Austrian GP: Preview - Haas


Haas F1 Team is heading straight from Silverstone to Spielberg for Round 11 of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

Austria first joined Formula 1's calendar in 1964, at Zeltweg Airport, but from 1970 it moved to the newly-constructed Österreichring in the undulating landscape above the village of Spielberg. It featured until 1987 before re-appearing in truncated form, as the A1 Ring, from 1997 through 2003. Austria's grand prix again dropped off the schedule for over a decade, with the circuit falling into an unusable state, but after heavy funding from Red Bull it was extensively renovated - with the layout retained - and Austria's Formula 1 event was revived in 2014.

Austria held the opening two rounds of the 2020 season, as Formula 1 grappled with the early stages of the pandemic, and once more in 2021 Spielberg stepped in to fill the void with back-to-back events. Now, after four races in two years, Austria is back to its conventional national grand prix - though there will once more be two opportunities to do battle. That's because F1 Sprint will return for its second of three outings this season, marking the first time the format has been run at Spielberg.

Spielberg evokes positive memories for Haas F1 Team, with a best-ever double finish of fourth and fifth achieved at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix. That result included Kevin Magnussen, who has taken part in seven grands prix in Austria, while Mick Schumacher is preparing for his third Formula 1 round in Austria following his participation in 2021's double-header.

Haas F1 Team enters the Austrian Grand Prix eighth in the Constructors' Championship after a double-points finish last time out in Britain.

Three years on since Haas F1 Team's last double-points score at the German Grand Prix in 2019 - was the British Grand Prix result perhaps a little unexpected given the team's grid positioning or was it simply further evidence of the team being able to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves?
Guenther Steiner: "It was a good surprise to finish with two cars in the top-ten, but we know that the car is able to do it, and the team is able to do it, it's just that the last five races were very difficult. When the opportunity arose this time with the red flag, and we were shifted up a few positions forward, we were not given anything for free. The car was strong, the drivers were strong, so we just capitalized on it and pushed forward. I think it was deserved after quite a few races which were frustrating."

Mick Schumacher battled all the way to the checkered flag to score an eighth-place finish and his maiden points at Silverstone. He was pushing Max Verstappen on the final lap - did you feel P7 was there for the taking potentially or were you happy to see a solid P8 banked?
GS: "I'm pretty happy with a solid P8 and I'm not upset that we didn't achieve seventh. Mick fought for it, but he fought one of the best, if not the best for that position. In the end he brought home P8 and his first points, which is very good."

While the upgrade package for the VF-22 is still a couple of races away, how satisfying was it to see both cars in the points mid-way through the season with effectively the same technical package the team first tested in Spain and Bahrain in pre-season? Do you feel the full potential in that original package has been unlocked or is there more to come prior to the summer break?
GS: "I've always said we're not going to introduce upgrades just to introduce them because everybody else does, we go our own way. We'll introduce them when we feel that we have got enough gains that we actually have got something and it's not just a publicity effort. We have a package coming, hopefully if all goes well for Hungary, and that's just before the summer break and hopefully we'll be able to unlock a bit more from the VF-22 with that. As we could see, the VF-22 is still strong even with its launch package."

The Austrian Grand Prix comes hot on the heels of the British Grand Prix so how important is the momentum of scoring points and moving back up to eighth in the Constructors' Championship heading straight into another race weekend - one of four in the month of July?
GS: "July is a very packed month with races. It would be nice to have some more points but as I've said before, I don't want to hype up the expectation now that when we don't score points, we're upset, that's not true. The midfield is very tight together this year and at each race somebody else can get into the points. We need to have a flawless weekend to get into the points because our competitors are strong. Obviously, we will fight for points but if they are not coming there is a race two weeks later in France where we can score points. I think we can potentially score points in each of the races."

We once again saw at Silverstone, in both the F1 and F2 races on Sunday, the impact of the Halo device in terms of driver safety. Can you share what your thoughts were when the measure was first proposed several years ago to now where we've seen its effectiveness in multiple accidents and the protection it provides drivers?
GS: "When the addition was proposed, I wouldn't say I was skeptical. I knew what I knew, and I said yes, we can do without it and so on but now I must admit, how can we do without it now. The halo device has helped a lot, not only Zhou in the last race but in a lot of accidents in F2, F3, F1, everywhere. If you say we go without the halo device, now it would be like saying we go without helmets or a HANS device. It's just a part of the safety of Formula 1 cars. Obviously, we have to compliment the FIA as they introduced it and pushed really hard even if some of us were objecting it. It's a very good device and it's now part of our technical regulations."

Round 11 of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship is the Austrian Grand Prix, the second Sprint weekend on the 2022 schedule. It also marks your second Sprint weekend - what did you learn from Imola and what's your assessment on Sprint weekends so far?
Kevin Magnussen: "Imola was my first Sprint and we had a good weekend, we scored points in both the Sprint and the main race, so it's always nice to have a good first experience so hopefully we can do the same in Austria. I watched them last year and the big question is whether or not you want to take a risk in the Sprint. If you didn't qualify for your position in the main race during the Sprint and instead the qualifying on Friday was your starting position for both the Sprint and the main race, then you would be able to go for it in the Sprint without having to take risks for your starting position. Maybe that could be a solution to make people go for it a bit more in the Sprint."

The 2018 Austrian Grand Prix was the most successful in Haas F1 Team's short history. What do you remember about that race and share some of your feelings after crossing the finishing line?
KM: "It was awesome for the team. It was one of those days where, being such a small team and getting that kind of result with both cars, it felt so great to be that small team with the resources we have, especially at that time, to beat those big teams on that day."

The area around the Red Bull Ring is known for having changing weather. Having experienced good results with the VF-22 in the wet, most noticeably during qualifying in Montreal, do you look forward to the chance of rain?
KM: "It seems that we have a good car in the wet. Somehow, it seems more competitive when it's a wet track, so naturally you hope for wet all the time. I did do a lot of karting in the wet as I grew up in Denmark, but I don't think that's why. There's a lot less grip and you feel on the edge in the car in the wet so there's more risk in a way, and it's more exhilarating to drive, it just adds a little more."

At 677 meters above sea level, engines and brakes come in for a hard time in Austria. With these new cars, how vital is looking after them going to be in order to make it to the finish line on Sunday?
KM: "We haven't actually really been able to say on this type of track if we're stronger or weaker, it seems that our car is about the same at most tracks - it's more of a tire thing. In Melbourne, the only place where I feel like we were uncompetitive, it was more about the tires, being able to get them into the window, so it's hard to predict."

Round 11 of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship is the Austrian Grand Prix, the second Sprint weekend on the 2022 schedule. The first in Imola netted you a then-best 10th place finish, so do you like the added opportunity of two races in one weekend?
Mick Schumacher: "I'm excited about simply going to Austria. It's a great track, a great venue, and it's always nice. It's good weather usually so I bring my bike and go cycling with the team. I've done sprints a lot in some format in Formula 2 but I like driving free practice sessions and being able to really perfect the car, and then go into qualifying. Everything builds up to that big event whereas I feel with the Sprint you have one free practice, one qualifying and then you go straight into the Sprint itself and sometimes it can feel a bit rushed."

You've said previously that Austria was one of your favorite events last year. What is it that you like about the Red Bull Ring and the close surroundings of the track?
MS: "First of all, I think it's beautiful - all the mountains and "Heidi-esque" vibe, it's super cool. I had a great time with the team last year and I enjoy the mountain area. It's always been a good track to me in some ways, so I'm excited about going back there and hopefully we'll have a good weekend."

The area around the track is known for having changing weather. Having experienced good results with the VF-22 in the wet, most noticeably during qualifying in Montreal, do you look forward to the chance of rain?
MS: "Yes! I want the wet, I want it to rain. This year as well with the car it definitely helps, so that obviously helps for motivation in the rain. If you already have the thought that you're happy about rain, that can change a lot in how you approach it compared to a person who doesn't like rain and doesn't want to drive - it's all about mindset."

At 677 meters above sea level, engines and brakes come in for a hard time in Austria. With these new cars, how vital is looking after them going to be in order to make it to the finish line on Sunday?
MS: "I think this year more than ever it's a matter of conserving the brakes and trying to maximize what you have. Those things unfortunately don't go hand in hand so you're kind of on the limit of both and it's about what do you prioritize - making the car as quick as it can go or making the car reliable as it can be, so it's up to us to find."

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Published: 06/07/2022
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