The Malaysian Grand Prix Sunday at Sepang International Circuit in Kuala Lumpur proved to be a frustrating endeavor for Haas F1 Team as drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean suffered double DNFs (Did Not Finish).
Gutierrez started 13th in the 22-car field but sustained a punctured right-rear tire in the aftermath of the opening-lap skirmish between the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and championship leader Nico Rosberg. The contact spun Rosberg's Mercedes around and sent bits of carbon fiber flying.
The tire on Gutierrez's Haas VF-16 was nothing but a carcass as he limped back to the garage area for service while the track was under a VSC (Virtual Safety Car) period. A used set of Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires went on and Gutierrez returned to the 56-lap race around the 5.543-kilometer (3.444-mile), 15-turn circuit mired way back in 20th.
Grosjean, meanwhile, took advantage of the dustup between Vettel and Rosberg to pick up three positions, advancing from his 12th-place starting spot to run ninth. And when the VSC period ended, Grosjean engaged in a spirited battle with the McLaren of Fernando Alonso. Grosjean held off the two-time Formula One champion for a number of laps before Alonso passed Grosjean for ninth on lap six.
Running 10th with the Toro Rosso of Carlos Sainz Jr. less than a second behind, Grosjean set his sights on holding the position and earning another point-paying finish for Haas F1 Team. On lap nine, those aspirations quickly went away.
As Grosjean applied the brakes to slow his Haas VF-16 after shooting down the long straight into the hairpin turn 15, his pedal went to the floor. The car twitched side-to-side and the wheels eventually locked, sending Grosjean off track and deep into the gravel trap. He emerged from his car unhurt but deeply unsatisfied.
Things went from bad to worse on lap 41 when Gutierrez lost his left-front wheel on the short straight leading into turn nine. Gutierrez deftly steered his three-wheeled Haas VF-16 to a safe area well off the racing surface. After climbing from his car, he joined his teammate back in the paddock.
At the other end of the racing spectrum was Red Bull Racing, which scored a 1-2 finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Daniel Ricciardo led the way, finishing 2.443 seconds ahead of his teammate Max Verstappen. It was Ricciardo's fourth career Formula One victory, his first of the season and his first at Sepang.
The championship fight between Mercedes teammates Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton took a drastic turn when Hamilton suffered an engine failure on lap 41. The DNF combined with Rosberg's third-place finish gives Rosberg a 23-point advantage with only five races remaining.
Sixteen rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points. The American squad maintained the 19-point gap to seventh-place Toro Rosso while ninth-place Renault cut Haas F1 Team's margin to 20 points as Jolyon Palmer finished 10th.
Romain Grosjean: "There was a brake failure. We really don't know what yet, but the pedal just went straight to the floor and I had to avoid the car in front of me. Our data didn't suggest anything beforehand. It's a shame. We did a really good first lap and we were looking at points running inside the top-10. Things just didn't go very well. I was racing with Fernando (Alonso). He had power, so it was very difficult to keep him behind. I was then just trying to follow his pace. The plan was to try to keep the tires alive for quite a while. We just didn't get to that point, though."
Esteban Gutierrez: "Today we had a fantastic start. It was pretty good up to the first corner when, unfortunately, I got a puncture in my rear-right tire from Kevin (Magnussen) touching behind. I then had to come back to the pits. The floor was damaged and when I went back out on track I was fighting a lot, pushing to make up places, but the car wasn't easy to drive. We had to retire after my second pit stop as we had a mechanical failure. Overall, a pretty disappointing weekend, but we have to keep our focus and keep the rhythm as we head to Japan."
Guenther Steiner: "After we saw light at the end of the tunnel yesterday after qualifying, where I think we did a pretty good job, it got dark again today. We don't really know yet what happened with both of the cars. One had a brake failure and the other, obviously, lost a wheel. We'll have to see what exactly failed with the brakes on Romain's car. We lost a wheel on Esteban's car, but we're not sure yet why. The pit stop seemed to be ok and he got going. We need to see if a mechanical part failed or if it wasn't tight, but we don't know yet. Obviously, we're moving on to Japan. We'll try to put ourselves in a better position again there."