As Haas prepares to make its F1 debut at the Australian Grand Prix, Guenther Steiner will be looking to make a name for himself as top team principal in the sport. Here is what the new sheriff of Haas had to say ahead of the season opener.
Haas F1 Team tested at Barcelona for eight days over a 12-day span. How did it go and how did it prepare you for Australia?
“The first four days were very good. We made good progress and we were on a roll. Then came the second week of testing. On the first and second day, we only made a few laps, partly because we had a fuel issue with the electronics and turbocharger. Then on the third day, we had a problem with our brake-by-wire system. Our guys sorted everything out overnight. On the last day, we had a very good day of testing and were back where we left off the first week. It was a roller-coaster ride. At the moment, we are as ready as we can be for Australia, but you’re never ready enough. No matter what, we will do our best.”
Was there a silver lining in the troubles you faced during testing in that it made the team understand the car better?
“Absolutely. That’s what testing is for. The good thing is, we had a front wing failure on the very first day and we fixed it within hours and were out on the track again. We had a problem with the brake-by-wire system, but our guys fixed it overnight. We had an electronics issue and had to work through the night to fix it. You’re never happy when you don’t go on the track, but we always found fixes to our problems, and Barcelona was the place to do it. We don’t want that in Australia.”
You said all along you wanted experienced drivers. How has the collective experience of Grosjean and Gutiérrez helped develop the VF-16?
“They both had the same feedback of the car and how it was behaving. When we sent Romain out on the day we experienced the brake system problem, he said, ‘Something is wrong with the brakes, guys.’ It was very difficult to locate the issue because it was electronic, but we believed him because for him to make two mistakes, we knew something was wrong. On the last day, we left Romain in the car an hour longer than planned after lunch so we could finish some setup work. Then we put Esteban in and he confirmed the work we did before. So, we’ve got a basic setup for both drivers which will be very similar in Australia. They both gave us their input and drove us forward.”
In addition to getting a gauge on the car you built, you needed to get a gauge on the personnel you’ve assembled. How are they doing?
“They put in so much effort. It was more than just the two weeks of testing. These guys put in two weeks working day and night before testing to finish the car. We’ve had day and night shifts the last four weeks, and they’ve worked well together. They didn’t get stressed out and they never panicked. I can’t thank them enough for the work that they did over the past few months.”
Obviously, a lot was learned at Barcelona, but there wasn’t much time between when the cars arrived back at the factory before they had to leave again for Australia. What did you do to make the most of that time?
“During the five days that the guys got back from Barcelona and before they leave for Australia, they not only have to rebuild one car, but finish a second car. They are working very hard, and it’s why we’re on schedule.”
With the season-opener now upon us, what has been the biggest challenge to get ready for this moment?
“It’s just the amount of work that goes into getting everything ready. It’s taken so much effort from so many people. I think everybody saw how prepared we were in Barcelona with our equipment ready on the first morning of testing. We want to be just as prepared for Australia, and that is achieved by the hard-working people at Haas F1 Team.”
What are your goals for Australia?
“Our goal is to have both cars finish, to show that we can compete and be proud of what we are doing.”
How did you determine your tire selection and strategy for Australia?
“We aimed to determine tire strategy during the test, but it’s very difficult because the conditions will be different in Australia. We picked the three different types of tires for Australia based on feedback from our experienced team members who have worked in Formula One for a long time. How exactly we will use them and how they drop off will be determined over our three practice sessions in Australia. The decision on what tire strategy we use during the race will be made before qualifying.”