Haas F1 Team secured its first points-paying finish of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship with driver Kevin Magnussen delivering an eighth-place result in the Chinese Grand Prix Sunday at the Shanghai International Circuit. It was nearly a double points finish as teammate Romain Grosjean finished 11th, one spot out of the points.
For Magnussen, it was his first top-10 since last year's Singapore Grand Prix where he finished 10th and his best result since coming home seventh at the 2016 Russian Grand Prix. It was his 15th career top-10 finish and his first at Shanghai.
The 14th running of the Chinese Grand Prix started off wet, with 19 of the 20 drivers starting the 56-lap race around the 5.451-kilometer (3.387-mile), 16-turn track on the Pirelli Cinturato Green intermediate tire. The lone driver on slicks was Toro Rosso's Carlos Sainz Jr.
It was a tough start for Sainz, as the track initially proved too wet for slicks. The asphalt began drying quickly, however, and Sainz's choice seemed prescient. With a VSC (Virtual Safety Car) period after two laps for the stricken Williams of Lance Stroll, many teams opted to ditch the intermediates for dry tires and came to pit road.
Haas F1 Team was one of them, performing a double stop at the end of the second lap, first with Magnussen who was followed by Grosjean. Both took on Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tires.
Conditions remained treacherous. This was punctuated by Antonio Giovinazzi's hard crash off turn 16 which thoroughly damaged his Sauber. The accident scattered debris across the frontstraight, leading to the actual safety car hitting the track for a full-course yellow.
Mired in the back, Grosjean took the opportunity to pit, replacing his Red supersoft tires for a set of Yellow softs. Magnussen stayed out. When racing resumed on lap eight, Magnussen was 12th and Grosjean was 17th.
With fast Haas VF-17s under them and improving track conditions, Magnussen and Grosjean went to work.
By lap 10, Magnussen was ninth and eyeing the eighth-place Force India of Sergio Perez. Grosjean was 17th and attacking the Renault of Jolyon Palmer.
It was a stout midfield battle, with the Williams of Felipe Massa jockeying among Magnussen and Perez. Meanwhile, Grosjean's steady drive allowed him to rise to 13th on lap 28 as attrition began taking a toll on the other cars around him.
Magnussen made his second and final stop at the end of lap 33, donning a new set of Red supersofts and making a front wing adjustment. The time in the pits dropped him from ninth to 12th, one spot ahead of Grosjean.
Others began making their second stops, allowing Magnussen to regain some track position.
By lap 36, Magnussen was back to 10th as Grosjean made his final stop. Red supersofts were his tire choice, and he came out in 13th behind the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg.
Grosjean doggedly pursued Hulkenberg, catching him on lap 38 and finally passing him for 12th.
Magnussen had the Force India of Esteban Ocon in his sights, and overtook him for ninth on lap 40. Ocon's teammate, Perez, was next up. Magnussen eventually tracked him down and with a decisive move at the end of the massively long backstraight, powered underneath Perez to take eighth.
Grosjean displayed strength too, passing Massa for 11th on lap 53 with an efficient drive around him in turn two.
Time ran out on both drivers to make up any more ground. When the checkered flag dropped after 56 laps, Magnussen's eighth-place effort delivered four valuable constructors points. And Grosjean's 11th-place run showed that Haas F1 Team is on the cusp of earning its first double points finish.
Winning the Chinese Grand Prix was three-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton. It was the Mercedes driver's 54th career Formula One win, his first of the season and his fifth at the Shanghai International Circuit. Hamilton's margin of victory was 6.250 seconds over Scuderia Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel.
Two rounds into the 20-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team is seventh in the constructor standings with four points, four behind sixth-place Williams and four ahead of eighth-place Renault, Sauber and McLaren.
There's no let-off on the Formula One schedule as the series immediately heads to the Middle East for the Bahrain Grand Prix April 16 at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir.
Romain Grosjean: "Yesterday was a bit of a joke and today the same guy crashed in front of me on the straight line, so I had to stop. I lost a lot of time. Then (Marcus) Ericsson at the restart left miles ahead of the car in front of me. I don't know what he was doing, so I was already on the back foot. (Esteban) Ocon pushed me on the first lap. I lost half of the right-hand side of the car. From there I just pushed as hard as I could. I couldn't really find an opening on (Jolyon) Palmer. Once I did, though, I had some good lap times. We were doing a decent job, but it was already too late. It was not easy on strategy. The guys did the best job they could. We saw the checkered flag and the lap times were looking decent. I think we had more, but it's time to look forward to the next race and, hopefully, it's going to get better."
Kevin Magnussen: "It was a good race. I had fun out there. I had a good car all the way through the race. I'd made a really poor start, so to come back from that and push, I was really happy. The car's been good today. I was able to look after the front tires, which I think was key, along with working with the team to get the car in the right window. The race was really well managed from the team. It was good strategy to get me out on the supersoft after the intermediates. You had to fight for it, in terms of passing. It's not easy, but you also have grip, so you can take different lines and get close in alternative ways. It's so much more fun when you're fighting in the points. I'm happy for the team and we're looking forward to the coming races."
Guenther Steiner: "It's great to see Kevin's team scoring their first points since the start of Haas F1 Team. For Kevin to score points on his second race is fantastic. I think Romain had a challenging weekend. In Australia it was Kevin's turn to have a challenging weekend and here it was Romain, though he wasn't lucky in Australia either. Again, I think we showed what we can do and that we are what we think we are. We just have to do it consistently. We can then look to a good season in front of us. Both drivers drove a fantastic race. I think we did more overtaking between the Haas team than the rest of the teams. I'm very proud of that, and we put on a good show. For sure, the weather played a role today, but with the different strategies applied, overtaking is possible. It's still difficult - that was proved with Romain trying to get around (Jolyon) Palmer - he made sure he was wide, but then Romain got by. It just got better from then onward. The flight home will feel a lot shorter with points in the bag. Now, we look forward to going to Bahrain."
Check out our Sunday gallery from Shanghai, here.