After a disappointing 2019 season, the Haas F1 has a lot to prove. The first days of testing bring some promise but there is still a lot of work ahead, as the team principal Günther Steiner told ŚwiatWyścigów.pl’s Roksana Ćwik in the Barcelona paddock.
The first part of testing is coming to the end one day earlier than previously. Does the reduced track time affect your programme?
Actually we had more track time because we did more laps because the car was more reliable this year, so that would be wrong for me to answer. As you saw, the cars are so reliable now and if you count the laps everybody is doing, I think like 70% of the teams would have done more laps in the three days than they previously did in four days. You just get prepared and the cars up to yesterday have been very reliable, with just one red flag at the end of the day, which didn’t cost anything. For us in the moment we are pretty happy. We didn’t expect to do this many laps, so I cannot say anything negative about it. We are happy.
If you were in charge, would you go back to eight days or even further reduce the testing?
I think we are at the edge now and we cannot reduce it anymore. We have the six days at the beginning of the season and then just some at the end of the season, with no in-season testing. There is not a lot to be taking away anymore, so I wouldn’t go for less now.
What is the feedback from the early running with the new car?
Still working on it. The drivers don’t dislike it. There is still a lot of work and it’s a difficult moment, since you are not trying to do the lap times and just to get data. The drivers want to do the lap times, but you just want to get data, to figure out all the parts and what you need to get the balance, and this is what we are doing. In general, it isn’t negative.
Did you get on top of the last year’s issues?
I think we sorted some of them out pretty good. But I don’t go to the conclusion that everything is fine, since we don’t know where the others are and even if we made progress from last year it doesn’t mean where we will end up in the championship. We will find out more next week and the ultimate finding out will be qualifying in Australia.
With the regulations being stable, do you expect the field to bunch up?
It is so close that it is almost strange because 10 kgs of fuel make a big difference on this track. I don’t know what the others are doing in terms of fuel loads and engine modes, but it seems to be pretty close. We are in the second year of these regulations, so I think it is automatically getting closer. Usually with the stability of the regulations the midfield comes together a lot and the top three guys should be together as well.
The new Mercedes-AMG DAS system is one of the main topics here. What do you think about it?
I don’t know exactly what it does and how it works. I know what I read on the internet, the principles of it, but I don’t want to think anything about it before I know what it actually does.
It was only discovered because the testing gets a full broadcast coverage. What is your take on having on-boards and cameras on you all the time?
We get to know what the others are doing anyway, since we have people doing it for us. We will see after the test how many people have watched it and then we will see if it was good, because it is not for us. We don’t care between us what is happening but it’s more for the spectators and if there is a demand for it, I think it is the right thing to do. If we can create interest with testing, why shouldn’t we give it to the public?
I can not ask about the whole Robert Kubica story. Could you tell me how it all started, developed and ended?
For us it was just that he had the better option to go somewhere else with the DTM programme and so on. I respect when somebody gets a better offer then he should take it. We couldn’t offer that one, so in the end everybody needs to do what’s best for him, the sponsor, Orlen, needs to do what is best for them and if we don’t have it, then I’m absolutely okay with it. That is business, if you have something better, you should buy that one.
You have worked in the past with Krzysztof Hołowczyc. How do you rate him as a driver?
When he was at his time, he was good. I think he was very competitive at the time in WRC. He was the first to come to the European Championship from outside of the ‘circle of rally’, coming from Poland. At that time there wasn’t big rally history in Poland and winning the European Championship for sure was good. He didn’t won ERC, but he was very good and then he had a crash, which does happen in rallying and you cannot judge on one rally. At his time, he was good.
What is your take on the budget cap and especially how it will affect this year?
I think the budget cap is a very good thing in general. It should take the teams closer together or at least the big teams will come down with their budget and they cannot get away, because otherwise they would increase the budget every year and they are so much bigger than anybody else and nobody can follow, but at least we are blocking them. We still have room to get to the budget cap as a team, but I think it will get them closer together, but not in short-term, rather mid-term, since the next year’s car is developed not under the budget cap, so they can fully apply their resources and if you get an advantage at the beginning, you carry it on along. But in the mid-to-long term it’s a very good thing.
And what is your view on making the Formula 1 more ‘eco’? Is it possible to do?
Absolutely. I think what we need to look at is that the cars are already pretty ‘eco’. The efficiency of these engines is something fantastic. I think where we are not good is in showing our technology. To show to the public what technology we are using. And we are not doing that one very good. I think the future will bring what we should do and F1 is working on that one as well.
How far are you with the 2021 design?
We have started the concept work last year and you just keep on developing and put more people to the project than the 2020 car.
There was a plan to bring 18-inch wheels to F1 this year. Why did the teams rejected them?
Basically the drivers said they didn’t see improvement in what we were trying to do. So, everybody decided to better stick to what we’ve got than to go to the new tyre and then develop everything about that tyre again. That was an easy solution. Each driver said they prefer the old tyre and if they tell us it’s not any better and we force them to drive on them, then it creates a very bad publicity. If it doesn’t create better racing, then why would we do it?
Are you confident that Gene Haas will continue to spend money on F1?
I’m confident that we will continue. But the ultimate decision is his. It’s not my money, so he needs to decide himself.
What is the feeling regarding the postponement of the Chinese Grand Prix and possibly having other races at risk?
I think we should look at if it’s possible to hold it at another time, when the disease is gone, to send a message that it’s all gone and we move on and still go racing. But we need to find a spot that is logistically possible to do, and we need to make sure that the disease is gone. I’m not worried about going to Vietnam. F1 and Liberty have got people working on it, monitoring the situation, and they will advise us. As you know, we are a big community here and if it gets here, there will be consequences since it is very difficult to control it. I have full trust in Liberty that they will do the right thing. If two or three people get it, then we have to stop the show and it could be stopping for a year.
And for the last question I want to ask about the ‘Drive to Survive’. Are you conscious that the crew is behind your back all the time, looking for the stories?
I leave that to them. I don’t care what they do. If they want to make them, it’s fine, if they don’t want to make them, I’m pretty happy. You get used to it; it doesn’t do anything.