Romain Grosjean is in good spirits ahead of Formula 1’s return to Bahrain, which last year proved to be the team’s mist favourable track as they secured a fifth place finish. And it was Grosjean himself who crossed the line well in the points that weekend.
He spoke fondly of the race as he reminisced on their success. Many attributed Haas F1 Team’s early success as more a result of luck than anything else but in Grosjean’s mind it was all down to the car.
“Bahrain last year was pretty special,” he said. “From the first free practice lap I thought the car’s not too bad. In qualifying we just managed to be P9, which was what we wanted not going into the Q3, which at that time was the top-eight.
“We knew we had a set of tires for the race. We had a very aggressive strategy. We had our first ever pit stop in the race – it was then a three-stop race. The car felt good. I was overtaking guys.
“Before I knew it, I had crossed the line P5. It was not down to luck or anything. It was the pure pace of the car. It was a pretty special race. I still remember having a lot of fun driving the car.”
The Bahrain Grand Prix has proven a very fruitful one for Grosjean who has scored points in four of his five starts; two of those were podiums (2012 + 2013) that he achieved despite starting seventh and eleventh on the grid. Overtaking has become an important tactic at the track, with the Frenchman well versed in the dos and don’ts.
“There’s plenty of places where you can overtake,” he continued. “Basically, turn one is DRS, and going up to turn four is another good place.
“Down to turn eight, on the first few laps of the race, is a quick one. Before turn 11 is a bit more tricky. Even though you’ve got the DRS, it’s
a tricky place to overtake.
“There’s only one corner where you could overtake, but you don’t really want to do it – it’s the last corner, because the guy behind you has the DRS and he’ll just take you back.”
Tyres are proving a big talking point this year. As the Bahrain Grand Prix begins in the afternoon and ends during the evening, drivers can expect a drop in air and track temperature. When asked about this decline, Grosjean commented that it makes working the tyres a bit harder but not to the extent as that experienced in Abu Dhabi.
In order to counteract this, the team are able to change the aero balance during trips to the pits, but otherwise the driver is limited to the controls available inside the car.
“The track changes quite a bit during the race, especially in the last stint,” he said. “Normally, where you fit the harder tires, it’ll probably be the
softs this year.
“It’s just a bit harder to work the tires, but it’s not as bad as Abu Dhabi, for example, where you start really in the day and finish in the dark.”
Team-mate Kevin Magnussen competed for Renault Sport F1 Team in 2016, but spoke of how impressive Haas’ sixth-place was from an outsider’s perspective.
“It was really impressive, both the first two races for Haas F1 Team last year,” he said. “Everyone noticed that in Formula One.”
Drivers have spoken about the quick loss of grip that they have experienced when using the new tyre compounds. Magnussen agrees that they do have a tendency to snap away from you once the car begins to move sideways but they also boast more grip under normal conditions, so in a sense it’s a trade-off.
“It’s a little bit more snappy than it was before,” he continued. “You also have a lot more grip, so it’s a bit of give-and-take.
“It feels a lot better to drive these cars.”
Bahrain offers an above average amount of run off areas, which encourage drivers to be more daring in their runs. However Magnussen believes there is more of a challenge when an error could prove costly in terms of damage rather than simply losing a lap.
“Yes it does,” he said. “I still prefer to have not so much run-off.
“It means that you are challenged more and the window for error is narrower.”
The team arrive in Bahrain following a successful weekend in China where Kevin Magnussen secured an eighth place finish. Coupled with the confidence from last year’s result, they will certainly be looking for a double points finish.