The Haas team have been full of surprises in their maiden year in Formula One, from scoring points on their debut to reaching Q3 in Monza. And Romain Grosjean has continued the trend at the Brazilian Grand Prix with a surprise 7th place grid slot for Sunday’s race.
This performance stuck out in qualifying as Grosjean proved to be the best of rest with only Mercedes’, Red Bull’s, and Ferrari’s ahead of him. It also shocked most fans to see the French driver ahead of both Williams’ and Force India’s, who had been comfortably fast throughout the weekend.
But it now appears this performance didn’t just shock fans though, but Grosjean himself. “We really weren’t expecting to be in Q3 today,” he elaborated to the press following the result. “The feeling was good right from the beginning and the cooler track conditions today really helped us a lot.”
— Romain Grosjean (@RGrosjean) November 12, 2016
However, this result may be less of some blinding luck and more a showing of the genuine pace from Haas. Since the Singapore Grand Prix many weeks ago, the team has been struggling with their brakes which have led to spontaneous failures in Malaysia and USA.
So with all of these issues still accumulating, the team decided to part ways with brake supplier, Brembo, in hopes of fixing the problem. Grosjean believes this has made the difference, saying: “when we do get things working well together, we’re quite fast, which is encouraging.”
But this may not be the only factor in the team’s resurgence of form. Yesterday, the team confirmed their 2017 driver line up; retaining Romain Grosjean and replacing Esteban Gutierrez with Kevin Magnussen. This has likely created a far more stable environment for the team, considering they know what lies ahead for the almighty challenge that will be 2017.
Looking ahead to the race, just where can Romain Grosjean finish? Starting directly ahead of him is Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull Racing. If the Frenchman can jump his Australian competitor off the line he should be able to keep him behind.
The only true opportunity to make overtaking work in Interlagos is Turn 1, which precedes a long back straight. Because of the weak Renault engine, which was 6km/h off the Ferrari powered Haas in qualifying, in the back of the Red Bull, Grosjean should be able to hold Ricciardo off at least for the first stint, if not further. I predict one of the top 6 qualifiers will have issues and therefore the highest finishing position I can foresee for Grosjean is 5th.
However, whether or not the pace shown by Haas today can be replicated for the race remains to be seen. Their Team Principal, Guenther Steiner, has made his intentions clear, saying: “our aim will be for a points finish” – as aforementioned we think 5th – what’s your prediction?