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Romain Grosjean Q&A: Haas still have something up their sleeves

01 Jul 2016

His first season with all-new team Haas started in dream fashion, with top-six finishes in their first two outings. Since then it’s been something of a reality check for Romain Grosjean. Nevertheless, the Frenchman is convinced the squad remain on an upward path - and that they could yet spring more surprises in 2016. We caught up with Grosjean for an exclusive chat in Austria…

Q: Romain, the first two races where fairy tale-like, but since then it’s been a bit tough - four Grands Prix in a row outside the points. Are you maintaining a calm state of mind?

Romain Grosjean: Ha, of course. Yes, we are going through a season that is pretty different from the other teams’. We are starting from scratch! Yes, there have been some issues since Melbourne and Bahrain. We had problems with the chassis in Barcelona and that kept us down a bit. Very recently we could have finished in the points, but had to face some bad luck with the front wing in Montreal and in a blue plastic bag drama in Baku that got caught in the radiator and we had to stop and remove it. That was really a shame. Other than that we should have been very close to the points. Yes, we started on a very high level. Remember: we are starting from scratch. And for some reasons we lost the momentum and since then we are working hard to build momentum again. I can feel that we are going in a good direction. So not all the stars were lying! (laughs)

Q: You probably realised that bagging 18 points in two races probably wasn’t representative of the team’s real position, but recently it seems you haven’t been racing to your full potential. Can you give examples of where that was the case?

RG: It is now pointless to speculate about what might have been. Yes, sometimes you are better than what you should be - but that also goes the other way. I think lately I have driven some pretty good races and it does not show in the results. But what can you do? That’s racing.

Q: What was your favourite among those races with ‘not so good results’?

RG: Canada. And suddenly the front wing fell off! Imagine. Otherwise we would have been in the points. But in the end we are still on a learning curve to get the tyres to work. Other teams had more time to come to terms with that. We are getting there - step by step.

Q: Given that you have started ‘from scratch’ as you say, where is the biggest deficit to the established teams?

RG: Clearly tyre usage. That is not easy even for the ‘old-timers’ - and even trickier for newbies!

Q: So let’s look at the good sides of the car…

RG: The balance is pretty good. Downforce - well that is the thing that all would want more of, including us!

Q: Joining a new team was always going to be a bit of a risk. Has there been even a single moment you regretted it lately?

RG: No, not at all.

Q: Haas is logistically a very brave team concept, spread as you are across three locations. A bit too brave perhaps? After all, some have suggested that Ferrari should relocate to the UK - where the bulk of F1 talent and infrastructure is to be found - if they truly want to become successful again…

RG: No, not at all. We are the ‘United Nations’ of the paddock: an American team with an Italo-Austrian team principal, a French and a Mexican driver, Japanese and New Zealand engineers - and that is brilliant. We are working very closely with our base in North Carolina, our base in the UK and in Italy - and that is not too bad. We are not suffering from the distance nor the time gap nor different mentality. It’s just fine.

Q: If you could ‘rebuild’ your car with the best bits from all the other teams, where would you go ‘shopping’?

RG: Ha, if I only could! (laughs) I would go for the side part of the Red Bull, the front wing of the Mercedes, the rear end of the Ferrari - with the engine I would stick with Ferrari. Should be a winner - in theory! (laughs) And I would need a big shopping cart. And a lot of money.

Q: At the first couple of races you clearly dominated your team mate Esteban Guttierez, but recently he has bounced back. Has he raised the bar - or have you lowered yours?

RG: Well, he had the chance to beat me in two qualifying sessions: Monaco and Canada. He did very well there. So yes, he did a great job on two qualifying occasions - but in the race most of the times I had the advantage. But in the end it is great that he is challenging me. Nobody needs a team mate who is way behind you. That is not bringing the team forward. The two Mercedes guys are pushing each other like mad. That’s why they move forward.

Q: You have a lot of experience - that’s why Haas chose you. Where would you say is your biggest input into the team?

RG: Hard to say. It is much about the interaction with the engineers at a race weekend. My feeling of driving the car is important - to understand and address the problems.

Q: Usually around the time of the European ‘summer season’ most teams are introducing significant car upgrades. When will that happen at Haas? Here, or at Silverstone in week’s time?

RG: I think for us it will be very difficult to come to terms with that, as everybody is already moving [focus] to 2017 - and we have hardly arrived in 2016. I think we still have something up our sleeves -very likely we will introduce it in Silverstone.

Q: The Austrian circuit still has some ‘old world charm’ and it is faster than most of the tracks. Last year you had a DNF here with Lotus. But what’s your gut feeling for this weekend? Will it be better the second time around?

RG: Well, anything is better than a DNF, so that would be an easy one. Positions? I have no idea right now. In the morning the track was very slippery - we have seen many spins - and in the afternoon half of the session was stopped by heavy rain, so the paramount thing was don’t crash the car! Under such circumstances times do not matter a thing. It will be interesting to see if the new tarmac will be less slippery tomorrow - then we should not do too bad. Q2 should be a real target.