The Haas F1 team will focus on reliability and operating procedures rather than chasing performance gains when pre-season Formula 1 testing gets underway in Barcelona next week.
The two four-day events will take place at the Spanish circuit on February 22-25 and March 1-4, as Haas F1 prepares to run its 2016 car for the first time ahead of the team’s debut season.
Guenther Steiner, Haas F1’s team principal, explained that his squad would concentrate on making sure the new car runs reliably during the opening test. It is the first race car that Haas has made, albeit with plenty of technical help from Ferrari and Dallara.
Steiner said: “In our first test of the season and first as a team, you try to make sure everything works as you designed it. You just prove out whatever you did, and in the second part of the test, you try to get performance out of the car.
“Or, better said, you try to get performance as quickly as possible. First of all, make sure everything works. Everything is new on the car. The first test is quite important just from a reliability factor.
“You try to learn as much as possible about the car. You get the baseline on the car and you work off that baseline the rest of the year.”
Steiner also believes the test is an important opportunity for the new team to assess its operational procedures before working on the speed of the car during the second test.
He said: “Because we are a new team, you want to make sure all the people work together – the mechanics work together with the race engineers – to make the car reliable, to understand the car.
“Everything is new for us. It’s not only a new car, but a new team. In the second test, hopefully we put ourselves in a position to start work on the setups of the car to where we can learn how to make it better for the race.”
Romain Grosjean, who joined Gene Haas’ eponymous outfit from Lotus at the end of 2015, also explained that high-mileage running was the team’s priority as a result of the limited testing period in modern F1.
He said: “The first thing for the test is to get the car to run and to work well from there. Hopefully, we can get a lot of mileage. This is a new team, so we need to get everyone to work together, all the engineers, mechanics and the drivers.
“We need to get as much data and knowledge as we can. It’s important to get the reliability sorted as early as possible because we don’t get much testing and we’re going straight to Melbourne.”
Grosjean, who had spent his entire career racing for the Enstone-based team that will run as Renault in 2016, described the welcome he had received at the first American F1 team since Haas Lola, which was run by the unrelated Carl Haas, competed in the 1986 season.
— Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean) February 13, 2016
He said: “I felt a very warm welcome from day one with Gene [Haas] and Guenther and from everyone I’ve met in the team. It’s a nice spirit. It’s an American spirit. Everyone wants to go racing. It’s very exciting, as it’s a new challenge.
“It’s going to be something unique having an American Formula 1 team on the grid for the first time in 30 years. Driving the car out of the garage on day one will be unbelievable. There’s a lot to look forward to. I already feel comfortable in the team. Everyone is motivated and wants to get to the first test, and then the first race.”
Haas F1’s other driver, former Sauber racer and Ferrari reserve, Esteban Gutierrez, explained that he was looking forward to taking part in the first race with his new team.
He said: “I feel very excited after a complete season as a reserve driver. I am full of energy, full of ideas and very hungry to race.
“The development of our car from the beginning will be crucial in order to start the season confident that we have done our job as a team to prepare in the best way possible.”
The Mexican, who has taken part in 38 F1 races in his career so far, described how he spent 2015 observing and learning from Ferrari’s race line-up, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, while getting as much practice as possible in the company’s facilities.
He said: “I focused a lot on my preparation [during 2015]. Basically, anything that will bring me as close as if I were driving. I did a lot of karting, also tested quite a few days in Fiorano with old F1 cars and a lot of days in the simulator in Maranello.
“Ahead of every race I even tried my best to put my mindset as if I was going to race, and I used my imagination to keep my mind sharp. I used all the time that I had to observe the whole team, mainly the drivers in order to learn the best things from them.”
A recent JAonF1 poll asked which team would finish ahead in the 2016 championship, Haas F1 or Manor Racing.
Almost 1,700 votes were cast and 59.87 per cent of participants chose Haas F1 as the team they expected to come out on top.
The American team will reveal its 2016 car on the morning of 22 February ahead of the first day of testing. Grosjean will test on the first and third days, with Gutierrez completing the rest of the event. The Mexican driver will then conduct the first two days of the second test before Grosjean completes the final two days of pre-season running.
What do you think Haas F1 can achieve in 2016? Will it score points in its debut year? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more debate.