Austrian Grand Prix: Haas hoping to return to the points at Red Bull Ring

Haas last added to their account in the F1 Sprint Race at the Miami Grand Prix, when Nico Hülkenberg parlayed a tenth-place finish in qualifying for the F1 Sprint Race into a seventh-place result in the F1 Sprint Race itself, earning two critical points for the team.

With Formula 1 returning to the F1 Sprint format this weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix, can Haas return to the points?

It has been a difficult stretch for the team since Miami, with their best chance for points coming in the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola. That weekend saw Hülkenberg qualify tenth, but he finished in P11, one spot out of the points. Since then they have been left on the outside looking in, including a double DNF in Monaco due to an opening-lap collision involving Sergio Pérez.

Their recent struggles opened the door for Alpine, whose own success the past few weeks — with six points over two race weekends — has seen the French outfit climb above them in the Constructors’ Championship standings. Alpine now sits seventh in the table with eight points, one point — and place — ahead of Haas with seven points.

As Haas heads to Red Bull Ring along with the rest of the grid for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix, they are hopeful that recent success at that circuit will aid their quest for points.

“It’s a short track that packs in a lot of fun,” said Hülkenberg in the team’s media preview. “The length of the circuit means it bunches us all up over qualifying, which is a challenge, but we have two opportunities as it’s a Sprint. Last year I scored points around the Red Bull Ring, so I know it can be done, and we want to be back scoring points, so that’s the mission in Spielberg.”

On the other side of the garage Kevin Magnussen — who is hoping to have his F1 future resolved “soon” — is wary that the many high-speed corners in Austria could pose a problem for the team’s VF-24.

“It’s a fun track; I’ve got some good memories from the Red Bull Ring, that’s where we’ve had our best team result so I’m looking forward to going there again,” described Magnussen. “We have quite an efficient car so hopefully with our good straight-line speed we can be good there. There’s still a fair number of high-speed corners, which is perhaps not our strength, but we seem to be pretty consistently good at most tracks. I’m just looking forward to a fun Sprint weekend.”

Haas Race Engineer Mark Slade walked through the variety of corners Red Bull Ring offers, and how each may, or may not, suit the team’s challenger.

“One of the main things about the Red Bull Ring is that it’s a very short lap so it gets busy, particularly in practice and qualifying. It’s a nice mixture of low-, medium-, and high-speed corners, and obviously in a spectacular setting so it looks amazing, and it does provide quite a significant challenge for us when setting the car up,” described Slade. “We’ve had some issues with medium-speed corners, so we’re expecting to have to manage that, it’s going to be a challenge for us, but on the other hand in low-speed corners, we’ve generally been very good at them and we think we’ve taken a step forward in high-speed corners recently. We’ll see how we get on, but we’ve got a plan of course.”

While many teams have addressed the challenges a compressed F1 Sprint week puts in front of them, Slade outlined how for a team like Haas, there are added benefits to the condensed schedule.

“There is a lot of extra work for a Sprint, especially in amongst a triple-header, but it also makes it very interesting, it’s all a part of Formula 1,” said Slade. “You have to be realistic that you’re not going to be able to do everything you’d like to do with one practice session, so you have to pick the most important points that you think are relevant to getting the best out of the car in both the Sprint and the race and work to achieve those objectives – it’s a very compressed, highly edited run plan.

“The format of a Sprint is different from previous years, so you can afford to be a little bit more experimental in the Sprint race because points only go to eighth place, and realistically we’re chasing that last points-paying position so it means we can try things that we wouldn’t necessarily have tried, knowing we can change things for the race.”

Slade and the rest of the team get their first crack at Red Bull Ring this Friday.

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