The Brazilian Grand Prix Sunday at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace in the Interlagos district of São Paulo got off to an inauspicious start for Haas F1 Team. In wet and dreary conditions, Romain Grosjean’s day quickly became even drearier when he spun his Haas VF-16 on the reconnaissance lap en route to the grid.
Grosjean backed into the barrier on the run up to the start/finish line and his car suffered substantial left-side damage. With the crew unable to make repairs, Grosjean’s day was over before it even began. He was set to start seventh, equaling his best start of the year (Japan), before misfortune struck.
This left Esteban Gutiérrez, who started 12th, as Haas F1 Team’s lone representative in the penultimate round of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship.
Gutiérrez and the rest of his Formula One counterparts began the race on the Pirelli Cinturato Blue full wet tire. The first seven laps were run behind the safety car before race control turned the drivers loose on the 4.309-kilometer (2.677-mile), 15-turn circuit.
Prior to the safety car pulling off the track, some teams made the aggressive and dicey decision to outfit their drivers with the Pirelli Cinturato Green intermediate tire as rain continued to fall. Haas F1 Team took a more conservative approach with Gutiérrez, waiting until lap 14 to make the switch to intermediates.
Lap 14 was also the beginning of a second safety car period, this time for the crashed Sauber of Marcus Ericsson. The safety car hit pit road at the end of lap 19, and as the field came to the green to start lap 20, Kimi Räikkönen promptly spun on the straight parallel to the pit lane. His Ferrari was heavily damaged as it impacted the inside wall, and it was enough for race control to display the red flag on lap 21.
Gutiérrez was 17th at the time and he stayed there once the red flag was lifted. Even though cars circled the track, there was no racing. They were led by the safety car for seven laps before race control displayed the red flag again, as persistent rain made the track unsuitable for racing.
This red-flag stoppage lasted for 27 minutes before another restart behind the safety car on lap 29. Green-flag racing finally commenced three laps later, whereupon Gutiérrez was entrenched in a midfield battle, climbing to as high as 12th by lap 40. Unfortunately, Gutiérrez’s charge toward the top-10 was thwarted with a series of electrical issues, culminating in his retirement to the garage after 60 laps. The DNF (Did Not Finish) left Gutiérrez 17th in the final rundown.
Outlasting the elements to win the Brazilian Grand Prix was Lewis Hamilton. It was the Mercedes driver’s 52ndcareer Formula One victory, surpassing the tally of legend Alain Prost to put him second on Formula One’s all-time win list. Only Michael Schumacher, with 91 victories, has more wins than Hamilton. It was also Hamilton’s ninth win of the season and his third in a row, but first at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace. Hamilton’s margin of victory was an impressive 11.455 seconds over his Mercedes teammate and championship leader Nico Rosberg. The victory cut Rosberg’s advantage over Hamilton from 19 points to 12 points with only one race remaining.
Twenty rounds into the 21-race Formula One schedule, Haas F1 Team remains eighth in the constructor standings with 29 points. Seventh-place Toro Rosso extended its margin over the American squad to 34 points as Carlos Sainz Jr. finished sixth to pick up eight points. Haas F1 Team maintained its 21-point advantage over ninth-place Renault as they failed to finish in the points.
Formula One takes a weekend off before returning to action for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Nov. 27 at Yas Marina Circuit.
Romain Grosjean: “Well, I’m sorry for the fans, for all of Haas F1 Team. We’ve gone from hero to zero in less than 24 hours. What can I say? I wasn’t even flat out. I was barely faster than Gutiérrez, and then the car just spun. It was just bad luck. There was really no grip at that point. I picked up the wheelspin, spun and crashed. I feel so bad for the crew. It was a big impact, something like 30G. It happens fast in Formula One, but I’m okay physically.”
Esteban Gutierrez: “It was a fun race – pretty boring at the beginning, but got much better when we started to race on full wets. The conditions were very tricky on track with the wet and the intermediate tires, and it was all about keeping the car on track. We were picking up a good pace and I was making my way up the grid and saw an opportunity to score some points. Unfortunately, we started to have some electrical problems. I was having power issues on braking and in the corners. In the wet, that’s the worst thing you can have. The team gave their best effort to fix it, but we had to retire the car. Now we’re looking ahead to the final race of the season. It’s another opportunity. We have to stay optimistic and try to do the best with what we have and focus on that.”
Guenther Steiner: It was a disastrous race for us, but not a disastrous weekend. Up to today’s race, our weekend was a good one. But today Romain crashed out on the lap to the grid, so we lost one car even before the start. The conditions were tough out there and they played a role in his exit. Esteban had been driving a very good race, but then we had issues with electronics. At one point his MGU-K didn’t work, and then he had to retire his car when his MGU-H didn’t work anymore because of electronic problems. We’re pretty happy to be getting out of here and moving on to the next one.”
The final round of the 2016 FIA Formula One World Championship is the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit in the United Arab Emirates. Practice begins Nov. 25, qualifying takes place Nov. 26 and the race runs Nov. 27.