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Haas: 2017 line-up change key to see if issue was driver or team

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Haas Formula 1 chief Guenther Steiner says that the decision to drop Esteban Gutierrez in favor of Kevin Magnussen for 2017 was a key step to see if the driver or the team was behind the No. 21 entry’s failure to score a point last year.

Gutierrez joined Haas for its maiden season in F1 last year, partnering Romain Grosjean, but failed to pick up a single top-10 finish across the course of the year.

By comparison, Grosjean scored 29 points, highlighted by a charge to fifth place in the team’s second outing in Bahrain, impressing the F1 world.

Despite being backed publicly by Haas’ chiefs, Gutierrez was dropped at the end of the year in favor of Renault’s Kevin Magnussen, who signed a multi-year deal starting in 2017.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Haas team principal Steiner said that the change was key in understanding where the problem lay in 2016, with Magnussen being high on the shortlist to replace Gutierrez.

“Very simply, you try to improve. Esteban didn’t score any points last year, and it was also important for us to see if it was the driver or us not delivering,” Steiner said.

“That’s why we decided that we need a change. There are not too many drivers in the league of Kevin – and we knew Kevin already, as we had spoken with him already the year before.

“So we talked again and it didn’t take long to come to an agreement.”

Magnussen made an early impression at Haas by scoring points in just his second grand prix, finishing eighth in China.

The Dane appears to have found stability in F1 after a rocky start to life as a grand prix driver, having been dropped by McLaren after his rookie year despite being touted as one of the British marque’s finest young talents.

His story is not dissimilar to that of Grosjean, who was also dropped after a handful of races with Renault in 2009 after replacing Nelson Piquet Jr.

Grosjean went away and won the GP2 title in style, securing a return to F1 in 2012 with Lotus, and has since established himself as one of the sport’s brightest talents.

“I agree that both had some troubles in the past, but difficulties make you better, and both are still in F1, so there must be more to it,” Steiner said.

“But to be fair, we never really investigated why they had to leave teams. We took them as individuals who would suit our mentality at a time when they were free and we wanted them.

“I think they fit pretty well into our team – maybe we are a bit troubled as well! There is the American saying: ‘What makes you suffer makes you tougher!’”

Here’s what drivers said after Sunday’s INDYCAR race was postponed until Monday

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Here’s what several drenched drivers had to say after Sunday’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was postponed until Monday morning (11:30 a.m. ET, LIVE on NBCSN):

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 1 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet, 2017 Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama winner, 2018 pole winner): “It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us. We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much. There was too much puddling and pooling of water on every straightaway. Then the rivers started flowing, high-speed compressions in Turns 1 and 2, fast corner, 12 and 13, fast corner where the river starts to form. Just tough. I mean, look, we love racing in the rain. It’s got nothing to do with not wanting to run in the rain, not being able to do that. It’s that this type of track with this water level was too much to race today. We’ve run here in the rain before, but it intensified to the point where you’re starting to get in a situation where it’s going to take it out of the drivers’ hands. What happened with Will (Power), I don’t think is a driver error. I don’t know how anyone is going to drive hydroplaning on the front straightaway. I think you would have had that for the rest of the track, too. A tough situation. Thanks for the fans that came out and supported us. Hopefully we’ll get some people back tomorrow and we’ll get the show in and put on a great event.”

MATHEUS “MATT” LEIST (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet):
“Tough day so far. We had some problems with our radio and fuel alarm, but otherwise the car was alright. It was just too dangerous out there, we couldn’t see anything, so I think they made the right call. Hopefully we’ll have a good race tomorrow.”

WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “It’s just a real shame for everyone on the Verizon Chevy team. The car was good and we were doing our best out there, but it was really hard to see anything in front of me. The conditions were just so bad. As soon as I got to the frontstraight, the car just came around, and I tried to keep it off the wall, but it was hydroplaning and there was nothing I could do. I feel bad for the team and for the fans in this weather. Just too bad. Hopefully our luck can turn around when we get to Indianapolis.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 14 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “Very difficult day for us. In the race we were 13th at the time and we had some electrical issues, so that caused us to pit and we lost a lap. Not the ideal situation, but we don’t give up. There’s still a race tomorrow and we’re going to go for the most points. Anything can happen.”

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 Mi-Jack Honda): “It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue today, no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in today, but that’s life. We will go racing tomorrow.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 27 Kerauno / MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, Verizon IndyCar Series points leader): “I think definitely the right decision was made to red flag the race. It’s a very difficult position for everyone to be in. It’s never the result that you want, but safety is obviously a priority. I think everyone did a good job considering the conditions of looking out for each other. Not being able to see is not doing anybody any good. It is hard for everyone, but glad that we’re all in one piece and try again later.

TAKUMA SATO (No. 30 Mi-Jack / Panasonic Honda): “As you could see on TV, if you couldn’t see the car, it was probably three times worse in the cockpit on the main straight or any straight. You had to completely trust the guys that they were accelerating. Never the less, I made good progress on the short stint and I made up a few positions.  The car was working well, but also was aquaplaning a lot, too, so I have to respect INDYCAR’s decision for everyone’s safety. Now we really need to concentrate on having a good car for tomorrow. I’m sorry for the fans that sat in rain all day, but thank them for their support.”

RENE BINDER (No. 32 Binderholz tiptop timber Chevrolet): “It was a short day. In the beginning the conditions were not that good, but afterwards the conditions started to improve. The race was stopped, then restarted, and I think the conditions were not too bad at that point. Unfortunately, it was red flagged again and then cancelled for the day. It would have been nice to get halfway, but we will come back and try again tomorrow.”