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Australian GP: Preview - Haas

NEWS STORY
05/04/2022

Haas F1 Team is preparing for a return to Albert Park, Melbourne, for the Australian Grand Prix, Round 3 of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

Formula 1 first travelled to Australia in 1985 when Adelaide hosted the season finale but 11 years later the event moved states to Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, with the leafy roads of Albert Park converted into a temporary racing facility. Track activity at the popular event, located a short tram ride from downtown Melbourne, has not taken place since March 2019. 2020's event was cancelled as the pandemic worsened, while 2021's running was axed because of travel constraints. Now, after a prolonged wait of over 1,100 days, Formula 1 cars are finally due to return to Albert Park.

It is a venue that evokes happy memories for Haas F1 Team. It is where the Formula 1 race journey began, at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, scoring sixth place on debut. It was also the location for Kevin Magnussen's own Formula 1 debut, in 2014, when he went home with a trophy after classifying a superb second.

For 2022, though, Kevin Magnussen and Melbourne first-timer Mick Schumacher will be tackling a slightly tweaked Albert Park layout compared to Haas F1 Team's previous outing in 2019.

For the first time in 26 years significant alterations have been made to the parkland circuit in order to promote better racing and facilitate more overtaking. This includes the widening of several turns, reprofiling of certain corners, with the biggest change being the removal of the old turn 9/10 chicane, creating what is set to be a power-heavy section along Lakeside Drive. Organizers estimate a reduction in lap times by around five seconds compared to 2019 despite just 28 meters being shaved off the optimal racing line.

Haas F1 Team heads to the Australian Grand Prix fifth in the Constructors' Championship, on 12 points, after classifying in the points at the opening events in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Two races down and points achieved in both. Is it still too early in the season to understand if this is representative of every team's pace, and are points in every race a realistic target for Haas F1 Team now in the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship?
Guenther Steiner: "I think it's realistic that we can aim for points in every race, at least for the first half of the season and then we will see if teams make big upgrades or if they gain a lot of pace. I'm optimistic that we can keep this form, we just have to try to score points with both cars."

Having observed Kevin and Mick working together for three weeks straight in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, how would you describe their relationship and what impact has this had internally within the team?
GS: "I think the relationship between them is pretty good. For Mick, he can have a reference now with Kevin, and Kevin is trying to help Mick with his experience which he got from driving Formula 1 cars for six years in his career. Internally, the team works very well together on both sides of the garage - with engineers and mechanics - it's a very good atmosphere at the moment."

We're heading back to Melbourne after an enforced absence from Australia due to Covid restrictions. When you look back on the cancellation of the 2020 Australian Grand Prix - and everything that's happened since that moment - what stands out for you the most in terms of how Formula 1 has adapted and ultimately thrived since then?
GS: "The outstanding thing is that we were lucky and FOM and all the teams did a good job in 2020 after the pandemic hit. We were back on the road after four or five months of thinking how to do this best, had a good calendar that year and we just kept on going. It could've had a big impact but obviously I think Formula 1 made an opportunity out of a challenge which was given to us. Formula 1 is in a good place at the moment with fans and exposure, so I think in bad times everybody did a good job to get to where we are now."

This weekend marks the milestone of Haas F1 Team's 125th race in Formula 1, coming at the same location as its very first start. It's been a rollercoaster of a ride but what are your enduring memories of not only that first remarkable race weekend - which included Romain Grosjean's sixth-place finish - but of the team and its people across the past six seasons?
GS: "First of all, yes, it was a rollercoaster and we've had a lot of downs on the rollercoaster ride over the six years but quite good ups as well. I'd say more than 50 percent of the people that were there at the first race are still with us, so that for me is an achievement. It's been a very good ride, there's been some challenges in the ride, but it's been fantastic. The most memorable moment for sure was the sixth-place finish in our first race and second, the fifth-place finish in the championship in 2018 which we will try to replicate hopefully soon."

You famously achieved a second-place finish at your first Formula 1 race in Australia in 2014 and achieved a sixth-place finish with Haas in 2019. What memories does Albert Park bring back?
Kevin Magnussen: "I don't know if there's anything about the track that clicks as such, but I've obviously had some really good weekends there. Not only the sixth place, but also, we were due to finish fourth and fifth in 2018. It's always been a good race to us somehow, I think it's more by coincidence than anything else but I love being there, it's a great race to go to. I really like Australia and Melbourne. There's something about that race - for so many years it used to be the first race of the year - so there's always a special feeling there, so let's hope we can keep it going and have another good weekend."

The street circuit has always been known to be quite slippery at the start of a race weekend, and you need a car with a stable front end to really make the most of a lap, what are your predictions for how the VF-22 will fare on Australian soil?
KM: "We've got a pretty good all-round car this year. We're still learning about it but I have a feeling we're stronger in low-speed and medium-speed than high-speed. Not that we're bad at high-speed but I feel our strengths are towards low and medium, so that should be ok for Albert Park."

The time difference from Europe to Melbourne is nine hours. As an athlete, how do you acclimatize quickly and what tips do you have for the personnel, media and fans making the journey down under?
KM: "We always go quite early to Australia because the time difference is so big, at most other places you don't need to go too early but for this one you do. It's important to get straight into it and get up in the morning even though you've only slept two hours. You need to get up when it's time to get up, do some training, eat your meals at the right times and just get into a rhythm as much as possible. You can plan a little bit ahead on the flight on whether you need to go to sleep or stay awake."

This weekend will mark Haas F1 team's 125th Grand Prix. You've played a big part in that history, having competed in 81 races for the team. Can you share your standout moments and detail what's special about the team?
KM: "I feel that this team is a very pure racing team. The reason this team exists is because Gene (Haas) is a passionate racer, and it just so happens that he's also got this big corporation that he's able to promote via this great sport. It's a simple structure in this team and it's a small, little, intimate team. It's very unique in Formula 1 terms to be this intimate and to know the names of that many people within the team, it's kind of cool. The structure is different to other teams - we outsource a lot of stuff - but it just means it's very straight communication throughout the whole team and I think that plays to some advantages. When you have a problem, you can easily address it and once you address it, you can easily adjust whereas with bigger teams I think it takes longer to turn things around."

The Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit is a new race location for you - tell us what you know about the city and the track characteristics.
Mick Schumacher: "It will be the first time for me to go and race in Melbourne, and Australia in general, so I'm quite excited. I'm looking forward to getting to know the track and getting to know the city as well. I've been there with my dad and have watched him race in Melbourne, that was really cool, and I'm excited to drive there myself and make my own experiences of driving in Formula 1 in Australia."

Your father holds the lap record around Albert Park with a blistering time of 1:24.125 set in 2004. With the circuit being quite slippery at the start of a race weekend, and needing a car with a stable front end to really make the most of a lap, what are your predictions for how the VF-22 will fare on Australian soil?
MS: "I think we have a car that we can fight with and a car that is competitive, which is great. Yes, the track is like most other tracks where it needs bedding in, especially when they're driven by road cars all year round. My dad holds the lap record in a 2004 Ferrari - I got the chance to drive that car - and it's an amazing car. We'll make our own laps in a similar looking car actually, the cars have turned back in time and they're looking a bit more like they used to with the high front wing, so it will be interesting. Obviously, very different compared to 2004 but still great to drive with the VF-22."

The time difference from Europe to Melbourne is nine hours. As an athlete, how do you acclimatize quickly and what tips do you have for the personnel, media and fans making the journey down under?
MS: "Acclimatizing is important. Luckily this particular race and Australia in general is a great place to go, it's so different to everywhere else. I'm lucky enough to go there early and spend some time there."

This weekend will mark Haas F1 team's 125th Grand Prix. As a driver who has made 23 race starts for the team to date, can you share your standout moments and detail what's special about the team?
MS: "I think my standout moment with the team would definitely be the Austria weekend from last year as we all went cycling, had a BBQ together, played football together and it was just a really nice time spent all together. What's really special about this team is everybody is so friendly but also so open to embedding you into their conversations, into their lives, so to be able to get to know every single person is something quite special. It's also turning out to be more than only working relationships, it's something quite special and is something that I'll hold with me for a very long time."

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