It was a turbulent build-up to the 2019 British Grand Prix for the Rich Energy Haas F1 Team and Friday’s free practice sessions were full of mixed fortunes for drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
Building towards the Silverstone weekend, confusion reigned across social media as Haas F1’s title sponsor Rich Energy announced via Twitter that they were prematurely cutting ties with the team.
The departure of Rich Energy from the F1 grid has yet to be confirmed with apparent in-fighting between stakeholders and the company’s CEO William Storey keeping fans on social media both confused and entertained.
Meanwhile, in another surprise move, Haas announced before arriving at Silverstone that they were to revert Grosjean’s VF-19 car to its season-starting specification, removing all development parts from the car in hope of discovering why the Frenchman in particular has struggled for pace this season.
The move didn’t appear to help, with Grosjean setting a lap-time of 1:30.811 in FP1 to record the nineteenth fastest time. His run also featured an embarrassing spin and crash on the exit of the pit lane.
“The start of the day was a bit embarrassing,” said Grosjean. “I turned the pit-limiter button off, the tires were a bit cold and grip was low, next thing I knew I was backwards. It didn’t feel so good.
“After that though we got back on track and ran our program. I had a bit of an issue with a hydraulic line in the afternoon, we missed around half an hour of the session, but we’re getting some good data.
“This is definitely a package I enjoy driving more, but the performance is not there yet, which is something you would expect. There’s been a lot of development through the car, and when you revert back to an early spec it’s tricky.
“There’s definitely a better feeling in it, we’re just looking to develop it now, understand it, and move forward.”
Grosjean improved his lap-time in FP2 but it was still only good enough for eighteenth. Meanwhile team-mate Kevin Magnussen, armed with the up-to-date VF-19, fared somewhat better, declaring Friday at Silverstone “a good day” as he finished twelfth on a 1:28.059.
“It’s been a good day,” said Magnussen. “I think we had some good long runs today, that’s been the main priority. We’ve obviously tried many different things this weekend to try and learn some more about our struggles. There’s a lot to look at.
“It’s going to be a busy night for the guys to get through everything, and to understand what we can do for tomorrow. I’m still gunning for the top 10 in qualifying, I’ll try to get into Q3 and qualify as high as possible.
“Obviously, the main priority this week is to get the long run pace right, so that we can fight in the race and go for some points.”
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner summed up the team’s mixed day and believes the team in “well prepared for the weekend.”
“A couple of mixed up sessions,” said Steiner. “I think we’re looking a little better than the last two races in the long runs – at least with one car. We still need to find some speed for Romain (Grosjean).
“In FP1 he spun on pit-lane, then in FP2 a hydraulic leak meant he didn’t get the full running we wanted to give him. We’ve got another hour tomorrow morning to work on things. With Kevin (Magnussen) we made good progress. It looks like we’re well prepared for the weekend.”