Kannapolis based Haas Formula One team back on track at Japanese - | WBTV Charlotte

Kannapolis based Haas Formula One team back on track at Japanese Grand Prix

Source: Haas F1 Team Source: Haas F1 Team
KANNAPOLIS, NC (WBTV) -

After two weekends of struggling, the Kannapolis based Haas F1 team had more encouraging results in the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez finished 11th and 20th, respectively, in the Japanese Grand Prix Sunday at Suzuka Circuit.

The duo used a two-stop strategy in the 53-lap race around the 5.807-kilometer (3.608-mile), 18-turn track. Since both drivers advanced to the third and final qualifying round on Saturday, they had to start the race on the same set of Pirelli P Zero Yellow soft tires they used in Q3.

Grosjean began the race from seventh and Gutiérrez rolled off in 10th – the best collective starting position for Haas F1 Team this season. They both moved quickly when the race went green, but Grosjean was pushed wide at the start by the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, which dropped him to ninth. Gutiérrez held his position and slotted in behind his teammate.

Grosjean pitted at the end of lap 10 for a new set of Pirelli P Zero Orange hard tires and Gutiérrez followed a lap later with the same strategy.

As other teams’ strategies played out, Grosjean was 14th and Gutiérrez was mired in 20th after 15 laps. Gutiérrez’s race was made even more difficult when he spun on lap 20 at the entrance to the Casio Triangle when Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. attempted a block.

Gutiérrez promptly recovered, and along with Grosjean, they set their sights on making strong, consistent laps.

“Well, we struggled on the first stint with a green track, and with the soft tires, we had a lot of graining," Grosjean said. "But then the car was flying. It was really good. I had some good overtakes. I don’t think I’ve ever been as frustrated as today at the end of a race. I thought we deserved much more. With the pace of the car, I was much faster than the Williams’. We just got the life on the hard tires wrong. We could have pitted earlier for the last stint, but overall the pace was amazing. It shows a lot of promise for the future. I’m optimistic about these updates and the pace we had in the car.”

When Williams teammates Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas pitted on laps 24 and 28, respectively, it allowed Grosjean to rise to ninth and Gutiérrez to climb to 14th.

Shortly after Bottas pitted, it was time for Gutiérrez to make his second and final stop. At the end of lap 28, Gutiérrez brought his Haas VF-16 to the attention of his crew for a new set of Orange hards. Two laps later, Grosjean did the same.

By lap 33 after pit stops had cycled through, Grosjean was 11th and Gutiérrez was 20th. It’s where the two drivers would finish, despite Grosjean pressuring Bottas in the final laps for 10th.

“Not really the race we wanted today finishing 11th again with one car and 20th with the other having started seventh and 10th. I think a few things happened today – everyone else had a good race and everybody finished, so nobody dropped out," said Team Principal Guenther Steiner. "We tried to take the fight to the Williams, but we didn’t manage it in the end. They were able to make a better strategy by starting on tires they wanted, but that’s racing. This weekend we’ve seen that our car shows speed and we were also competitive in the race. So, we’re able to take that away from here.”

Winning the Japanese Grand Prix was Nico Rosberg. The Mercedes driver made a clean sweep of the race weekend, ending up first in each practice session and winning the pole before securing his 23rd career Formula One victory, his ninth of the season and his first at Suzuka. Rosberg beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by 4.978 seconds while his Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton finished third. The victory allowed Rosberg to add 10 more points to his lead in the championship standings, as 33 points now separate him from Hamilton, his nearest championship pursuer.

Seventeen rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 28 points. The American squad maintained its 19-point gap to seventh-place Toro Rosso and the 20-point advantage it holds over ninth-place Renault. Mercedes clinched the constructor championship via Rosberg’s victory and Hamilton’s podium.

Four races remain on the 2016 Formula One schedule, with the series heading to Haas F1 Team’s home race in two weeks. The United States Grand Prix takes place Oct. 23 at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

Haas F1 Team Pit Notes contributed to this story

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