Romain Grosjean owns two point-paying finishes in Abu Dhabi – fourth in 2013 and ninth in 2015 – when he was with Lotus F1 Team. His Haas teammate Kevin Magnussen’s best result is 11th, earned during his rookie year with McLaren. Both eye the season finale as an opportunity for Haas F1Team to break the 100-point barrier in the constructors’ standings as only 10 points separate them from this goal.
After some tough race weekends in the United States and Mexican Grands Prix, how fulfilling was it to finally get a double-points finish in Brazil to take some positive momentum into the season finale in Abu Dhabi?
“It was good to come back into form, especially after a tough weekend in Mexico where we couldn’t find much performance. We had the pace in the car in Brazil, but we didn’t quite get the points that we deserved in terms of potential with the pace we had. So, it still wasn’t a perfect result, but nonetheless, it was good to get both cars in the points.”
The two points you scored in Brazil with your ninth-place finish brought your season point tally to 55 points. This tied your best season-long point tally, earned during your rookie year in 2014 with McLaren. You finished 11th in points that year and you’re currently ninth in points with one race remaining. Do you feel this has been your best year in Formula One?
“I think 55 points is good for a midfield team, but I still think there was potential for more this year. That’s both a positive and a negative. Positive, because we’ve shown we have great potential in the team to do more, but of course, it’s always disappointing not to get everything out of it as you could. We’re learning as a team and next year we’ll have even more experience. We’ll have learned a lot from this year and, hopefully, we can do a bit more next year.”
Regardless of the outcome in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team will have nearly doubled its point tally from last year. Are points scored the surest, most tangible examples of progress, or are there other elements of progress not everyone is able to see from the outside?
“As a team, we’re doing better and better. We’re learning as we go. For us, we’re such a new team, performing at such a high level already, sometimes we’re a bit short of experience for the performance levels being achieved. We’re fighting big, experienced teams like Renault, McLaren, Williams and, as a new team, sometimes it’s hard to avoid mistakes because of a lack of experience. I’d rather be in an inexperienced team overperforming than in an experienced team underperforming.”
What were the team’s challenges this year?
“It’s hard to point your finger at one thing. I don’t feel like it’s one issue that’s been reoccurring. I think we’ve just faced a lot of different challenges. That’s been a theme for the year. A lot of things that could go wrong, did go wrong. We haven’t had the margins on our side this year. A lot of things just tipped over to the wrong side to our disadvantage. Sometimes you have seasons like that. Generally, though, we’ve been strong all year. We’ve just had some missed opportunities.”
What were the team’s strengths?
“Definitely performance, in terms of pace. Our car has been very strong this year, especially in qualifying, a lot of times in the race, also. That’s been the biggest strength this year, our performance.”
Is there a particular moment from this season that stands out the most for you?
“I guess Australia stands out to me, obviously in a bad way. It was such a good position wasted. It was pretty heartbreaking. We did well to fight back from there. We lost 22 points in that race. To still come back and score 90 points, that’s pretty good.”
When the season starts, Abu Dhabi seems very far away, yet here we are. Has the season gone by quickly?
As you head into the offseason, how much “off” is there, or is that just a misnomer because preseason testing tends to arrive quickly?
“The offseason is pretty long, but it’s definitely long enough. It’s a tough season with a lot of traveling. It’s not tough to race – that’s the enjoyable part. It’s all the traveling and going through different time zones, long flights and so on, that’s the tiring bit. It’s good to get some time off from that, but it doesn’t take long to start missing racing.”
What is the first thing you’ll do to begin the offseason?
“I’ll start training. You tend to lose a little bit of form during the year because you travel so much. You don’t get as much time to train as you’d like. Of course, you drive a lot, you race a lot in the car, you get fit from driving, which is the best kind of training. In terms of physical fitness shape, you lose a bit because you can’t train as regularly as you would in the offseason, so you try and build that back up in the offseason.”
Yas Marina Circuit is a showplace. What makes it stand out on the Formula One schedule?
“It’s a very glamorous race to go to as a spectator. It’s obviously a race that goes into the night, which makes it more spectacular. It’s the finale of the season, so it’s always a special race no matter where that is, but I think Abu Dhabi does a good job hosting it.”
With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool and, in turn, how does that affect tire management?
“In terms of the race, it’s not too bad. Setting up your car, working on the setup over the weekend, it’s difficult because all the sessions are in different temperatures. What you get in FP1 is never what you get in FP2. It’s never comparable, and it’s the same with FP3 in relation to qualifying. It’s a challenging event in terms of building up your weekend.”
Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Abu Dhabi?
“I’ve only ever raced at Abu Dhabi in Formula One. I had my first test in a Formula One car there back in 2012. That’s obviously a good memory.”
What is your favourite part of the Yas Marina Circuit?
“I’d say sector one is enjoyable, but probably with this car it’s going to be quite easy flat, less challenging. That makes sector three the most challenging now.”
Describe a lap around Yas Marina Circuit.
“Yas Marina’s a pretty good track. Obviously, the challenge is that you’re racing in the night but practicing during the day. The track is hugely different between qualifying and then the race when it’s dark. It’s a low-speed track, so it can be difficult to get energy into the tires. Hopefully, we can do better than last year when we struggled a little bit with tires.”
Final race of the season coming up. Let’s go ??? #tb pic.twitter.com/cH0w78Iq08
— Kevin Magnussen (@KevinMagnussen) November 21, 2018