Friday’s two 90 minute practice sessions for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix have finally begun to give us bigger hints at who’s got the best car in 2017.
And while Lewis Hamilton continued to prove his and Mercedes class by topping both sessions with ease, Haas were quietly having both the best and the worst day of their short career in Formula 1 so far.
On paper, Romain Grosjean had a positive day, proving he had pace, finishing in P8 during both sessions and completing a total 49 laps over the course of the day.
On the contrary, Kevin Magnussen’s first day with Haas didn’t go quite as well as he would’ve hoped; electrical issues stopped him from running throughout most of FP2. He did, however, complete 20 laps during FP1, finishing the session in a meager 17th.
And although, Romain Grosjean’s day looks good on paper, he’s only scraping the surface of the VF-17’s potential. The time sheets can’t show you the Frenchman’s off-track excursions that arguably halted his momentum.
Just eight minutes into FP2, Grosjean ran across the grass at Turn 1 following a massive lock-up. Exactly 30 minutes later, he went off track again, running deep at Turn 3 during his second lap of a qualifying simulation.
On both occasions, the off-track moment came after a major lock-up, only confirming that Haas have still not fully solved the brake issues that plagued a majority of their 2016 season. Last year, races in Malaysia, Singapore and the USA were compromised by a recurring issue with the electronic brake-by-wire system.
Interestingly, Grosjean claimed, “this set of brakes is… difficult,” over the team radio following his Turn 3 incident.
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) March 24, 2017
But, by the conclusion of FP2, he didn’t feel these moments had affected his overall session, instead saying: “[i]t was a pretty good day on my side of the garage.”
Former Formula 1 driver, Martin Brundle, shares Grosjean’s view, saying he believes the Haas VF-17 looks solid through the corners. Trackside at Turn 2 during FP2, Brundle commented that the best teams through said corner were, “Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Haas.”
Undeniably, it’s a prestigious collective to be included in and shows Haas haven’t been broken by Formula 1’s second year, generally referred to as the hardest for a new team given they have less time to build a car than their first year.
And on the subject of first year, 2016’s Australian Grand Prix proved a massive success for Haas as Romain Grosjean scored an awesome and unexpected P6.
Given today’s strong Friday showing pace-wise, Haas look on target to complete something similaon Sunday if they can iron out the braking kinks for Grosjean and the water leaks for Magnussen.