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Steiner: ‘Fantastic’ to have Grosjean, Magnussen firmed up for ’18

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Haas Formula 1 team chief Guenther Steiner is delighted to have drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen firmed up in seats for the 2018 season early, allowing them to focus on their on-track performances under less pressure.

Team owner Gene Haas confirmed in an interview last month that Grosjean and Magnussen would be retained for 2018, the pair signing multi-year deals upon their arrival.

The news stood out as most teams are currently in the process of mulling over their 2018 plans, with Haas set to take no part in the annual ‘silly season’ driver market merry-go-round.

Steiner is happy to have Haas’ 2018 plans already in place, giving Grosjean and Magnussen the chance to build on the team’s impressive start to the year without the pressure of fighting for their futures.

“It’s fantastic. Having our drivers signed up now is the best place to be,” Steiner said.

“They are solid. They work well with the team. There is no uncertainty about who is there.

“They don’t get nervous. They can focus on defending their position and bettering it.”

Haas currently sits seventh in the F1 constructors’ championship after matching the points total from its debut season in less than half as many races in 2017.

Haas’ form has fluctuated at times thanks to the close-knit nature of the midfield fight, with Steiner expecting the momentum to swing between the battling teams when F1 returns from its summer break next weekend in Belgium.

“In Austria, we had the fourth-fastest car, and in Hungary, Renault had the fourth-fastest car. It’s such an up and down in the midfield,” Steiner said.

“Right now, it seems teams like Renault and McLaren have made gains, but maybe it is track specific. Nobody really knows. Everyone is speculating and I don’t want to make a speculation.

“We will do the best job we can in all of these circumstances and try to keep our heads in front of the people behind us and try to catch up to some in front.

“Everybody is trying to do the best they can and we will do the same. To speculate about what others are doing doesn’t help you.

“We just need to work hard and try to make the best out of it.”

Haas planning to race with Brembo F1 brakes in Spain

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The Haas Formula 1 team is planning to race with Brembo brakes in next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix after an unsuccessful bid to switch supplier last time out in Russia.

Haas has endured a number of braking issues on its cars since joining the F1 grid at the start of 2016, and evaluated a change to Carbon Industrie brakes for the Russian Grand Prix after a test in Bahrain.

The team used Carbon Industrie parts for Friday practice, only to then make the switch back to Brembo for the remainder of the race weekend.

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said that work is still ongoing to try and resolve the braking problems, but the American squad is planning to race with Brembo again in Spain next weekend.

“We started off with CI brakes in Sochi. We weren’t getting enough cooling for them, and if you don’t cool them enough, you overheat the brake itself and the pedal gets long,” Steiner said.

“Also, the wear is very high. We looked into it to see if we could survive a race, but we realized we could not. Therefore, the decision was taken to go back onto the Brembo.

“As it stands now, we will race Brembo in Barcelona.

“To figure out how we can fix the problem will take a bit, but we will get there. It isn’t an easy problem to solve. We will take our time.

“We know what we’ve got after our Bahrain test with CI brakes, and after Sochi in FP1 and FP2. We know what we need to do and what needs to get done, but it will take a little bit of time.”

Despite the ongoing braking problems, Steiner stressed that Haas is working tirelessly to find a solution, but that it will take time to do so.

“Everybody needs to understand that this is a very sophisticated brake system. It is not easy to fix,” Steiner said.

“The obvious question, and rightly people ask, is that it cannot be this difficult to fix a brake. It actually is. It isn’t easy. This is because they’re highly complicated technologies, they’re highly advanced. When you change from one to the other, you encounter issues you’re not aware of until you try it properly.

“Without testing during the season, you need to do it in FP1 and FP2. You always have to wait two weeks to do something. So you can never go and do a proper test and do modifications. You always have to fit it in somehow. It compromises your testing, and that’s why it takes so long.

“It’s not that we’re not working hard. Our people are very competent and can do this, it just takes time.”

More brake issues strike Haas in Russia F1 practice despite supplier change

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The Haas Formula 1 team endured another difficult day of practice ahead of the Russian Grand Prix as drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen suffered more brake issues despite changing supplier.

Haas confirmed on Thursday that it would be switching from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes, having suffered problems throughout its 14-month stint in F1.

Despite enjoying a positive test in Bahrain with Carbon Industrie parts last week, both Grosjean and Magnussen struggled with their brakes in FP1 and FP2 at the Sochi Autodrom on Friday.

Grosjean finished FP2 14th-fastest, with Magnussen breaking into the top 10, charging to ninth place in the VF-17 car.

“We’ve got very little grip. We’re really struggling with the balance,” Grosjean said. “We had some issues, as well, with the brakes over the long runs. We need to look at what we can do better with them.

“Generally, it’s just been a very difficult Friday. The car didn’t perform well – very low grip on low fuel and high fuel.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner added: “We had a lot to do and I think we did a lot. We still haven’t got all the results yet, as we need to go through data.

“I would say the issues with the brakes were mainly because they’re new to us. We need to find out how they work. Going through the data, we will decide tomorrow what we’re doing and how we continue.

“All in all, we had pretty fruitful sessions. We did a lot of laps and we learned a lot. Now we need to get the best out of what we learned for tomorrow to go into qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

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!’”

Steiner: Ferrari F1 engine as good as Mercedes’, ‘if not better’

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Haas Formula 1 chief Guenther Steiner believes that the Ferrari power unit used by his team is just as good as that offered by Mercedes, “if not better”.

Mercedes has been recognized as producing the best power unit in F1 since the introduction of the new V6 turbos in 2014, with its works teams sweeping to three straight championship-doubles.

Ferrari looked to make gains over the winter with its power unit, and managed to defeat Mercedes at the season-opener in Australia as Sebastian Vettel took his first race win in 18 months.

From his experience with the customer Haas team, Steiner was full of praise for the Ferrari power unit, believing it to be at least equal to what the Mercedes teams are racing with.

“With the engine, there is not just one area that is better, it’s the whole package that has improved from last year,” Steiner said.

“It’s now as competitive as a Mercedes engine, if not better. Ferrari won in Australia, but everybody is developing and trying to get better.

“It’s always going to be a development race. They’ve made a good step, and without that help from Ferrari, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

Haas saw its hopes of scoring points in Australia end in disappointment as both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen retired, the former running seventh on-track before a water leak forced him out of the race.

Despite the setback, Steiner said that Haas remained “cautiously optimistic” heading into the second race of the season in China on April 9.

“We need to still prove that our performance wasn’t a one-off. It’s very tight in the midfield,” Steiner said.

“On a good day, you could be on top, but on a bad day, you could be at the back. The other midfield teams have shown that this can happen.

“I think we surprised a little bit with our performance, especially Romain qualifying sixth with his lap, which was four-tenths faster than [Felipe] Massa’s. That’s pretty good.”