Haas looking to ‘play with Red Bull’ after strong Friday in Spain
Haas enjoyed their strongest Friday of the year so far at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, with Romain Grosjean using his updated VF-19 to split the Red Bulls in Free Practice 2 for the Spanish Grand Prix.
Grosjean ended FP2 in sixth place, within a second of Valtteri Bottas’ session-topping time, ahead of the Red Bull of Pierre Gasly and just 0.118s back from fifth-placed Max Verstappen’s best lap. It left the Frenchman hopeful that the team would be able to repeat the trick during Saturday’s qualifying session.
“I’m feeling optimistic,” said Grosjean, “feeling like we've got a good chance to qualify both cars in the top 10, and even maybe play with the Red Bull.
“I think we're in the mix with them. So we’ll dream big, and let's see where we go. Saying that, [Red Bull] always seem to find something in quali, but I think we've got more coming as well. Let's see. Tomorrow could be a good day.”
Haas have endured a tough three races in Bahrain, China and Baku, struggling to make the VF-19 come alive on the 2019 Pirelli rubber over the course of a race, and meaning the team haven’t scored a top 10 finish in a Grand Prix since Kevin Magnussen’s sixth place in Australia. But having shown startling pace during pre-season testing in Barcelona, Grosjean revealed that the car felt like it had been back in its sweet spot during the first day of running in Spain.
“From the first timed lap, the car was back to where I left it in winter testing,” said Grosjean. “It just worked, it was easy to drive, you could enjoy it, you knew what was coming. It's been very, very different from the last few races. So that's very positive, very happy with that. It shows that really, we've got a very, very strong car. Far too gentle on tyres, so here it's fine because it's warm, there's a lot of energy.”
Grosjean spent Friday running Haas’ upgrade package, which, having proved effective enough to allow him to finish two-tenths up on Kevin Magnussen, was then set to be fitted to his team mate’s car overnight as well. But while Magnussen said that Haas’ pace had also left him “optimistic” for the race, he admitted to being frustrated that the team couldn’t pinpoint exactly why they were able to make their car work better here compared to at other tracks.
“I'm optimistic, said Magnussen. “Our race pace looks better and our quali pace looks fantastic. So no reason to not be positive.
“[But] I'd love to find answers and to understand our main issue, which is the management of the tyres in race mode. I think we're looking better today, but I don't know if we know why. But I'll talk to the guys – I haven't had time yet so I'm anxious to know if there is anything in the data that we can look at and hope maybe find some answers.”
With Haas currently sitting eighth in the constructors’ standings, 10 points adrift of rivals McLaren in fourth, the American squad will now be hoping to use a strong Saturday in Barcelona as a springboard to their first points since the season-opener in Australia – and Grosjean’s first of the year so far…