Same As It Ever Was
The refrain “same as it ever was” in Talking Heads’ 1981 hit “Once In A Lifetime” resonates 37 years later within Haas F1 Team.
The only American team competing in the FIA Formula One World Championship returns for its third season with the same driver lineup it had in 2017 amid relatively unchanged technical regulations.
Drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen find themselves in another part of the world behind the wheel of a large automobile as preseason testing begins at Circuit de Barcelona – Catalunya. The two pilots will take the wheel of the Haas VF-18 during eight days of testing stretched over two weeks from Feb. 26 through March 9 at the 4.655-kilometer (2.892-mile), 16-turn track.
Grosjean has been with Haas F1 Team since its debut in 2016, and 2018 marks his seventh full season in Formula One. Magnussen returns to the same team for the first time in his career after spending single seasons with McLaren (2014) and Renault (2016), respectively.
That continuity behind the steering wheel extends throughout the racecar, as the VF-18 is an evolution of the team’s second car, the VF-17, which shepherded Haas F1 Team to an eighth-place finish in the 2017 constructors standings. Forty-seven points were scored by the VF-17 during Haas F1 Team’s sophomore season, 18 points more than the total earned in the organization’s inaugural 2016 campaign.
The lower and wider car of 2017 carries over into 2018, but with the significant addition of the halo cockpit protection device and a drastic reduction in the sharkfin. The added weight and higher center of gravity created by the halo, along with a change in the car’s overall aerodynamics, will be repeatedly analyzed by engineers as Grosjean and Magnussen turn lap after lap at the home of the Spanish Grand Prix.
Teams use these two weeks to prepare for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, where in a month’s time the 69th Formula One championship begins. While the title fight will likely be among the big-three teams of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, the midfield will be as stout as ever, with seven teams seemingly neck and neck as Haas F1 Team battles against Force India, Williams, Renault, Toro Rosso, McLaren and Sauber.
Every team seeks to improve, and after an offseason of CAD/CAM software engineering where theories are vetted on a 60-percent scale-model car in the wind tunnel, testing means real-world application.
With Haas F1 Team founder and chairman Gene Haas wanting to be within a half-second of Ferrari, with whom his team shares a power unit, gearbox and overall technical support, testing is where the rubber literally meets the road.