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Haas suffers double DNF in Malaysia, fined for unsafe Gutierrez release

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The Haas Formula 1 Team endured a Sunday to forget at Sepang as both Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez retired from the Malaysian Grand Prix due to mechanical issues on their cars.

Haas had been hopeful of scoring its points since the middle of July after qualifying 12th and 13th, with Grosjean rising into the top 10 early on.

However, the Frenchman was sent careering into the barrier at the final corner after suffering a brake failure early on in the race.

“We really don’t know what happened yet, but the pedal just went straight to the floor and I had to avoid the car in front of me,” Grosjean said.

“Our data didn’t suggest anything beforehand. It’s a shame. We did a really good first lap and we were looking at points running inside the top-10. Things just didn’t go very well.

“I was racing with Fernando [Alonso]. He had power, so it was very difficult to keep him behind. I was then just trying to follow his pace. The plan was to try to keep the tires alive for quite a while. We just didn’t get to that point, though.”

Gutierrez had been caught up in the first corner fracas, leaving him running well down the order, but he failed to even finish the race after losing his front-left wheel when running down the main straight.

“Today we had a fantastic start. It was pretty good up to the first corner when, unfortunately, I got a puncture in my rear-right tire from Kevin [Magnussen] touching behind,” Gutierrez explained.

“I then had to come back to the pits. The floor was damaged and when I went back out on track I was fighting a lot, pushing to make up places, but the car wasn’t easy to drive.

“We had to retire after my second pit stop as we had a mechanical failure. Overall, a pretty disappointing weekend, but we have to keep our focus and keep the rhythm as we head to Japan.”

Haas was later hit with a €5,000 fine from the FIA for releasing Gutierrez’s car in an unsafe manner.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.