Steiner feared Grosjean and Magnussen were 'unmanageable'

Haas F1 boss Guenther Steiner has admitted that there were points during the 2019 season when he feared that the team’s two drivers were simply no longer manageable together.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen clashed at several points in the first half of the season, with the worst incident coming early in the British Grand Prix where contact between the pair on the first lap sent both cars into retirement.

For Steiner, it was almost the final straw in a season that was already proving to be a deeply disappointing one for the squad.

“After Silverstone I was to a point where I could not see this working anymore,” he told Motorsport.com. “We were struggling with the car, then we were struggling with the drivers.

“If I cannot control the drivers, how can that be good for the team? I put a lot of pressure under them to work, to do everything good, and then they get together at turn 5.

“At a certain stage I thought it is not manageable anymore,” he admitted. “[They] forgot about that points are for the team and not only for them.

“They didn’t think about the team anymore at a certain point. They just saw the opportunity to do good like in Barcelona and Silverstone

“Was it because they were under too much pressure? I’ll find out maybe never. It could be as well just the pressure mounted dramatically for the team.”

The situation appeared to be largely defused over the summer. While the team’s on-track performance continued to be below expectations, the tension between Grosjean and Magnussen eased and both drivers ended up being retained for 2020.

Guenther Steiner (ITA) Haas F1 Team Principal and Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas F1 Team.

From his point of view in the cockpit, Magnussen felt that the reports of friction with his team mate had been blown out of proportion by the media.

“It was annoying because it became such a big subject, especially in the press around the time,” he told Motorsport.com. “[It] created like a sense of emergency kind of thing. It wasn’t really any issue.

“Me and Romain had no issues,” he insisted. “We were on the phone to each other the week after Silverstone, there was absolutely no bad thing.

“Of course the team feels that we let them down, but there really was no intention,” adding that he didn’t take any offence from Steiner’s typically forthright comments. “The good thing about Gunther is that what you see is what you get.”

And in fact, Magnussen suggested that the struggles of 2019 might prove to be good for the Haas squad in the longer term.

“I think all of that stuff is made us closer and closer because of all that and the whole experience of this year,” he offered. “This made us closer as a team.”

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Haas insists drivers not responsible for troubled season

Haas boss Guenther Steiner has absolved both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen from any responsibility regarding the team’s poor campaign in 2019.

A pre-season favourite to lead the midfield chase this year, Haas’ drivers struggled from the outset as they battled their VF-19’s chronic aero and tyre issues, a familiar theme for the US outfit unfortunately.

Strong performances in qualifying were inexplicably followed by dismal Sundays, leaving everyone scratching their head, mystified by the VF-19’s seemingly incurable set-up troubles.

In Abu Dhabi, after F1’s season finale, Steiner took stock of his team’s disappointing year, and admitted that Grosjean and Magnussen weren’t a factor in the outfit’s painful underperformance.

“I think in no way can I attribute our not-so-good season to them, and therefore we stay with the same driver pairing,” said Steiner.

“I think we need to be honest and say they couldn’t have done better with the car.

“You always can do better when you’re not running into each other, but they just tried too hard at some stage.

“I don’t think I can jump to a conclusion that they didn’t do a good job this year.”

As usual, adversity breeds character and resilience, and Steiner hopes his team and its drivers will take on board in 2020 a few good lessons learnt from this year.

“I think for them [the drivers] it was as well an eye-opener, because at the beginning of the season, the car was looking good, they were both very positive about the car, and then it didn’t pan out like it looked like,” Steiner added.

“We ended up in a few situations where we maybe tried too hard as a team, as drivers, everyone just tried too hard to force the result that wasn’t there, because the car wasn’t there, and everyone was focusing on how can we get the car better.

“That’s maybe what we learned of this as well, to focus on the right thing.”

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Grosjean determined to improve one big 'weakness'

Haas’ Romain Grosjean is determined to improve his launch off the grid, a major weakness from which he suffered in 2019 compared to teammate Kevin Magnussen.

Grosjean was once again a laggard off the grid when the lights went out at F1’s season finale in Abu Dhabi, the Frenchman losing a couple of positions from his P15 slot in the commotion of the opening lap.

“I think I need to improve my starts as that’s really been a weakness of mine this year against Kevin,” said Grosjean.

“Kevin was next to me. He was P10 after the first lap and I was P17, I believe.

“So yeah, I need to work not to lose time there. Then maybe we get more chances to be closer to the points.”

Grosjean’s lousy launches have been a recurring theme at Haas and team boss Guenther Steiner says his driver will be working with the US outfit’s engineers over the winter to improve his starts.

“Kevin is just doing a good job on it,” commented Steiner.

“Romain has said in the debrief that the guys need to work with him, because he just cannot handle the start.”

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Steiner laments Haas being 'lame duck' at home Grand Prix

There was little consolation for Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner this weekend, after a thoroughly dispiriting time in the squad’s home event at the Circuit of the Americas.

Kevin Magnussen started the United States Grand Prix from 12th on the grid but retired four laps from the finish after his brakes failed and left him beached in a gravel trap.

Romain Grosjean qualified in 15th place, which is where he finished the race on Sunday after complaining of the VF-19’s lack of top line speed.

Steiner acknowledged that the whole weekend had been little more than a damage limitation exercise for the American team.

“It’s tough at the moment,” he team manager admitted. “We know now that if not everything goes perfect we struggle and fall back. You cannot do anything about it.

“We are sitting there like a lame duck,” he told journalists after the race.

“We are just working on the defence and that’s difficult,” he continued. “It’s like having a football team with 11 defenders and nobody in attack. Everyone attacks you and you cannot do anything.

“You just try to do damage limitation. But if everybody else does a good job then that doesn’t work, because you cannot do anything.

“Every strategy you do is wrong because you still fall back. We just overheated the tyres, and then we are dead.”

Haas finished in fifth place in the constructors championship in 2018, but this year finds itself languishing in ninth. Since the summer break they’ve only had only a single points finish, when Magnussen finished in ninth place at Sochi despite a five-second penalty.

Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas VF-19.

Steiner agreed that it was difficult to keep the team and the two drivers motivated through such difficult times.

“I actually discussed it with a few guys this week,” he revealed. “I tried to figure out which state of mind they are and in my opinion, they are for sure not happy.

“I would be worried if they were all over the moon,” he added. “[But] I think the team still believes we can get out of it because we can do better.

“We are going through a tough time, but we will get out of it. Let’s hope next year comes quick. That’s more like the state of mind at the moment.

“The thing is, I get used to it,” he added. “My thing is to not get too upset about the situation because that’s not good. It’s tough.

“It maybe makes you appreciate the good days more when they come back,” Steiner suggested. “You need to go through the lows to appreciate the highs sometimes. It’s easy to forget about that.”

Haas has already confirmed that Grosjean and Magnussen will remain with the team in 2020. But Steiner confirmed that they still hoped to bring Williams driver Robert Kubica on board in a test and development capacity.

Robert Kubica (POL) Williams Racing on the drivers parade.

“I really want to bring Robert to us, but I have to offer him something that will be interesting to him. Also in the context of the future,” he told Polish sports broadcaster TVP.

“We would love Kubica to help us develop the car. We know he is really good at that because he worked with several of our engineers from his time at Renault. Everyone appreciates his skills very highly

“I hope to announce the name of our third driver soon, but I would say it depends more on the driver than on us at the moment,” he added.

“”I am negotiating with Kubica and I hope to welcome him on board soon. The negotiations are very complex because there is much to determine and we have to be his best option.”

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For Steiner, Haas' 2019 season can't end soon enough

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner says another disappointing performance from the US outfit in Mexico was somewhat mitigated by the Italian’s very low expectations.

Neither Romain Grosjean nor Kevin Magnussen were ever a force to be reckoned with for Haas’ midfield rivals, with both drivers concluding their race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez well out of the top ten.

Haas’ Mexican weekend was simply a story of its VF19 crucially lacking speed.

“The way we directed the race was okay, it’s the car is just not fast enough,” Steiner said. “

“What can you do? You try to get the best out of it, especially with Kevin that’s what was there, there wasn’t more there. That’s it. So that’s the positive.”

Still, one feels that for Steiner, this year’s troubled campaign just can’t end soon enough.

“I’m not disappointed because my hopes were always very low, so it’s like the disappointment goes away. The best news? It’s only three more [races] to go!”

Unlike his boss, Grosjean was hard pressed to find anything positive about his weekend in Mexico, the Frenchman’s comments sounding all too familiar.

“It was a tough afternoon with nothing working very well,” Grosjean said.

“Let’s hope the next race is better. We need to find out what’s going on with the car because it didn’t feel right since FP3 and the race confirmed that.”

Speculating on the weekend ahead, Haas’ home race in Austin, Steiner believes his team will at least fare better than last Sunday.

“Austin will still be difficult, but not as bad as Mexico,” he reckoned.

“With the high altitude we struggled more and we knew coming here that this will be (difficult) and it was.”

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Steiner signals openness to Friday format changes

Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says that he’s open to making changes to the Formula 1 race weekend format.

However he stopped well short of endorsing controversial proposals for Saturday, which have included plans to replace qualifying time trials with a reverse-grid race.

“There are talks to condense a Friday of a Grand Prix weekend,” he confirmed in the team’s preview for the Mexican Grand Prix.

“The talk is to just do running on a Friday afternoon, with all the other PR activities taking place in the morning.

“I think that would be a good way forward, especially with an extended calendar,” he stated.

He said that the enforced changes o the Japanese Grand Prix – which saw all Saturday activity cancelled because of Typhoon Hagibis, and qualifying moved to Sunday morning before the race – had been “interesting”.

“I think to do it like this, it made for a very busy Sunday,” he said. “The day flew past very quickly.

“You’re all very busy and everything needs to be done a lot quicker,” he explained. “I don’t think it had an effect on team personnel, they just had to adapt, and our guys adapted pretty well.

“I would just say it was too much for one day – having both qualifying and the race on one day. But in those circumstances, it was the right decision.

“Everybody coped and I think it was an interesting race,” he added.

Things will be back to normal this weekend, with F1 assured of a warm welcome from both fans and the weather.

Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas VF-19 pit stop.

The Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez has been a favourite for teams and drivers ever since it joined the F1 calendar and has won four-straight ‘Best Promoter’ awards at the end-of-season FIA gala prize giving.

“It’s just the enthusiasm of the people, both of the people running it and the people attending the race,” suggested Steiner.

“We, as teams, are always made to feel very welcome there, and everything is very well organized. I think everybody’s happy with how everything runs and obviously the fans like it.”

However it’s not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Haas in the past. The team’s best result there to date was Kevin Magnussen’s eighth place in 2017; last year both Magnussen and Romain Grosjean finished out of the points and off the lead lap.

“We always have cooling challenges,” Steiner explained. “Going up into the altitude there, you always need cooling on the cars. You need a lot more, and that takes downforce away, and you never have enough downforce.

“It looks like we always suffer more on that one than all the other cars. That is our biggest challenge, to find the balance between cooling and having downforce available.”

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FIA ready to levy severe punishment on Steiner

Haas boss Guenther Steiner’s scathing criticism of the stewards’ call against his team in the Russian Grand Prix could prove very costly for the Italian and the US outfit.

In Sochi, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was handed a 5-second time penalty during the race for venturing off track at Turn 2 while fighting Racing Point’s Sergio Perez.

But the Dane failed to pass to the left of the bollards placed in the corner’s run-off area, a move frowned upon by the stewards who hit the driver with a penalty.

Magnussen salvaged a ninth-place finish but on the cool down lap, Steiner objected to the sanction, insisting the call was made by “a stupid idiotic steward”.

However, according to a report from Germany’s Motorsport-Total, a post-race confrontation between the stewards and Steiner escalated, with the Haas team boss refusing to apologize for his attitude earlier in the day and lashing out at FIA steward Emanuele Pirro in particular.

The clash between the two men and Steiner’s attitude in Sochi has prompted the FIA to consider an exemplary punishment for Haas or its team principal.

Motorsport-Total says three potential sanctions are apparently under discussion. The FIA could send Steiner packing for a few races and restrict his access to the paddock; it could also hit Haas with a hefty $250,000 fine for bringing the sport into disrepute; finally, the governing body could deduct points from Haas’ tally in the Constructors’ standings.

It’s likely Steiner will be keeping a low profile this weekend in Suzuka, if the Haas boss on the team’s pitwall, which remains to be confirmed.

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Midweek Wrap: Vettel Wins, KMag and RoGro, Hulk in for Kubica?

With Sebastian Vettel returning to the winners’ circle and a flurry of silly-season action, the past seven days saw plenty of action in the F1 world.

Singapore GP Aftermath: What a strange weekend. On Friday, it looked for all the world like Ferrari’s brief run at the top was over, with Mercedes and Red Bull back to the fore at a high-downforce track, yet come Saturday, the Reds had completely flipped the script and were just as strong as they’d been at Spa and Monza.

With that in mind, I’m having a hard time placing this race in its proper context. Did the Scuderia really just unlock the magic formula to their aero upgrades on Saturday? Or were Mercedes and Red Bull thrown completely off-course by their defective simulations? Or maybe it’s a combination of both? Right now, it’s very hard to tell, and that makes this weekend’s race in Sochi even more intriguing.

On a similar note, is this the turnaround Sebastian Vettel was looking for? He didn’t exactly outshine Charles Leclerc in taking the win at Marina Bay, but at the same time, confidence is a valuable commodity in this sport, and Vettel has been seemingly lacking it this season. Maybe that changes now – again, I guess we’ll find out in Sochi.

Haas Retain Grosjean and Magnussen: You may be able to make a decent case for Kevin Magnussen, but to see Haas re-sign Romain Grosjean for another season, particularly after incidents like this one is nothing short of an absolute shocker.

Either Guenther Steiner is the most forgiving man on the planet, or he needs to get checked for memory loss, because there is simply no way the Frenchman was the best option available. No, he’s not considered a slow driver, and he reportedly gives his engineers useful feedback, but how much does that count for when he keeps finding new ways to put his car in the wall? As Paul said last week, “if they were really serious they would have used this as an opportunity to really show their intent or at least maximise the obvious opportunities” and brought on someone like Alex Rossi or Nico Hulkenberg, to say nothing of the myriad other capable drivers.

Assuming Haas wants to actually challenge the likes of Renault and McLaren in 2020, it’s going to be awfully hard to do so with this lineup. In comparison, those teams each have two drivers with the quality to make it at the best teams on the grid, and you definitely can’t say that about Magnussen, let alone Grosjean.

Kubica Steps Out, Hulkenberg to Step In? Seemingly an inevitability given his sub-par performances this season, Robert Kubica made it known last Thursday that he was indeed leaving Williams at the end of the season.

One of those situations where you wonder if it was Kubica saying “you can’t fire me, I quit!”, there’s no getting around the disappointment of a former race-winning F1 driver coming back to the sport and looking like a shell of his former self, but it’s still a remarkable human story. No one would’ve blamed him if he’d been unable to return to any level of motorsport after his 2011 accident, so to make it back to the biggest stage of all is quite the testament to his resiliency. Here’s hoping he finds another series where he can thrive once more.

On the flip side, is this the lifeline Nico Hulkenberg needs? With the Haas door now shut, and Red Bull apparently not interested, it seems Williams is the only seat left on the grid for the German, although he’ll have to fend-off Nicholas Latifi and the gobs of cash he can provide. Unfortunately for Hulkenberg, with the current state of the nine-time former world champions, they might have to prioritise money over ability, and that means for the first time in a long time, he’ll be forced to look elsewhere.

 


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Haas heads to Sochi with 'old and new' aero mix

Haas will tackle next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi with a blend of old and new aero elements implemented on its VF19.

The US outfit has been locked in a set-up conundrum since the start of the season, after a succession of aero updates in the first part of the year failed to improve the performance of their 2019 contender.

At the start of the summer, Haas reverted Romain Grosjean’s VF19 to its initial Melbourne spec while new developments were implemented on Kevin Magnussen’s car

The spec-to-spec comparison was halted after the summer break when both drivers used the same German Grand Prix specification, but for Sochi, the team will rely on a amalgam of old and new aero parts, although both its drivers will race the exact same hybrid package.

“At the moment, we’re in a phase where we know what the car is doing, we’re just trying to find the better spec for each circuit – that’s why we’re doing it,” explained team boss Guenther Steiner.

“We’re not experimenting with it anymore. We’re actually putting the packages on how we think it is best suited.”

The knowledge gained from the team’s various ‘experiments’ aimed to shed light on the VF19’s complex issues regarding tyre usage, but the insight has also been crucial in terms of preparing for 2020.

“Obviously, all this work is brought forward to next year, because next year’s car will be an evolution, as there’s no regulation change,” added Steiner.

“This year it was a new regulation, so whatever we learn on this car we can implement on next year’s car.

“That was our aim from halfway through the season when we realized we were struggling with our car.

“We want to make sure not to make the same mistakes on next year’s car – that was our main aim from midway through this season.”

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Haas interested in Kubica for 2020 testing/simulator role

Haas team boss Guenther Steiner says he has opened talks with Robert Kubica over a potential testing and simulator role with the US outfit in 2020.

Kubica will be leaving Williams at the end of the current season, a decision the Polish driver made public ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Steiner is showing an interest in the 34-year-old’s services whose technical feedback is highly rated in the paddock.

However, Haas is also rumored to be interested – along with other teams – in the Pole’s sponsor, Polish oil company Orlen which expressed its desire to remain involved in F1 next year.

“Anything is possible and we are talking with him,” explained Steiner, quoted by Motorsport.com.

“I always talk with a lot of people, try to make things better. But I don’t know yet [if it will happen].

“I need still to speak with Robert if he wants to do it now he has decided he is leaving Williams, but I don’t know his other plans.”

For all his outstanding talent, Kubica’s miraculous return to F1 with Williams hasn’t yielded the best results, but Steiner insists the Pole’s track record this season isn’t a deterrent.

“He’s got lot of experience, and he is known to be one of the best of test and simulator drivers around.

“I’ve never worked with him, but I’ve got a lot of people which worked with him, and they all respect him a lot.

“I think he cannot do a full-time job, or he doesn’t want to. But he is a good benchmark.”

As he weighs his options for 2020, which could include an involvement in the German DTM series, Kubica made clear that a development role as a mere simulator driver was of no interest to him.

“After I worked hard to get back to racing at a high level, I don’t see myself locked in a dark room for a hundred days a year, driving around, unless the simulator is next to my house,” joked Kubica, speaking to Poland’s Przeglad Sportowy.

“I’m not excluding this (a simulator role), but the chance that I will only do this is very low.

“First and foremost, I’m looking for a place to race,” he added. “This is my priority, and if I combine it with something else, I will say yes, but not just the simulator. I’ve done that enough in my life.

“I want to race and I put a lot of energy into it, and this year, you can’t really see it. I think my efforts were much greater than what we achieved this year.

“I’m sure that if I found myself in the right place and in the right car, I can still do my job properly.”

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