Monday, 21 March 2016

Bitter-sweet bow for Haas down under

Haas F1 team had plenty to celebrate after their maiden Formula One outing in Melbourne, with Romain Grosjean coming home in a fine sixth position.

The team's other driver, Esteban Gutierrez, didn't have as good a time however, retiring after a spectacular collision with Fernando Alonso which saw the Spaniard pitched into a frightening roll.

After being caught out by the controversial new elimination qualifying format, Grosjean and Gutierrez lined up 19th and 20th respectively, ahead of only the two Manors of Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein, despite the feeling that they were both capable of a lot more.

"I was on a good lap and then suddenly I’m out. I don’t even get a chance to go to the end of the lap, said Grosjean after qualifying. "That’s annoying because the car was good, our baseline is good, and in terms of performance, we were clearly able to go through. We just missed a bit of speed on the turnaround in the garage, so we were massively out of position."

"It was a little frustrating not to see the lap time we achieved reflected in the results," added Gutierrez. "However, we know the potential is there. The good thing is we know the lap time was good enough to be further up the grid."

The race turned out to be a completely different affair with Grosjean finishing in sixth position to score eight points for himself and the team.

However, the high finishing position for the Frenchman came in part thanks to the incident involving his team mate which brought out a red flag.

It was during this stoppage that the team was able to change Grosjean's tyres. The change ensured he made it to the end of the race without stopping, effectively carrying out an unprecedented non-stop race.

"A very good day at the office. This feels like a win. For all the guys who worked so hard over the last few weeks, this is unbelievable," a jubilant Grosjean said after the race. "We were unlucky yesterday, but got a bit lucky today with the red flag. Still, we were able to hold off the Williams (Valtteri Bottas) and the Force India (Hulkenberg). We didn’t have much set-up (time) on the car. It was a case of, off you go and see what happens. This is an unbelievable feeling. The guys did an amazing job and I told them, this is like a win for all of us. First race and here we are, P6. A happy day."

Team founder and chairman Gene Haas was equally pleased to see his team score the first points for a new organisation in their first race since Mika Salo finished sixth, also in Australia, in 2002.

"Grosjean had a heck of a challenge there," he said. "They made the decision to go on the mediums for 39 laps, so that was really pushing it. He basically didn’t chew up his tires initially, so he was able to get 39 laps out of them. I think near the end he was starting to pick up time on the person behind him."
“Grosjean just drove his heart out and did everything he could to keep it up there and it worked out. When (Nico) Hulkenberg was behind him I thought he might catch him, but he held him off and we actually started to make some time. He was saving fuel near the end, so I think once we got to the last few laps and we started to push a little harder, the car really responded," he added.

"This is racing. It’s what we do for a living and, you know, it’s cool. But I’ll tell you, there’ll be some bad days too, so we’ll enjoy this one."

Although disappointed to end his first Grand Prix since 2014 in the gravel, Gutierrez was positive about the team's first race weekend.

"It’s not the race I was hoping for. However, the most important thing is that Fernando and I are both OK. The car was handling well and the results show we can be very competitive," he said. "Romain did a great job for the team. To achieve points in our first race is fantastic. I’m now looking ahead and focusing on Bahrain. I can’t wait to get back out racing."

Haas' next outing will be at the Bahrain Grand Prix at the beginning of April.

Images: Haas F1 Team

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