Has the Haas team solved tyre temperature issues plaguing its early season races? The Monaco Grand Prix will provide an answer.
Strong in pre-season testing, Haas got off to a good start in Melbourne when Kevin Magnussen finished sixth. But then came three successive races in which the Dane and teammate Romain Grosjean did not score a single point.
The chassis has undeniable pace. The presence of both cars in Q3 at four of the first five races, is proof.
The issue is keeping tyre temperatures up in race conditions. Round 4 in Azerbaijan was the worst example. Baku’s smooth surface, long straights and falling track temperature compounded the problem. Neither driver qualified better than 13th and Magnussen finished there.
In Spain the team raced a car with significant aerodynamic changes and achieved a double points score. Magnussen seventh, Grosjean 10th. The result leapfrogged the team up from eighth to sixth in the constructors’ standings.
But it could be a false dawn. Barcelona’s high-speed corners put plenty of energy into Pirelli’s rubber. Even then, after the Safety Car restart, Grosjean lost tyre temperature and dropped from seventh to 10th.
It was a different story for teammate Magnussen. He took no prisoners as he elbowed Grosjean out of the way in Turn 1. The French-Swiss driver then lost further places to Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat.
Team principal Guenther Steiner was quick to sort out a potential flashpoint.
“It’s ended being a bit of a controversial weekend,” he admitted in Barcelona. “But we’ve sorted it out and cleared the air between the drivers.”
The team struggled badly with similar tyre issues in Monaco last year. This time, it’s a case of fingers crossed. If Haas goes well, the prognosis will be much better for Canada and the remainder of the season.
Team owner Gene Haas concedes that he’d much rather be playing games with racing cars than thermometers…