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Haas looks ahead to the new season

NEWS STORY
14/02/2020

New season, new car, new look. The first unveil of a 2020 F1 car belonged to Haas with the release of digital renderings of the VF-20 last week.

Ahead of next Wednesday's unveiling of the real thing, which takes place as pre-season testing gets underway, Guenther Steiner, Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen look ahead and also reflect on a difficult 2019.

Having had to reflect on a challenging 2019 campaign for so long, how refreshing is it to look ahead to a new season and what have been the key learnings applied from the troublesome VF-19 into the design and build of the VF-20 entry?

Guenther Steiner: "Obviously, after a season like 2019, it's good to get going again with a fresh start. We realized last year, in the middle of the season, that we needed to do something different for 2020, and we did. We've just tried to apply into the new car some of the things we learned at the end of the season when we had development parts on the car."
Will the experience of 2019, when testing and early races showed promise, make you wary of reading too much into positive results from the two weeks spent testing at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya this year?

GS: "No. Last year we had a good test, and the early races were good – then it went south. What we've learned is how to look at things better, and how to analyze our data better to see if we're on the right track or if we're headed in the wrong direction. We learned as well to listen to our drivers, that sometimes helps a lot."
Operating across three bases in the United States, United Kingdom and Italy, the birth of each new Formula One car from Haas is a truly global affair. With the VF-20 now the fifth Formula One car in the team's short history, how has the design and build process been refined over the years to accommodate the logistical challenges faced by being based across three separate locations?

GS: "Operating across three countries on two continents is never easy. I give a lot of credit to our people, they put all this into a very fluid process. I haven't been to car build, they don't need me there, they're doing a great job. Now in our fifth year, it's a lot less cumbersome than in previous years, especially the first year back in 2016 – it was particularly difficult, but that's normal. I'm really proud of the job they're doing to assemble the car."
What do you remember from pre-season testing in 2016 when the team debuted with the VF-16? Were there any stand-out moments from that experience and with each new season, is there scope to actually enjoy testing and the debut of a new car, or is the pressure to verify months of work on-track too all consuming?

GS: "There'll never be another moment in life for me to mirror when we debuted the VF-16 in 2016 as a brand-new team in Barcelona. Everybody had been looking at us and our credibility level was very low, as the new teams that had gone before hadn't done very well, most of them by then were out of business. People were very skeptical. We did a good job and tested like a team that had been operating for months. We had a lot of fantastic people working for us. There's not additional pressure in testing, it's more of a relief to be going out there testing. You at least then have something to work on, and you can focus on what you need to do, and what to do better than the season before."

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are paired together for a fourth consecutive season with Haas F1 Team. While being well aware of what they bring to the team – especially with their testing feedback, how do you feel they complement each other as a driver line-up and in what specific areas?
GS: "The biggest thing from having drivers paired together for so long is that as a team we have quite a good understanding of where they're good and where they're not. We can then focus on areas where one is better than the other and so on. I think also, the respect between them, is quite good. They look at each other and they don't need to put a show on or anything like that. They've known each other a long time. It's pretty good to have that relationship. In general, there's a good understanding between the two of them, and there were some hard lessons learned last year in a car that was underperforming. Those lessons learned will be applied into this year."

Can you share the emotions and feelings you experienced as you prepared for your very first pre-season test back in 2012? Did you approach it any differently having already experienced a handful of race starts in Formula One?
Romain Grosjean: "No, it's always been the same level of excitement for the start of winter testing. You get the chance to discover a new car and get back into the groove. 2012 was my first winter test, so maybe it was a little more exciting, maybe you want to be at the top of the timesheet more than you do after. It's always fun to get to work testing and learn a new car."

As you head into your tenth full-time season as a Formula One driver what's more exciting each year, the prospect of testing a new car and exploring its limits, or the first race start of the season?
RG: "First race start of the season. If you're in Formula One, you're a racer. Testing is good but racing is much better."

Is there a need to drive a brand-new car differently when starting out a test program or do you get straight into it the same way you'd approach a free practice session for example?
RG: "It's a bit different in pre-season testing. You need a little bit more time. You know that the mileage is key, and you need to get as much in the car as you can to make sure you've discovered everything about it. Driving it is different and testing, as it says, is done to test a lot of things. In free practice, it is exactly that, practice to get ready for the race."

The team is just one-season removed from a top-five finish in the Constructors' Championship. Mindful of the highs of 2018, and the lows of a troublesome 2019 season, what can testing offer you from a driver perspective to indicate where the new season might head? Are there markers you personally look for in and out of the car throughout testing that offer you a good feel for the car's performance?
RG: "It's important to get a good first feel of the car. You want to feel comfortable in a new car. We're normally quite effective at knowing quickly if the car is good or not. We've also learned a lot from 2019, when testing went well, but the rest of the season not so much. I think issues were masked by the fact that we had been fast in Barcelona at the start of the year. Then in some races we were fast but in others not. We'll use testing to cover as many different scenarios as we can."

As ever it was an active off-season for you. What were the personal highlights from your time off and what's the one thing you wish you could have spent more time doing?
RG: "It was a great off-season. I spent a lot of time with my family. The highlight is always Christmas with the kids. I'd like to be able to spend more time doing all of it, I've enjoyed my time at home. I've also enjoyed my training regime. Skiing's been beautiful, and I've managed to get a bit of kite-surfing in as well, which is always fun. If I could have cycled a little more in warm weather, I'd have taken that, but summer will come and there'll be plenty of time for that."

Can you share the emotions and feelings you experienced as you prepared for your very first pre-season test back in 2014? If you could give one piece of advice to that version of Kevin Magnussen, knowing what you know now, what might it be?
Kevin Magnussen: "I can still clearly remember my first pre-season test back in 2014. I was so excited to get in the car and get on-track with the rest of the grid. I enjoyed it a lot. My advice would have been just that, go out and enjoy it, take your time, and don't worry about the pressure."

As you head into your sixth full-time season as a Formula One driver what's more exciting each year, the prospect of testing a new car and exploring its limits, or the first race start of the season?
KM: "I guess it depends on how the pre-season test has gone. If the test shows you've got a bad car, then the expectation for the first race is a little bit different. Similarly, if you know you've got a good car, then you're very excited for the first race. I'm very excited for the test this year. I'm confident we'll have a good car."

Is there a need to drive a brand-new car differently when starting out a test program or do you get straight into it the same way you'd approach a free practice session for example?
KM: "When you get into the car in pre-season testing you've been out of the cockpit for a few months. You spend the first few laps getting back into it again and getting up to speed. After that there's a whole lot of test program to work on before you actually get to push the limits fully in the car. There's no point going all-out in the car immediately. You have to stay on-track and try to be consistent to get good data and feedback for the team."

The team is just one-season removed from a top-five finish in the Constructors' Championship. Mindful of the highs of 2018, and the lows of a troublesome 2019 season, what can testing offer you from a driver perspective to indicate where the new season might head? Are there markers you personally look for in and out of the car throughout testing that offer you a good feel for the car's performance?
KM: "I think, generally, you try to approach testing the same way independent of your own expectations and fears or worries. You try to go about it in a professional way, and you try to help the team as well as you can. You have to do what it takes to get yourself up to speed. Then you're just hopeful, and maybe anxious, about getting a good car. You just have to make sure you help the team the best way you can to correct any faults or weaknesses there might be with the car. In the last two pre-season tests, the team has provided a car that's felt very good and very competitive.

"In 2018 that then proved to be very competitive throughout the season, leading to our top-five placing. We didn't achieve that in 2019, but at least in pre-season testing the car felt very quick, and we showed over the season that it was very quick at times. It just had some weaknesses that proved to be a big problem in the races. I'm confident that the team is going to provide another good car this year. Hopefully we've learned from the mistakes of last year so we can have a good season. I'm very confident on that."

At what point does your off-season switch from being rest and recovery from the season completed, to focusing fully on preparations for the new season? What's been the focus of your preparation gearing up for 2020 and how, if relevant, has that been different from other pre-season build ups?
KM: "You take a few weeks completely off, at least I do in December immediately after the last race. You just disconnect completely from Formula One, you forget about it for a while. I go back to friends and family, I enjoy being human for a while. For me, by the end of December, I started my preparation fully. It's been very good this year, but I think it's natural you try and improve year-on-year. You look back and see where you could have done better, and there's always something you could have done better. You can always work a little bit harder or started a little bit earlier. Based on that, you naturally do better every year. I feel like I'm heading into this season the best prepared I've ever been."

Magnussen will commence testing on Wednesday, Feb. 19, with Grosjean behind the wheel on Thursday, Feb. 20. The pair will run half a day each on Friday, Feb. 21 – Grosjean running in the morning, Magnussen taking over in the afternoon.

The second week of pre-season testing, Feb. 26 to Feb. 28, will see Grosjean run first on the opening day, Magnussen assuming steering duties the next day. Again, both drivers will split the third and final day before teams get set for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Sunday, March 15.

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