Haas have been experimenting with different brake materials this weekend following problems in recent races, and the move appears to have paid off for the American squad.
“It’s good to be back in Q3, especially after the last two races where we were out in Q1 and really struggling,” said Grosjean, whose 2017 drive with the team was confirmed on Friday. “The feeling was good right from the beginning and the cooler track conditions today really helped us a lot.
“There are still plenty of margins to improve for the future. We’re always learning more about what we need to do, but we really weren’t expecting to be in Q3 today. Generally though, when we do get things working well together, we’re quite fast, which is encouraging.”
Grosjean’s performance means Haas will equal their best grid slot so far on Sunday - the Frenchman also started seventh in Japan, where he qualified eighth but moved up a place after grid penalties for others.
Team mate Esteban Gutierrez was just a tenth slower than Grosjean in Q2, qualifying 12th after narrowly missing out on a place in the top-ten shootout. Not surprisingly, team principal Guenther Steiner is now optimistic for a strong race performance in Sao Paulo.
“We seem to have ups and downs, but we always come back out on top,” said Steiner, who saw both his drivers drop out in Q1 last time out in Mexico. “Starting in seventh and 12th, our aim will be for a points finish. It’s difficult to attain here, but it won’t be from a lack of trying.”
Haas’s best race finish to date has been Grosjean’s fifth place in Bahrain, and with two rounds of the season remaining the team look set to finish their first F1 campaign a highly creditable eighth in the standings.