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Haas wary of taking on Ferrari F1 juniors in race seats

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Gene Haas is wary of hiring a junior driver from a larger Formula 1 operation for his eponymous team, believing it “doesn’t really make a lot of sense” from a business perspective to do so.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas hit the F1 grid in 2016 with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez in seats, the latter being replaced by Kevin Magnussen for 2017.

Haas F1 Team enjoys close ties with Ferrari, and has given track time to its two leading juniors – Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi (pictured) – in the past, leading to speculation they could take a full-time race seat in the future.

Haas has already confirmed that Grosjean and Magnussen will continue through 2018, and explained his caution over hiring a junior from another team on business grounds.

“I don’t think we rule it out, but from a business model it doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” Haas said.

“There’s no secret that it costs $60 million to put a car on the track for the season and if someone gives you a driver and not just from Ferrari, from anybody, and they’re going to pay you five or six million dollars, there’s $55 million deficit there somewhere.

“So it doesn’t really make sense to want to run let’s say a partner or a paid driver for compensation. I think our point of view has always been that we need to obtain points and that’s how we generate moving forward and making money.

“So that’s our business model. I think Ferrari respects that and based on that, if there’s some mutual agreement that we could come to we probably would be more open to that.”

Giovinazzi confirmed for Singapore F1 practice appearance with Haas

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Ferrari youngster Antonio Giovinazzi will get another chance to showcase his skills in a Formula 1 car when he takes part in opening practice for the Singapore Grand Prix with Haas.

Giovinazzi, 23, joined Ferrari’s junior program at the end of last year after finishing second in the GP2 Series, and was drafted in by Sauber to replace the injured Pascal Wehrlein for the opening two grands prix of the year.

The Italian confirmed at the end of May he would be taking part in an extensive practice program with Haas through the second half of the season, getting seven FP1 run-outs starting in Hungary.

Giovinazzi’s second appearance was due to follow at Monza last week, only for Haas to reschedule due to the threat of rain and fear of losing more track time on Friday.

To make up for the lost session, Giovinazzi will now feature in practice for the Singapore Grand Prix next Friday at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, as confirmed by Haas on Twitter.

Despite his practice running, Giovinazzi is not set to drive full-time for Haas next year, with the American team already confirming that existing drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will be retained.

Giovinazzi’s best chance of an F1 seat appears to come at Sauber, who is set to enjoy a closer relationship with Ferrari from 2018 after signing a new technical partnership.

Grosjean disappointed by FIA’s decision to start Monza F1 qualifying

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Romain Grosjean was left angered by the decision to start Formula 1 qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix in heavy rain after crashing out five minutes into the session while driving in a straight line.

Qualifying began at Monza as planned at 2pm local time despite the final F1 practice session of the weekend being limited to just 16 minutes of green flag running earlier in the day.

Nine drivers were able to complete a flying lap, but a number reported low visibility, with Grosjean calling conditions “dangerous” over team radio.

Moments later, the Frenchman speared into the wall on the main straight after trying to apply the throttle, bringing out a red flag. A lengthy delay followed, with qualifying yet to resume at the time of writing.

“I’m gonna try to be calm, and not say anything I may regret. We shouldn’t have launched qualy,” Grosjean told NBCSN.

“From the out lap on, I complained it was too dangerous. We couldn’t see where we are. I wasn’t the only one. Clearly crashing in a straight line shows the car couldn’t take it, and there was too much water.

“I’m disappointed that we started in these conditions. You can’t do anything. But you can’t back off. If there is someone behind you, they’re straight in your back. You don’t know what’s in front.

“We should have waited. It felt alright at the first lap. The rain came stronger on the second lap to push. We knew we’d have more aquaplaning with the tires. It was fine. Brand new tarmac. It was too dangerous.”

Grosjean felt the decision to start qualifying went against the FIA’s recent push to improve safety standards with concepts such as the Halo and stricter yellow flag rules.

“I think FIA brings safety, and you have to slow down a lot for yellows, Halo is coming in…” Grosjean said.

“But launching a qualy which shouldn’t have taken place, or at least after the out lap, I believe the decision should have been made differently.”

Haas to question F1 future if sport doesn’t become more competitive

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Gene Haas will consider the future of his eponymous Formula 1 team if steps are not made to make the sport more competitive and fix the “almost unsolvable” problem of how to cut the gap between teams.

Since Lotus won the 2013 Australian Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen, just three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – have won every Grand Prix since, starting with round two of that season in Malaysia. The close-knit midfield teams have rarely had a chance to fight at the front of the pack, and podiums for other teams beyond those three have been sparse.

Following its takeover of F1 in January, Liberty Media has been tasked with finding ways to make the sport more competitive and give the midfielders more of a fighting chance instead of making up the numbers – something Haas is keen to see.

“They’ve very patiently listened to us and they’ve talked to all the teams, and they’re formulating a strategy that they’re going to release later this year,” Haas told NBCSN.

“We’re all anticipating how they’re going to solve that problem, because it sounds like it’s a problem that’s almost unsolvable.

“In last practice [on Friday at Monza], the first three cars were all within a second, and the next 10 cars were all within a second.

“There’s a big gap. There’s definitely a big racing gap between the front-runners and the team at the back.”

F1’s youngest team, Haas F1 Team has impressed since making its debut at the start of 2016, but has not finished a race any higher than fifth, the result coming in just its second grand prix.

A number of options to reduce costs and narrow the gap between teams throughout the field have been suggested, including spec parts or a budget cap.

While Haas doubts anything can be done to reduce the gap, he stressed the need for some kind of unpredictability in F1.

“If anything, my point of view is that it’s a gap we can’t reduce. With what our current resources are and what we know, it seems an impossible gap to reduce,” Haas said.

“I think some of it is that the top three teams are maybe quasi-manufacturers, and since they run the whole car and make the whole car, they understand it a lot better.

“So we’re always going to be at somewhat of a disadvantage to the manufacturers who understand the car better than we do.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of a randomness in the sport where even a team in the back has some possibility of winning once in a while.

“Not every race, but if you can never win in this sport, it’s really not going to be much of a sport.”

When asked if he was considering his team’s future in F1, Haas said: “Well we’re certainly committed to Formula 1.

“But if we never have a chance to win, I’d really have to question why we’re here.

“I think every team should have at least some possibility of winning a race once in a while, through a fuel strategy or some alternative.

“But the gap’s so big now that I just don’t see how we can possibly close it.”

Haas currently sits seventh in F1’s constructors’ championship on 35 points after 12 rounds, having already exceeded its score from 2016 thanks to contributions from drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

By comparison, Mercedes sits on top of the teams’ table on 392 points ahead of Ferrari on 348 and Red Bull on 199.

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.”