Haas F1 Team on track to debut at Barcelona test

Gene Haas speaks to a Ferrari engineer at the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix.

Steven Tee

F1 testing begins next Monday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, where Haas F1’s 2016 machine will make its debut. It will be the first time in 30 years that America has fielded a Formula One team.

The car will be unveiled with just one hour to spare ahead of the first test, where French racing driver Romain Grosjean will turn the car’s first laps. Grosjean and his Mexican teammate Esteban Gutierrez will alternate turns behind the wheel during the four-day test, with Grosjean driving on Monday and Wednesday and Gutierrez on Tuesday and Thursday.

At the second Barcelona test from March 1-4, Gutierrez will be behind the wheel for the first two days while Grosjean will be at the controls to finish it off.

Haas F1 Team’s path to Formula One began relatively recently, as it was only awarded a Formula One license in April 2014. Since then, over 100 people have been hired at the team’s bases in Kannapolis, North Carolina; Banbury, U.K.; and Parma, Italy. The team also had to build a technical partnership with an engine supplier – Ferrari – and sign its two drivers. Numerous other partnerships have also been signed to ensure that the team has all the personnel, technology and funding to make it into Formula One.

The team will now have just two four-day sessions to fine-tune everything on its cars ahead of the 2016 Formula One season, which begins on March 20 in Melbourne, Australia.

Haas F1 car passes FIA crash tests

“In our first test of the season and first as a team, you try to make sure everything works as you designed it,” explained Team Principal Guenther Steiner. “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.

“At the test, there is no limit to how much we can work. We have a day and night shift. In the old days, which weren’t so long ago, it was the same people doing the day and night shifts. What is done now is you have people coming in around 6 p.m. and have dinner with the guys from the day shift, so they exchange what they learned and know what they have to do.”

“I felt a very warm welcome from day one with Gene (Haas) and Guenther (Steiner) and from everyone I’ve met in the team,” said Grosjean, who will get to turn the first laps for the Haas F1 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 One 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.”

“I feel very excited after a complete season as a reserve driver,” said Gutierrez. “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.”

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