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Haas delighted as Japan provides best qualifying to date

08 Oct 2016

The Haas team recorded their best qualifying performance so far on Saturday, as Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez finished eighth and tenth respectively at Suzuka. It was the first time the new team has seen both cars progress into the top-ten shootout.

“To get both Romain and Esteban into Q3 was one of the targets for this year and we’ve now achieved it,” said team principal Guenther Steiner. “If you’re in your first year and you get two cars in there by merit, it’s fantastic. Hats off to the team and to the drivers.”

The strong showing followed what has been an eventful weekend for the American squad. After their brake dramas last time out in Malaysia, Grosjean had further stopping issues on Friday, while Gutierrez was halted by a turbo problem.

“I feel so happy for the whole team,” said Gutierrez. “It was surprising to arrive into qualifying and put both cars into Q3 as we started the weekend in a very difficult position.

“We lost a lot of practice time in FP2 and we were not completely happy with the balance of the car, but as a team we managed to recover completely. It’s a great skill that we need to keep hold of as this really made the difference today.”

Grosjean was thrilled to record the Ferrari-powered team’s best-ever grid slot, and even hinted that there could have been a bit more speed in the car around Suzuka’s legendary figure-or-eight course.

“I feel pretty good after that and I’m very pleased for the whole team,” said the Frenchman. “We brought all the updates we had. We made the new front wing work on the car and that made a difference in qualifying. The whole session went very smoothly.

“I didn’t get my DRS (Drag Reduction System) on the last stretch of the final corner. But, we’re here and tomorrow’s a long race at a very difficult track. Tyre degradation will be very important. Hopefully, if the balance is as good tomorrow as it was today, we should be fine.”

Contrasting fortunes at McLaren

While there was joy at Haas, it was quite the opposite at McLaren, where Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button could manage only 15th and 17th places on the grid for engine partner Honda’s home race.

McLaren’s form had been on the up of late, with team getting at least one car into Q3 at three of the last four events, and Alonso says they need to study the data to understand their competitive downturn in Japan.

"It's not the right performance, let's say," he admitted. "All weekend we've been struggling to find balance and speed.

"It seems a backwards step today. We need to analyse why we seemed to underperform, and find some speed for tomorrow. Maybe some weather changes will help us."