In the last three races of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team ran its cars in different aero specifications.
Romain Grosjean began this trial at the British Grand Prix, running the team’s original spec from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and continuing with it right through to the most recent race, the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile, campaigned the team’s second-generation spec, first introduced in mid-May at the Spanish Grand Prix, in Britain before outfitting his Haas VF-19 in the team’s latest spec in the German Grand Prix and again in Hungary.
Now, after a three-week break via the FIA-mandated summer shutdown, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team will have both its cars in the same spec for the Belgian Grand Prix Aug. 30-Sept. 1 at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The data gathered from this three-race, car-to-car comparison has framed the spec of the Haas VF-19s for Spa, which will be a refinement of the spec Magnussen used in Germany and Hungary.
Measuring in at 7.004 kilometers (4.352 miles), Spa is the longest venue in Formula One, outdistancing the series’ second-longest track, the 6.003-kilometer (3.730-mile) Baku City Circuit, by 1.001 kilometers (.622 of a mile).
In addition to its length, Spa is known for being a driver’s track, thanks in large part to the addition of the signature Eau Rouge and Raidillon corners in 1939, which created a fast and sweeping uphill, left-right-left combination that is revered throughout motorsports.
The 19-turn circuit is a favorite of Grosjean and Magnussen. Before securing his most recent podium when he finished third in the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix, Grosjean clinched the 2011 GP2 Series title at the venerable track.
And Magnussen, with four Formula One starts at Spa, has two Formula Renault 3.5 Series victories there in back-to-back seasons but with two different teams – Carlin in 2012 and DAMS in 2013. In their most recent outing at Spa, Grosjean and Magnussen scored a double-points finish in last year’s Belgian Grand Prix.
Another effort like that would go a long way toward bettering Rich Energy Haas F1 Team’s position in the constructors’ standings. With nine races remaining, the American squad sits ninth with 26 points and trails eighth-place Racing Point by five points and seventh-place Alfa Romeo by six points.
Rich Energy Haas F1 Team has scored points in four of the 12 races run thus far, with its most recent point-paying effort coming in Germany where Grosjean finished seventh and Magnussen came home eighth, netting a solid 10 points.
With both its cars in the same spec for Belgium, it is hoped the collective efforts of the past three races combined with the serenity of the summer shutdown can yield another collection of points at Spa.
Q&A with Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
In the three races prior to the summer shutdown, Rich Energy Haas F1 Team performed car-to-car aero tests, with Grosjean running the Melbourne spec while Magnussen has run the Barcelona spec and the current spec, which first debuted in Germany. What did you learn and what is the gameplan for Spa?
GS: “For Spa we will go with the upgraded car, which we ran at Hockenheim. We’ve learned quite a bit out of it and tried to improve the car by changing some of the components. Both cars will be the same spec, and hopefully we can still learn more about it.”
Will Rich Energy Haas F1 Team bring any more updates for the remainder of the 2019 season? More specifically, when does the focus switch from this year’s car to next year’s car?
GS: “The focus has already switched, partly, to the 2020 car. We need to see what we can come up with in the wind tunnel, with the small developments we do there for the 2019 car, and if we bring any upgrade kits. We don’t know yet.”
The midfield is still tight, as evidenced by fifth-place Toro Rosso being 17 points away from Rich Energy Haas F1 Team. Can a run up the constructors’ ranks still happen in these last nine races?
GS: “Everything is possible, but it is difficult as our car doesn’t perform well in races, and that’s where you score the points. Nevertheless, we will be trying hard to pick up whatever we can. Hopefully, we can get a few more results, and then we’ll see how we end up in the standings.”
Does it almost feel like a new season when we show up at Spa after the summer shutdown because everyone has had the chance to rest and regroup to focus on these final nine races?
GS: “I think it’s something in between. It’s good to have a few weeks to sit back and clear your mind, and then see what you need to do in the second half. It’s not a new season, but it’s just you hope you come back a little more rested and you get a few things sorted out.”
Spa is one of Formula One’s classic tracks. Much has been made of next year’s schedule, as well as future schedules, specifically balancing classic tracks like Spa with new venues like next year’s race in Vietnam. What’s your take on this issue, and what is the proper balance between holding onto Formula One’s history and crafting Formula One’s future?
GS: “I think at the moment we have a good mix. We’ve got a few classics, a few semi-classics – which are races that have been here around 10-15 years, and then we’ve got new ones, which is always exciting. Take Zandvoort. It’s a classic circuit, but it hasn’t been run in a long time. Going back there will be interesting. Hanoi’s a completely new venue, which is, for sure, interesting, both for Formula One and Vietnam. I think at the moment there’s a good blend of new, semi-classic and classic tracks.”
It looks like Formula One will have a 22-race schedule next year. Are teams at their limit when it comes to preseason testing and the current slate of 21 races, or can another race be added?
GS: “At the moment, when they’re talking of adding just one more race, it maybe means doing a bit less testing. We’re trying to find a way to do one more which means we don’t have to rotate people, but there is a point where you have to start rotating and giving people a few races off. At 22 races, I think there is enough understanding between the teams that we just need to do less activities in other areas to make up for the additional race.”
Rain in Germany provided Formula One the first opportunity to have a standing start on a wet track. It seemed race control did a thorough job of getting real-time feedback from drivers, and then the start took place without any major dramas. How did it all go from your standpoint, and knowing the weather is often a prominent fixture at Spa, could a wet standing start take place again?
GS: “Hockenheim went very well. It’s the first time it was done. That doesn’t mean that the second time it will go well, but it’s always good when something goes well. Race control made the right decision with a standing start. That’s what agreed to. Surely if it rains at Spa, the conditions will determine if it’s a standing start, a rolling start, or if it’s dry. I don’t have that foresight in the weather.”