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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Lawrence Stroll: Kubica most determined fighter I’ve ever seen

Robert Kubica appears to be headed towards a third driver role for 2020 at Racing Point after a dismal comeback season with Williams that turned a fairytale into.

Earlier, with the Pole looking likely to combine an F1 role with a DTM race seat with BMW, at one point it appeared that Haas might be his 2020 project.

But sport.pl reports that Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll is a big Kubica fan and reported “He doesn’t let failure bring him down. He falls but gets up. In sports and in life, I have never seen someone who is so determined, such a fighter.”

However, Kubica – who has lost his seat at Williams – told the Polish broadcaster TVP that his horror rallying crash of 2011 affected him badly, “There were a few nights where I cried. 20 years of passion and work changed in one second.

“I had to mentally as well as physically rehabilitate myself. The turning point was when I did not think about how to do something, but I was glad that I could do it at all,” recalled the 35-year-old.

For instance, he says something as simple as tying his shoes is no longer easy.

“As a rule, I am lazy and do not tie them at all, but if I did it like before the accident, it would not be possible. After some time, the mind and body find a new way, and it is the final result that is important,” explained Kubica.

The veteran Pole would join Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll in the Silverstone based tam.


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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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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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