The Haas F1 Team enjoyed a positive practice day at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday, with both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen ending both sessions inside the top ten despite running different aero packages.
Grosjean was able to sample the updated VF-19 for the first time on Friday, and despite a couple of off-track moments at turn seven, he had a strong day, ending fifth fastest in the morning session, less than one second down on pacesetter Valtteri Bottas, before concluding the afternoon session in seventh.
The Frenchman admitted it was a shame to put in so much effort into the updates just so they can get more out of the Pirelli tyres, but it highlighted just where the team needed to improve after a tough start to the year where getting the tyres into their optimal temperature window was proving difficult to do.
“It was good today, I think both our cars behaved really well,” said Grosjean. “We got the tyres working, had some pace, so it was much more fun in the car.
“We’re still evaluating everything with the package, we can probably find a bit more from it. It’s always tricky when you get a new one to find the right set-up around it. I think the biggest thing today was getting the tyres to work, it just wasn’t the same car.
“I could actually enjoy driving it, I knew what I was going to get. The tyres were gripping, they weren’t sliding and going away and destroying themselves. It was a big difference. It’s a bit of a shame we’ve got to put in so much effort for a piece of rubber, but clearly it shows where we need to improve.”
Grosjean knows the team need to do more if it is to completely solve the tyre warming riddle that has plagued their season so far, especially with the notoriously tough races in Monaco and Canada to come.
“We need to do more, especially for Monaco and Canada, but coming back here and being able to enjoy two good sessions, it shows that the problem has not been our chassis, it’s related to tyre usage,” said the Frenchman.
“It’s been a positive day, I’ve enjoyed driving the car. I’m sure there’s going to be more to come from it.”
Team-mate Magnussen was also positive after the first two sessions despite running the old aero package throughout the day. He was around two-tenths of a second down on Grosjean in both sessions, finishing seventh in the morning and eighth in the afternoon.
Despite the strong looking pace, Magnussen admits he is still cautious about raising expectations having had good pace in practice before only for race day to be a completely different story.
“They were good practice sessions,” admitted Magnussen. “The car felt good – but it’s not like the car hasn’t felt good in other practice sessions this year. We’re still cautious in our expectations I guess.
“Our long runs seemed better than in previous races, so I guess there’s reason to be slightly more positive. We’ve just got to keep working. We need to try and understand why it’s better today, to see what we can learn and take with us for the future.”
Magnussen said running the old package whilst Grosjean took on the new package was a positive step as it gave Haas the opportunity to get a direct comparison between the two packages, with a decision now to be made to which package remains on the car throughout the rest of the weekend.
“Romain ran the upgrades today, and I ran what we’ve been using all season – so we could have a direct comparison and get the data in the same conditions at the same time,” said the Dane. “I think that was all positive, there’s stuff to fine tune on that.
“We’re seeing what we expected, so that’s good.”