Haas confident of points return, after upgrades yield strong qualifying
Haas turned up to the Spanish Grand Prix with what they described as “significant” developments in their bid to reaffirm themselves as the team to beat in the midfield. Leaving the circuit on Friday, Romain Grosjean was optimistic that the team could qualify both cars in the top 10, and they did just that.
Grosjean will line up in seventh place alongside team mate Kevin Magnussen on the fourth row of the grid. It’s the first time the team has qualified inside the top 8 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya and is Haas’ best overall qualifying result of 2019. And the prospect of their first points since Australia in March left a smile on the faces of both two drivers ahead of race day.
“I’ve got faith”, says Grosjean, “I’ve got faith the car will be good tomorrow, we’ve been working hard and here we knew our problems should disappear. It doesn’t mean it’s not underlying and we need to keep working for the rest of the season but yeah we knew it should be good.”
Haas’ latest upgrade sees the introduction of a new front wing and floor in an attempt to aid the tyre issues that have plagued them over the course of the season.
The American squad were the class of the midfield in Australia where they backed up a double Q3 finish with points courtesy of Kevin Magnussen’s seventh place. But after strong showings in qualifying in Bahrain and China, they missed the top 10 shootout in Azerbaijan - and missed the points in all three race.
Their main weakness has been understanding the tyres and finding their optimum operating window. The new upgrades – along with the high-energy dynamics of the Barcelona circuit, which is sympathetic to generating heat in the tyres – have given Haas hope of a return to points-finish form on the track they went so well in in pre-season testing.
“The race should be alright,” said Grosjean. “Yesterday was okay - not incredibly fast, but fast enough I think to keep the guys behind. So [we’re] just going to work around [that] and try to get both cars in the points at the finish line – that would be a good help in our challenge of getting a good position in the constructors’ championship.”
Grosjean alone ran the new upgrades on Friday so the team could cross-reference the changes with the old package on Magnussen’s car. After seeing positive results, the Dane was equipped with the new tools for Saturday and instantly put them to good use.
The Haas pairing was faster than the Red Bull of Max Verstappen in FP3, before Magnussen set a qualifying time just one-hundredth of a second slower than his team mate to join him on the fourth row for Sunday’s race.
“I’m very hopeful this track is better for us,” said Magnussen. “It looked hopeful in the long runs on Friday – not as good as qualifying, but better than previous races and this track is one [that’s] pretty hard to overtake [on], so the guys behind need to be quite a lot faster to get past us, so we’ll see. I'm also positive that we can have a good race tomorrow.”
Haas sit eighth in the constructors’ standings, 10 points behind McLaren. Magnussen is 10th in the driver standings after his strong showing in Melbourne, while Grosjean is yet to get off the mark.