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Gene Haas hails team’s “super successful” first season to date

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Although the majority of Haas F1 Team’s 28 points came in the first four races, when Romain Grosjean scored 22 of them with a sixth, fifth and eighth within the opening four flyaway races, team owner Gene Haas has still called it a “super successful” first season.

Haas and team principal Guenther Steiner spoke to assembled reporters at Haas’ U.S. headquarters outside Charlotte in Kannapolis, N.C. on Tuesday to address how the year has gone.

“It’s been super successful,” Haas told reporters. “We’ve said this a number of times, If we said [at the start] we would have 28 points by midyear, we all would have taken that one. Midyear has been a little tough on us because we haven’t really scored any more points.

“But I think we did better than expected at the beginning, we were less than happy with what happened in the midseason but we have four more races. We have the latest aero package. So we’re optimistic.”

Steiner added that Romain Grosjean’s setup input has been invaluable over the course of the season. The Frenchman has been exactly what they needed even though as a new team, Haas has been without any prior setup input or data to work off.

“I think what he gave us is the confidence of where the car is,” Steiner explained. “As much as he sometimes complains about the car, he knows what the car needs to do. He doesn’t tell you to make you happy. He tells you with his experience, the car is doing this, that or the other. Or it isn’t right or it’s right. So we’re confident. He’s one of the crucial elements of our success here this year.”

This weekend at Circuit of The Americas (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET, NBC) marks the first time an American team has raced in a United States F1 race since the Haas Lola team (unrelated Haas, this was the late Carl Haas) in 1986 on the streets of Detroit, in what was called the Detroit Grand Prix and not the United States Grand Prix.

It’s a potential dream weekend for the team, with Grosjean set to make his 100th Grand Prix start and Esteban Gutierrez, the Mexican, getting a sampling of what it’s like to race on his home continent of North America before his home race in Mexico next week.

And they enter on an optimistic high, after both cars made it to Q3 in Suzuka two weeks ago for the first time. Although as Haas related, that made for a learning process even then.

“Keep in mind that we learned the hard way that when you go to Q3, you have to start on your qualifying tires,” Haas explained. “So the people that beat us were people behind us that started on their medium tires and they had a 1-pit strategy where we had to pit twice.

“Obviously, I think some of the guys in front did the two-stop strategy but they had faster cars. But our cars were definitely faster and the cars are faster around the turns now. So I think that will help us quite a bit in the rest of the races.”

Haas embraces the team’s American-ness, but it isn’t a be-all, end-all for their success.

“We get a lot of people that would like to see us to, say, become the American team. We’d like to have people throw money at us, too,” he noted.

And unlike other teams which have either popped up and gone away, or faded after several years, Haas knows the future is bright because there is a wealth of knowledge to grow on for year two.

“The good news is we’re going to have a second season,” Haas said.

Steiner added, “Not everybody had that … We will have a second season.”

Additional reporting from NBC Sports’ Nate Ryan in Charlotte. Look for more from Grosjean, Gutierrez and the Haas F1 Team with Nate later this week on NBCSports.com.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.