Romain Grosjean looked in great form, finishing both FP1 and FP2 in sixth place as he prepared to race at his first ever home Grand Prix, while Kevin Magnussen’s P10 and P9 across both sessions proved that his team mate’s speed was no fluke.
But for the Haas team, being near the pointy end of the timesheets in the early part of the weekend simply confirmed the pace that they know is in their VF-18.
“It's actually not a surprise... that the car is competitive,” said Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner after Friday’s running. “In Canada, we were quite competitive but we just didn't show it because of what happened. We just need to bring it home. A good race, bring it home... and finally get the points that we should have.”
Haas started 2018 strongly, qualifying P6 and P7 in Australia before suffering a nightmare race that saw both cars retire with incorrectly fitted wheel nuts. That rather set the tone for the rest of their season, with the team lying a lowly eighth in the constructors’ standings, a full 37 points shy of leading midfield team Renault.
But having received an upgraded Ferrari engine last time out in Canada, Grosjean – who himself has no points after a string of incidents, some of them self-inflicted, some of them, like hitting a groundhog during FP2 in Canada, not – is optimistic that he and his team can now start to show that they truly are the fourth fastest team in Formula 1 this season.
“I think the upgrade in Canada really suits my driving and I was very happy with it,” said the Frenchman. “In Canada I should have qualified seventh and run easily in seventh position.
“The gap [to the teams behind them] is bigger because we knew the update would work better on the track like this. I had a great feeling in the car, a few things we can improve obviously, but generally I was very pleased with the car and looking forward to tomorrow.
“I think if we take out Monaco, where we weren't fast, we've been probably the fourth fastest most of the places. Maybe not Baku where Force India was really quick, but if not, we've always been here. So we just need to get the consistency and the luck to be able to achieve the results we need.”