Monaco marked Haas F1 Team’s first double points finish in its still young history. Guenther Steiner mentioned how this wasn’t some sort of magic, that the team has been working toward this for some time. Can you talk about the progress the team has made since its inception to now regularly having a shot at getting both drivers into the points?
“Last year we started very well, then we struggled a little bit more as we were preparing for 2017. The car is very good. We’ve had a lot of chances to get into the points. We haven’t always had the luck we needed but, eventually, Monaco came. It was not maybe the place we expected to get both cars into the top-10, but we did it, and it shows that the team is now capable of finding the right setup, the right strategy and going for it. It was a big achievement. I think it’s as big as our first Q3 appearance, or our first points, and I’m very happy with that.”
When you have a good result, how long are you able to enjoy it before you’re forced to turn your attention to the next race?
“Well, I normally take Monday off. It’s the day I’m either going to enjoy or be in a bad mood, depending on the race. After that I’m already focused on the next race. We have a chat with the engineers, we have a conference call on Thursday, and we’re already working flat out on the next race.”
How hard is it to get into the top-10 when six of those spots should theoretically be reserved for the top-three teams – Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull? You have to fight with six other teams and 12 other drivers for four spots.
“It’s pretty hard to get there. There are races where, like in Barcelona, there were a lot of cars crashing out like a Mercedes, a Ferrari, a Williams, which makes it easier, but we didn’t manage to get as high as we wanted. In Monaco, there was nothing happening at the front. It was really difficult to follow the guys. For the smaller teams, as we are in the midfield, it’s pretty tricky as there aren’t many spots to go for.”
Despite running the softest tire compounds in Pirelli’s lineup for a second straight week, drivers are saying the tires aren’t soft enough. Ideally, what are you looking for in a tire? It is more grip, a sidewall that’s not as stiff or a combination of both?
“It’s more grip. During the last race I did 40 laps on the ultrasoft, which is really more of a qualifying tire. It should be able to do some amount of laps, but not as much as that. We’re asking to get tires with a better warm-up, be better after the Safety Car and to go faster. We believe that the cars are able to go faster.”
Another element of the tires is the working range of each compound, specifically, how you get the tire into the proper working range and then keeping it there. How do you find the proper working range of a tire and what do you need to do to stay in that working range?
“I do believe that not a lot of people are 100 percent sure how to get there. It’s very tricky. It’s something we need to work on with Pirelli. We need to make it easier, as we’re spending so much time getting the tires to work. It’s a bit frustrating not being able to work on car balance. Ideally, we’d like a wider window, and pretty much more in common between the compounds, so when you change compounds it doesn’t just fall off in the performance.”
The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a semi-street circuit. Is there anything you can take from Monaco and apply to Montreal, especially considering Pirelli is bringing the same tire compounds from Monaco?
“Yes there are a few things we can take, a few setup items we’ve tried. Hopefully, we can make a good package. Canada is, of course, much faster than Monaco. It’s a city circuit, but very different from Monaco. You run less downforce because of the long straights. Mechanically, I think there are a few things we can carry over.”
Canada is known as the hardest-braking grand prix of the year. What do you need to feel in the car to make the most of your car’s braking capability, and how do you manage your brakes for the entire, 70-lap race?
“We’ll be working on our brakes. It’s not our number one strength, but we’re getting better. For Canada, you need to know that when you hit the pedal, you’re going to get 100 percent of what you want. You don’t want a different feel from your demand. That’s what we need to work on. For the race, let’s see which cooling we can run. Worst case scenario – we have to do a bit of lift-and-coast to manage them.”
Montreal is home to one of your best finishes in Formula One – a second-place effort in 2012. What do you remember about that race and how did you achieve that result?
“That was a great race. I started P7. I had a one-stop strategy while everyone else was on a two-stop strategy. Initially, I thought I would finish fifth or sixth as I was stuck behind the Mercedes of (Nico) Rosberg. I couldn’t overtake. Then, everyone pitted. The ones who didn’t were really struggling with grip, so I could overtake them. I didn’t quite have the pace to chase Lewis (Hamilton) and take the win.”
How important was that second-place finish at Montreal in 2012 during that early portion of your Formula One career?
“It was a great race and, obviously, a great result. I always try to do my best. It was a good race. I enjoyed it. It’s always important to strive for the highest finish you can and be as high on the podium as possible.”
What is your favorite part of the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and why?
“I like the whole circuit. I’ve always loved it and really enjoy racing there. It’s always a great feeling.”
Describe a lap around Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“After the start-finish line you go into turn one. It’s tricky braking with a lot of front locking. You’re straight into turn two – a very bumpy hairpin. Then it’s the chicane. You use a lot of the curb and have to be careful on exit because of the wall. Then it’s another left and right corner with tricky braking. You come from the right-hand side corner flat out, and then there’s a long throttle application with a lot of g-force. Then you brake for turns eight and nine. Under the bridge, it’s very bumpy. It’s not so easy to get the grip of the car there. Then it’s the hairpin. Very big braking there. You try to carry some minimum speed and not lose too much time. You then need a good throttle application. Then there’s the famous chicane at the end of the lap, where you really want to brake as late as possible and carry as much speed as possible through that tricky part.”