Kannapolis-based Haas F1 Team preparing to close the season in Abu Dhabi

One of the highlights of the year was Haas driver Kevin Magnussen winning the pole for sprint...
One of the highlights of the year was Haas driver Kevin Magnussen winning the pole for sprint race at Sao Paulo. Here he is flanked by Max Verstappen, left, and George Russell, right.(Haas F1 Team/LAT Images)
Published: Nov. 16, 2022 at 7:07 AM EST

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (WBTV) - The Kannapolis-based Haas F1 Team’s 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship campaign will conclude with Round 22, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, at the Yas Marina Circuit.

The journey for Haas F1 Team in 2022 began a couple of years ago, when the decision was taken to pour the team’s resources onto the new regulations, which welcomed in a new era. After a tough 2021, spent grafting and grinding at the back of the grid, Haas F1 Team was immediately competitive with the VF-22. Returnee Kevin Magnussen scored a stunning fifth in Bahrain and from there a points challenge was possible at nearly every grand prix, as Magnussen and Mick Schumacher raced ferociously in Formula 1′s engrossing midfield fight. Haas F1 Team enters the season finale eighth in the Constructors’ Championship, with Magnussen and Schumacher combining to claim 37 points, in a season which also featured a maiden pole position for Magnussen and Haas F1 Team in São Paulo.

Abu Dhabi joined Formula 1′s calendar in 2009 at the Yas Marina Circuit, crafted on the no-expenses-spared Yas Island, around 30 minutes’ drive from downtown. Yas Marina has been the traditional location for Formula 1′s curtain closer, holding finales in 2009/10, and then every season since 2014. It has been the venue for several championship deciders, most famously in 2021, when Max Verstappen was crowned World Champion following a last-lap pass on Lewis Hamilton.

The 16-turn 5.2km circuit features two lengthy straights and several medium-speed turns, with the track’s showpiece now the long-radius turn 9, which was introduced in 2021 following a renovation to the layout. The final sector, which includes the track passing beneath the latticed W Hotel, was also opened up, leading to lap times approximately 13 seconds faster than the pre-2021 layout.

Haas F1 Team Reserve Driver Pietro Fittipaldi will return to the VF-22 for FP1, in place of Schumacher, to complete the team’s young driver obligation for 2022.

Guenther Steiner – Team Principal:

Brazil was a weekend probably unlike any other Haas F1 Team has experienced in its seven-year history – with the standout moment naturally being Kevin Magnussen and the team’s first pole position.  Now you’ve had some time to reflect on that moment – talk us through your emotions at the time and ultimately what it means for the team to check another milestone off?

“The feeling when we realized that the pole position was done – which was pretty quick after the first six or seven cars came over the finish line because the rain intensified – was just a feeling of satisfaction. For me personally I was so happy for the team as they always put so much effort in. I always say being last is the same amount of effort as being first so hats off to them as they made no mistakes at all during qualifying, it was perfectly executed. The mechanics, engineers and Kevin did a fantastic job on Friday afternoon.”

Kevin converted pole position in Brazil to a points-paying finish in the Sprint on the Saturday – marking his third consecutive Sprint points finish. Just how important could that eighth place point be for the team in its battle for eighth in the Constructors’ Championship?

“Finishing eighth was not only a point that counts, it’s also that he kept position not only because we knew the top-three teams will overtake us and only one McLaren got past. I’m very proud of what was achieved in the Sprint and I think we could’ve done something very similar on Sunday if Ricciardo hadn’t of taken us out on the first lap. Anyway, here we are and hopefully that point makes the difference, and we can stay in front of AlphaTauri, as that’s what we’re aiming for now for the last race.”

We come to Yas Marina Circuit this weekend and Pietro Fittipaldi is once again behind the wheel of the VF-22 for the FP1 session ahead of his participation in the post-season test in Abu Dhabi next week – how important is that seat time ahead of next week and what are the objectives with Pietro in both FP1 and the test?

“Pietro has been a part of the Haas family for a few years now and as our official reserve driver we need to put him in the car so at least he can stay sharp in case we need to get him in the car during a race weekend. The objectives are to do a good job and learn about the car – he already knows how to work with the engineers – but to get a feeling of the car and give us his feedback on the car. Additional feedback is always good for the team.”

The conclusion of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship this weekend, with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, marks the end of another frantic season. How would you evaluate the season and what are the goals heading into the off-season in terms of the work being done to capitalize on this season’s strengths?

“It was a comeback season after two years being at the end of the classifications of the Constructors’ Championship but what we said last year was that we focus on the future and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve taken a big step forward. It hasn’t been as smooth as we wanted it to be but it’s very difficult in the modern era of Formula 1 to come back from where we were to where we are now. I think the whole team has done a good job to get us to this point and hopefully we finish eighth – fingers crossed! We just need to take lessons from this year – there are a few to be learned – and we adapt for next year, and we will get back even stronger. We know we can do it, we showed again that we can come back and we will come back even stronger next year.”

Finally, after the checkered flag drops – what then becomes your priority as Team Principal heading into winter?

“To get everyone focused on next year because as much as it sounds strange but when a season like this finishes you just want more of it and want to be better for next year. That will be my priority – trying to motivate everyone to get better, trying to make those who have done 22 races to get a bit of rest and now the pressure is on the people who are preparing next year’s car – designing, developing and preparing. It’s not a long winter anyway and we just need to get ready for the test next year in Bahrain.”

Kevin Magnussen – Driver, No. 20:

The São Paulo Grand Prix will be a race weekend to remember for a long time for both yourself and the team, scoring your first pole position in Formula 1, the first time in 47 years since an American Formula 1 team has achieved such feat. With so much action happening during the final F1 Sprint of the season, can you take us back to Friday afternoon and take us on the journey to starting on the front row on Saturday?

“The radar said it was going to rain in Q3 and it was a little bit of a gamble to go out on the slicks but almost everyone else did too. When I knew they were on slicks I knew we were on the right tire. I also knew that it would probably be that first lap that would count. I did the lap, and it was a good lap, but I was obviously surprised that it was pole. Then we had the red flag so we had to wait in the garage and luckily it started raining more so nobody could improve their lap times, so I got pole, but it was a long eight minutes for sure.”

The final round of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship brings the paddock to the picturesque Yas Island, for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As well as celebrating the end of the season, it’s also a fitting place to look back over the past 21 races – what have been your standout moments and learnings from your eighth year in the sport?

“The first standout moment was coming back to the sport altogether. Of course, it was surprising at the beginning of the year to even be on the grid. Then to finish fifth and get the teams’ first points in a couple of years was great as well. After that, we had been strong for many races, but I’d say nothing beats that pole position. It’s those three things – coming back to the sport, scoring points in the first race and then getting pole position. Overall, it’s being a part of this comeback for the team into strong competitiveness again, that’s been the main thing.”

A track with a 1.2km straight between Turns 5 and 6 and an array of slow-speed corners always makes for an exciting race. Is this a track you like and do you think there’s a good chance of points to close out the season?

“Yas Marina is a special race because it’s the last one, the atmosphere is special. Obviously the title has already been decided and usually there is a big party here too. It’s quite cool because it’s a night race as well – everything looks very shiny and bright. They’ve changed the track quite a bit and I’ve not driven this layout yet so I’m looking forward to trying that.”

With development of the VF-23 now in full focus, how would you rate this season’s challenger in overall performance and where do you think changes need to be made to be fighting in the top-half of the midfield consistently next season?

“The obvious things that we need to try and improve are power, downforce and weight. Power is out of our hands, it’s in the hands of Ferrari who will surely do a good job on that. We need to put more downforce on the car and make it lighter and improve our understanding of what the car needs from a set-up perspective. That’s going to be a moving target with a new car for next year, we need to really learn a big part of it. It’s the same sort of Formula 1 car, it’s very stiff and very low but I think it’s going to be exciting, it’s always exciting looking ahead to a new season.”

Before we close the book on another 22-race season – is there anything you want to say to the hardworking team – both at track and back at base – as well as the fans who’ve supported Haas F1 Team through a re-emergence in form ready for the future?

“It’s certainly going to be a season that I will remember. Out of my years in Formula 1, this is going to be one of the special ones, coming back to the sport and getting my first pole position. It’s still just amazing that we, such a small little team, are able to pull-off these kinds of results. Not only scoring points and fighting with much bigger teams but also getting a pole position. I think the team has to work much harder than other teams, and I have a lot of respect for that.”

Mick Schumacher – Driver, No. 47:

The final round of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship brings the paddock to the picturesque Yas Island, for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. As well as celebrating the end of the season, it’s also a fitting place to look back over the past 21 races – what have been your standout moments and takeaways from your second year in the sport?

“Don’t stop believing in yourself and prove them wrong (PTW). Formula 1 is my life, I love every single moment of it – and the learnings and tough times – that’s all a part of it and it’s just a matter of how you go about it and cope with it. That’s when you know if you’re made out for this sport or not.”

A track with a 1.2km straight between Turns 5 and 6 and an array of slow-speed corners always makes for an exciting race. Is this a track you like and do you think there’s a good chance of points to close out the season?

“Abu Dhabi generally has always been a tough place for us so it’s hard to predict how it will be this year with the new regulations and the new car. Nonetheless I’m excited for it, it’s a fun race and driving into that sunset is always spectacular. It’s a beautiful place, it’s as simple as that.”

With development of the VF-23 now in full focus, how would you rate this season’s challenger in overall performance and where do you think changes need to be made to be fighting in the top-half of the midfield consistently next season?

“The performance we had at the start of the year was incredible and we were fortunate with the step we made from the previous year. Obviously, things got a bit tougher, but the car has been able to perform at great levels even without big upgrades. Other teams have brought upgrades to a lot of races and that’s different to our approach but I’m sure the team has been working hard on the new car for next year and I’m sure they’ll do a great job.”

Before we close the book on another 22-race season – is there anything you want to say to the hardworking team – both at track and back at base – as well as the fans who’ve supported Haas F1 Team through a re-emergence in form ready for the future?

“It’s been a hell of a ride, I’ve enjoyed every single second of it and it’s been great to work with so many great people. I know some people have left along the way but I’m very grateful for the opportunities they’ve given me. The fans have been super supportive all year round and it’s just been a real pleasure in that sense. Bring on 2023.”

Haas F1 Team contributed to this story.