The Japanese Grand Prix Sunday at Suzuka Circuit marks the last of a three-race stretch through the Far East, and the trip has tested Haas F1 Team along with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.
The American outfit scored points two weeks ago in Singapore after seizing opportunities brought about by a wet track. It then battled through adversity last weekend in Malaysia when Grosjean crashed in Friday’s FP2 session. A loose drain cover on the apex of the right-hand turn 13 shredded the right-rear tire on his Haas VF-17 and sent him spinning off the track and into the barrier on the outside of the corner.
Crew members literally worked overtime, as FIA officials granted Haas F1 Team special dispensation to work through the series’ mandated overnight curfew and repair the car due to the unusual nature of the incident. Despite Magnussen qualifying 17th and Grosjean 16th, the duo rallied to finish 12th and 13th, respectively, for a collective gain of eight positions.
Even with the forward progress, the results didn’t yield any points. But in a testament to the competiveness of the incredibly tight midfield, the squads ahead of Haas F1 Team in the constructors standings didn’t score any points either.
With only five rounds remaining on the 20-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team is eighth in the constructors standings with 37 points, five points behind seventh-place Renault and 15 points arrears sixth-place Toro Rosso. A reawakened McLaren is 14 points behind Haas F1 Team in ninth.
Even with the narrow margins between its competitors, Haas F1 Team eyes the upcoming race at the 5.807-kilometer (3.608-mile), 18-turn Suzuka Circuit with optimism.
In its first visit to Suzuka last year during its inaugural Formula One season, Haas F1 Team advanced both of its cars into the final round of qualifying for the first time. It had speed throughout the weekend, and as the organization returns to the land of the rising sun for its second stint at Suzuka, expectations are high that pace and points can be procured.
Grosjean, in particular, has enjoyed both at Suzuka. He led 26 laps in the 2013 Japanese Grand Prix before finishing third behind the dominant Red Bulls of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. And in the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix, Grosjean finished in the points with a solid seventh-place effort.
Magnussen has only two Formula One starts at Suzuka in the 2014 and 2016 Japanese Grands Prix, both of which netted 14th-place finishes. But the results don’t match the affinity Magnussen has for the circuit, as he claims Suzuka as his favorite venue.
Magnussen is not alone in this sentiment, as Suzuka is a driver’s track, where racecars can be pushed to the absolute limit even without being stuck to the track via maximum downforce.
The layout of Suzuka is a figure-eight, and it is the only track in Formula One with such a configuration. A bridge overtop the straight that links turns nine (Degner 2) and 10 is a signature of the track, with drivers nearing 330 kph (205 mph) as they go across the bridge through turn 15, better known as 130R, so named because of its 130-meter radius.
The first sector of the track caters to a car’s aerodynamic efficiency, while the second sector rewards horsepower. The entire course features every kind of corner, and its relatively old asphalt surface provides a high level of grip, which combined with high lateral loads through the corners accelerates tire wear.
The island nation turns into acceleration nation, especially as Suzuka marks the beginning of a five-race sprint to the finish of the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship. Haas F1 Team plans to get this homestretch started off strong with a point-paying drive before heading home to the United States Grand Prix Oct. 22 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.