After a difficult Mexican Grand Prix, there truly is no place like home as Haas F1 Team heads home to the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas.
The only American team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship, Haas F1 Team finally gets to race on home soil after the majority of its Formula One brethren enjoyed home grands prix of their own.
Part of that Texas soil includes Haas Hill, located between turns 18-19 on the 5.513-kilometer (3.426-mile), 20-turn track, where throngs of Haas F1 Team fans have gathered since 2016 to cheer on the organization that in less than four years is already 21st on the list of teams that have scored the most points in their Formula One histories – and this is in a sport enjoying its 70th anniversary and celebrated its 1,000th grand prix back in April.
Despite a frustrating season that currently has Haas F1 Team ninth in the constructors’ standings, seven points behind eighth-place Alfa Romeo and 27 points ahead of 10th-place Williams, the American squad remains bullish on its chances at COTA.
Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen have both earned points-paying drives at COTA. In the second Formula One race at the track in 2013, Grosjean finished a career-best second to the dominant Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
It’s one of three point-paying results Grosjean has achieved in his seven career Formula 1 starts at COTA. Teammate Magnussen finished in the points in his first Formula 1 start at COTA in 2014 when he came home eighth. And in his most recent Formula 1 start at COTA last year, Magnussen finished ninth, although not according to the record books.
That’s because in post-race technical inspection, FIA Stewards determined that Magnussen’s racecar consumed more than the maximum allotment of 105 kilograms of fuel during the 56-lap race.
Having a thirsty engine is appropriate for a team that has remained hungry, even after finishing an impressive fifth in the constructors’ ranks last year. Haas F1 Team’s strong showing in 2018 coincided with the incredibly stout performance of its counterpart in NASCAR – Stewart-Haas Racing.
Gene Haas, founder and chairman of Haas F1 Team, co-owns Stewart-Haas Racing with three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. That outfit racked up 16 wins, 15 poles, 60 top-fives, 115 top-10s and 3,949 laps led in 2018 between its four-car NASCAR Cup Series team and two-car NASCAR Xfinity Series team.
The Formula 1 paddock will get a taste of what Stewart-Haas Racing is all about on Thursday when Stewart himself brings his No. 14 Haas Automation Ford Mustang onto the track for a demonstration run.
Then, he’ll turn the seat over to Grosjean and Magnussen, who will each get to wheel the 1,452-kilogram (3,200-pound) racecar around America’s only purpose-built Formula One track. It will be a stark contrast between the 733-kilogram (1,616-pound) Haas VF-19 that the duo will race throughout the United States Grand Prix weekend.
Contrast best describes a lap around COTA. It is a counter-clockwise circuit – one of only five on the 22-race Formula One calendar, joining Azerbaijan, Singapore, Brazil and Abu Dhabi. Just 14 percent of a lap around COTA is spent under braking, with drivers at full throttle for nearly 60 percent of their lap.
High speed and rapid changes of direction comprise the layout between turns two and 10, with this first sector akin to the Maggotts-Becketts-Chapel complex at Silverstone Circuit in England.
The end of the lap from turn 12 through turn 20 before hitting the front stretch features low-speed combinations of mainly second-gear corners.
The long back straight, however, prevents teams from running maximum downforce as drivers want to retain as much speed as possible to either attack or defend through the tight turn 12. This corner, along with the uphill run to turn one and the hairpin in turn 11, provide good passing opportunities.
All of this makes the United States Grand Prix a race no one wants to pass up, and it’s one with special purpose for Haas F1 Team.
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
Sports are big in America and right now, baseball’s World Series is underway, basketball and hockey have started their respective seasons, and football is right in the heart of its season. And in motorsports, NASCAR is in the semi-final stage of its playoffs, with the third-to-last race of the season happening just a few hours away on Sunday in Fort Worth. It’s a crowded landscape. How can Formula One, and the United States Grand Prix in particular, stand out from the crowd? GS: “I think Formula One has made good progress over the last few years in the United States. The viewing figures are up and the United States Grand Prix in Austin is almost always sold out. I think progress is being made. It is difficult, as it’s a crowded space there with sports, but viewership is increasing. I think Circuit of the Americas has helped a lot to achieve that, and I think Haas F1 Team – with Gene Haas investing in the team – has also helped achieve a lot in terms of making it more popular in the United States. I’m sure there’s a lot more to come.”
It appears Formula One is closer to having a second race in America, perhaps as early as 2021, in Miami. How helpful will a second race in the United States be to increasing Formula One’s popularity in America, as well as the popularity of Haas F1 Team? GS: “Absolutely, it will help. For Haas F1 Team, more races in America is good. But, more than for Haas – Formula One in general – having more races in the United States is good. Miami is a place where I think Formula One is already followed quite a lot. Having it near a big city is always nice and cool. We hope it will happen.”
On Thursday, your drivers will get a taste of a NASCAR stock car with instruction from three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart. What can they expect when they drive that 3,200-pound (1,451-kilogram) Ford Mustang around COTA? GS: “I’m sure the guys will love it, as will Tony – he likes to do this stuff. For Tony to be back in a big car, on a big circuit, it’ll be cool. Our drivers, I’m sure they will enjoy it. Kevin tested a sprint car last year and he loved it. NASCAR cars are big, powerful machines. I think people will enjoy seeing it.”
You’ve managed NASCAR teams and Formula One teams. While the style of cars and the technology associated with the cars are different, are there some similar methodologies when it comes to finding speed and getting the most out of team personnel? GS: “Absolutely. All motor racing at the top level – and NASCAR is top level, and Formula One – it’s all very similar in terms of trying to get the best people for the job. The opposition is always pushing. There’s never a day where you can rest. You just need to work harder and smarter than anybody else – then you have success. They are very similar, not as cars and technology, but in terms of managing a team, there’s not a big difference.”
As a driver for the only American team in Formula One, what’s it like to compete in the United States Grand Prix? RG: “It gives me a lot of pride. It’s a great pleasure. Obviously, having an American team in Formula One returning in 2016, 30 years since the previous one, it was big. Every year we see great support in the United States. I have the French Grand Prix as a home race, but also the United States Grand Prix is a very special one. I’m very much looking forward to it. We see a lot of support. Even though it’s not always been our best race, in terms of results, we always give it the maximum we can. We’ll do the same again this year and, hopefully, make our fans proud.”
This weekend, your team owner, Gene Haas, will have his Formula One team competing in Austin, Texas, and his NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing, competing three hours north in Fort Worth, Texas. How much do you pay attention to the goings-on with Stewart-Haas Racing, and how helpful is to have a team owner who is so well versed in motorsports? RG: “I pretty much follow all the NASCAR results. It’s very exciting and the team’s been doing well this year. Obviously, the playoffs is the time it gets very sexy, but I’m always keeping an eye on Stewart-Haas Racing. Having Gene Haas, knowing racing, knowing how it works, helps us a lot. He understands things cannot always go directly as we would like, and he’s been very helpful in our building of the Haas team. Obviously, NASCAR and Formula One are different, but he gets the big picture, and that is helping us a lot.”
Since Haas F1 Team’s debut, you’ve talked about wanting to drive a stock car. Thursday at COTA, you’ll finally get your chance, with instruction from three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart. Do you have any idea what it will be like to drive a 3,200-pound (1,451-kilogram) Ford Mustang around COTA? RG: “No, not really. I think we just need to slam the brakes a bit earlier than we do with a Formula One car. We’ll see how the engine responds to throttle application. I can’t wait. The sound of it’s going to be great. I think it’s going to be a good experience. I think having Tony Stewart helping us and giving us advice is going to be bloody amazing.”
What’s the closest thing to a stock car you’ve driven, and when was it? “I guess it would be the Ford GT1 car I drove in 2010 in the FIA GT1 Championship.”
You equaled your career-best Formula One finish (second) at COTA in 2013. Talk about that race and any moments that stand out, particularly the start where you managed to get away from the dominant Red Bulls. RG: “The start was very special. I had a really good one. The Red Bulls were so much faster than we were. I had to do something like 50 laps of the grand prix with Mark Webber on my gearbox. He was trying everything he could to pass me. At the time we had manual KERS, and I was using it wisely at different places every lap, just to do something different to keep him behind. It was an amazing race. I had a bit too much champagne on the podium, which made the press conference fun.”
As a driver for the only American team in Formula One, what’s it like to compete in the United States Grand Prix? KM: “It’s definitely a race I look forward to going to. It’s our home race, one we really want to do well at. We’ve certainly got a lot of support there and that provides an extra boost, extra motivation. It’s great to go there and see all the Haas fans in our T-shirts, especially up at Haas Hill where we see all the fans together there. We haven’t had great results there, but it’s definitely the one where we feel at home, and we want to do well.”
This weekend, your team owner, Gene Haas, will have his Formula One team competing in Austin, Texas, and his NASCAR team, Stewart-Haas Racing, competing three hours north in Fort Worth, Texas. How much do you pay attention to the goings-on with Stewart-Haas Racing, and how helpful is to have a team owner who is so well versed in motorsports? KM: “First of all, it’s no secret that Gene is a real racer. He’s been in motorsports a long time and he’s been hugely successful. We’re obviously still building up with the Formula One team, but we’ve got our best years ahead of us, I’m sure. Certainly, with the NASCAR team, they’ve been incredibly successful – they still are. I follow what they’re doing and I’m always cheering on their drivers.”
Since joining Haas F1 Team, you’ve talked about wanting to drive a stock car. Thursday at COTA, you’ll finally get your chance, with instruction from three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart. Do you have any idea what it will be like to drive a 3,200-pound (1,451-kilogram) Ford Mustang around COTA? KM: “I don’t have any idea how it’ll be. I’ve never driven a NASCAR before. I’m pretty certain it’s going to be very different to the other car I drive around COTA. It’s going to be a very interesting experience. A NASCAR is such an iconic racecar. I’ve always been eager to try one. Of course, it’s usually in its element on an oval, but they do race on road courses, as well. It’ll be interesting to have a go and have a bit of fun.”
What’s the closest thing to a stock car you’ve driven, and when was it? KM: “I drove a GT2 car once, and a DTM, but I don’t think they’re similar to a stock car, even though they’re touring cars. A DTM car is very aerodynamic. They have a lot of downforce. A stock car hardly has any downforce.”
This won’t be the first time you’ve received driving instruction from Stewart. He helped you get the feel of a winged sprint car last October. Stewart wears many hats, but what’s he like as a driving coach/instructor? KM: “I found my feet in that sprint car last October pretty quickly thanks to his advice, and also thanks to him jumping in the car and showing how it’s done before I got in. I had a great time with Tony. He’s a great driving instructor and he knows his way around these things. His experience and knowledge when it comes to stock cars is probably just as impressive.”