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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.”

Haas reliability through opening F1 test ‘a lot better’ in 2017

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Haas Formula 1 chief Guenther Steiner says that the team’s reliability has been “a lot better” through the opening test of 2017 compared to its debut outing last year.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean heading up its charge to eighth place in the final constructors’ standings.

Haas ventures into the 2017 season looking to build on a solid first year in F1, and Steiner already feels that it is in better shape following the first test than at the same point in 2016.

The most notable stat from Haas’ first test showing was its mileage. Between Grosjean and teammate Kevin Magnussen, the Haas VF-17 managed 343 laps – the fourth highest for any team in Barcelona.

“Reliability has, obviously, been good. This year we’ve had very few and very small problems,” Steiner said.

“Compared with last year, it’s been a lot better. That is how it should be. Ferrari did a very good job this year with the power unit package. It’s been very reliable.

“The engineers will now go over the data and the comments from the drivers, and out of that we will establish a test plan for next week.

“We know a lot more about the car now than we did four days ago. Now we can make the next step and hone it out, make it better.”

Haas’ early strength in 2017 has also been noticed by new arrival Magnussen, who joined the team from Renault over the winter.

“It’s a really well organized team. We have a good bunch of guys here, good engineers, designers, and Dallara is doing a good job, really really really impressed with them,” Magnussen said.

“They stepped up their game. I wasn’t here last year obviously so I can’t tell really how they did then, but you know the job they’ve done this year with the quality of the car and the components, and the chassis is very nice.”

First test, first points Steiner’s highlights of Haas F1’s debut season

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Guenther Steiner has picked his highlights of Haas Formula 1 Team’s debut season as being its first test in Barcelona and first points on debut in Australia.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid in 2016 after many years of planning, becoming the first American outfit on the grid in 30 years.

Haas debuted the VF-16 car at pre-season testing in Barcelona in February before making its race bow at the Australian Grand Prix.

Romain Grosjean starred on debut to take sixth for Haas in Melbourne before going one better two weeks later in Bahrain, where he finished fifth.

Ahead of the final race of the 2016 season next Sunday, team principal Steiner picked out his two favorite moments of a memorable debut year for Haas in F1.

“There are two moments that stand out: going out in Barcelona for the first time with a new team during testing and then going to our first race and scoring points,” Steiner said.

“It was like: ‘Wow, did we do this?’ We’ve had our ups and downs, and we will have more of them, but there have been a few moments that all the team members will remember for the rest of their lives.”

Haas’ approach has been different to that of other teams, working closely with technical partner Ferrari in the run-up to its debut season, with Steiner putting its success down to Gene Haas’ vision.

“Thanks to Gene Haas, who had the belief in the idea that we would have to do it differently because more of the same would not work,” Steiner said.

“Gene’s wish was to find a different way. We did and it worked out. I think we surprised a lot of people and I think a lot of people admit it, and I think we are perceived now as one of the 11 F1 teams.

“Few would think that we are only in our first season, which is more than a compliment and that is what we want to be.

“We want to be respectable for our own sake and for the sake of F1. I think people look at us now and say they are part of the show.”