Mario Andretti hails Haas F1 Team’s first test

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Today kicks off the second week of testing ahead of the Formula 1 season, and Haas F1 Team will be looking for a second straight solid – if not better – week of running at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The team and several key observers hailed Haas’ first week of running as a good one, and so too has 1978 World Champion Mario Andretti – America’s most recent World Champion.

Andretti and I talked at Phoenix International Raceway this weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series Test in the West, and he was impressed with the Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner-led team’s first test.

“I think it was a pleasant surprise, to run as much as they did, and to be on pace straight away,” Andretti told NBC Sports.

“At least they were there and not at back of the pack. They were the middle of the pack.

“To be there is a feat in itself. Clearly, they’ve put together the right pieces. I’m thinking they surprised everyone going into the first test.”

Haas F1 Team is the first American team, of course, since Team Haas – no relation – in 1986.

From an American driver standpoint, Alexander Rossi started five Grands Prix last year to end an eight-year drought since Scott Speed’s last start in 2007. His 2006 debut ended a prior 13-year drought since Michael Andretti.

Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez share the Haas VF-16 Ferrari chassis. Gutierrez tests today to kick off the second test of the preseason.

The team took time to wish Andretti a happy birthday on Sunday.