just shy of Red Bull. Haas edged Toro Rosso into P5 – but both teams were close to the overall average.

Remember, this is all achieved under the greatest of pressure. That is an ever-present in Formula One – but when your cars are running at the front, there’s everything to lose by getting it wrong. A botched pit stop is always news but a smooth stop is rarely given much attention – unless it serves to directly vault a car ahead of a rival. Even then, it’s a matter of expectation that the stop should be a good one.

In the pursuit of excellence, mistakes can happen – likewise equipment failures, as experienced by the team in China and Bahrain. Fortunately, the crew’s work is supported closely by the strategy department and Design Office. The front and rear jacks, for example, are designed in-house. And if one of them fails, such as it did in China, it’s taken just as seriously as a part on the car. Every single stop is a learning experience. Each member of the crew has an input into the process of the stop and they are all provided with constant feedback, led by data driven analysis from the strategy team.

Nowhere has this learning and evolution process been more evident than at two hugely contrasting races – the Italian and Singapore Grands Prix. Monza was a supreme team performance, as Lewis and Valtteri wrapped up a famous 1-2 at the home of the Scuderia, while in the pits the crew clocked the two quickest pit stop times in the box – a 2.33s and a 2.15s respectively.

In Singapore, under immense pressure to capitalize on the early accident that eliminated the two Ferraris, the Silver Arrows pit crew took just 2.27s to turn Lewis around as he pitted from the lead ahead of a prowling Daniel Ricciardo. Those Red Bull boys were fast – but the crew in black were faster and Lewis emerged once more with a lead he wouldn’t relinquish.

After a long season, this award is clearly the icing on the cake for the crew – especially those who have put the work in over the last few years to ensure the team has the most consistent stops in Formula One. It’s an accolade that everyone in the pit lane wants to win and, in such a competitive arena, those top five or six teams will all be gunning for the crown in 2018. Expect every crew to be pushing hard to shave another 0.2s off their average time over the winter months…

On your marks, boys!

Yas Marina Circuit

  • Abu Dhabi
    Abu Dhabi

    Total number of race laps: 55

  • Complete race distance: 305.355 kilometers (189.739 miles)
  • Pit lane speed limit: 80 kph (50 mph)
  • This 5.554-kilometer (3.451-mile), 21-turn circuit has hosted Formula One since 2009, with last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix serving as the venue’s eighth grand prix.
  • Sebastian Vettel holds the race lap record at Yas Marina Circuit (1:40.279), set in 2009 with Red Bull.
  • Lewis Hamilton holds the qualifying lap record at the Yas Marina Circuit (1:38.434), set in 2011 with McLaren in Q2.
  • The Yas Marina Circuit is a showplace, and it should be considering it is widely believed to be the most expensive Formula One track ever built, with some estimates topping $1 billion. It is a purpose-built facility on a man-made island and it is one of the many new Formula One circuits designed by Hermann Tilke. It is less than a decade old and it features a counter-clockwise layout that boasts a top speed of 325 kph (202 mph) and an average speed of 190 kph (118 mph). It has nine right turns and 12 left turns on a waterfront course that rivals Monaco and Singapore. Its extravagance and uniqueness is best highlighted by these attributes: the pit lane exit passes underneath the circuit via a tunnel and the garages are air-conditioned. Yas Marina has a powerful lighting system, and it lays claim to holding Formula One’s first twilight race.
  • DYK? Abu Dhabi is home to the world’s fastest roller-coaster. Located inside Ferrari World (of course), the Formula Rossa ride reaches 240 kph (150 mph) in less than five seconds and climbs to 52 meters (171 feet) to create 4.8Gs for its riders. And if emulating a drive in a Formula One car isn’t your thing, you can go downhill skiing despite Abu Dhabi’s average November temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit). Ski Dubai in the Mall of the Emirates offers indoor, downhill skiing with 3,000 square meters of snow (32,292 square feet) and an 85-meter high (279 foot) mountain.
  • During the course of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, lows will range from 22-23 degrees Celsius (72-74 degrees Fahrenheit) to highs of 28-29 degrees Celsius (83-85 degrees Fahrenheit). Relative humidity ranges from 29 percent (dry) to 83 percent (humid), with a dew point varying from 10 degrees Celsius/50 degrees Fahrenheit (very comfortable) to 22 degrees Celsius/71 degrees Fahrenheit (very muggy). The dew point is rarely below 6 degrees Celsius/43 degrees Fahrenheit (dry) or above 24 degrees Celsius/75 degrees Fahrenheit (very muggy). Typical wind speeds vary from 0-23 kph/0-14 mph (calm to moderate breeze), rarely exceeding 55 kph/34 mph (high wind).

Tires

  • Abu Dhabi layout
    Abu Dhabi layout

    Pirelli is bringing three tire compounds to Abu Dhabi:

    • P Zero Yellow soft – less grip, less wear (used for long-race stints)
      • This is one of the most frequently used tires in Pirelli’s range, as it strikes a balance between performance and durability, with the accent on performance. It is still geared toward speed rather than long distances, but it remains capable of providing teams with a competitive advantage at the beginning of the race where cars are carrying a full fuel load, and at the end of the race where the fuel load is much lighter and the race effectively becomes a sprint. It is a high working-range compound.
    • P Zero Red supersoft – more grip, medium wear (used for shorter-race stints and for initial portion of qualifying)
      • This is the second softest tire in Pirelli’s range, and it is ideal for tight and twisting circuits, especially in cold weather, when maximum grip is needed. The supersofts warm up rapidly, which has made it a stalwart choice for qualifying. But with increased grip comes increased degradation. It is a low working-range compound.
    • P Zero Purple ultrasoft – highest amount of grip, highest amount of wear (used for qualifying and select race situations)
      • This is the softest tire in Pirelli’s range, with rapid warming and massive performance. It is best used on tight and twisting circuits that put a premium on mechanical grip. However, because it is so soft, it has a limited lifespan. It is a low working-range compound.
  • The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix marks the 10th time these three compounds have been packaged together. Teams most recently ran this tire package in the Mexican Grand Prix Oct. 27-29 at Aut¢dromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. These same compounds were used for last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
  • The Yellow soft tire has been used in every grand prix this season. The Red supersoft tire has been used everywhere except the Spanish Grand Prix. The Purple ultrasoft has been used in the Australian Grand Prix, the Russian Grand Prix, the Monaco Grand Prix, the Canadian Grand Prix, the Austrian Grand Prix, the Belgian Grand Prix, the Singapore Grand Prix, the United States Grand Prix and the Mexican Grand Prix.
  • Two of the three available compounds must be used during the race. Teams are able to decide when they want to run which compound, adding an element of strategy to the race. A driver can also use all three sets of Pirelli tires in the race, if they so desire. (If there are wet track conditions, the Cinturato Blue full wet tire and the Cinturato Green intermediate tire will be made available.)
  • Pirelli provides each driver 13 sets of dry tires for the race weekend. Of those 13 sets, drivers and their teams can choose the specifications of 10 of those sets from the three compounds Pirelli selected. The remaining three sets are defined by Pirelli – two mandatory tire specifications for the race (one set of Yellow softs and one set of Red supersofts) and one mandatory specification for Q3 (one set of Purple ultrasofts).

2016 Results

POS NO DRIVER CAR/ENGINE LAPS Behind
PTS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes/Mercedes 55 +0.000s
25
2 6 Nico Rosberg Mercedes/Mercedes 55 +0.439s 18
3 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari/Ferrari 55 +0.843s 15
4 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing/Renault 55 +1.685s 12
5 3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing/Renault 55 +5.315s 10
6 7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari/Ferrari 55 +18.816s 8
7 27 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 55 +50.114s 6
8 11 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 55 +58.776s 4
9 19 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 55 +59.436s 2
10 14 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 55 +59.896s 1
11 8 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari 55 +76.777s 0
12 21 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 55 +95.113s 0
13 31 Esteban Ocon Manor/Mercedes 54 +1 lap 0
14 94 Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes 54 +1 lap 0
15 9 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari 54 +1 lap 0
16 12 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 54 +1 lap 0
17 30 Jolyon Palmer Renault/Renault 54 +1 lap 0
NC 55 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 41 DNF 0
NC 26 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 14 DNF 0
NC 22 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 12 DNF 0
NC 77 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 6 DNF 0
NC 20 Kevin Magnussen Renault 5 DNF 0

Fastest Race Lap: Sebastian Vettel: 1m43.729s

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