Haas’ drive to thrive in 2020

Romain Grosjean has said he feels in his best ever physical shape as Haas look for a bounceback year in 2020.

The team struggled with race pace last year, the car having a very narrow operating window for its tyres despite some good results in qualifying, but Grosjean was confident the team has taken a step forward over the offseason.

There’s no abundance of nerves for his teammate Kevin Magnussen either, who said on the return to racing: “You can’t compare it with tennis or golf – those athletes, if they missed a few months, would struggle going straight into a tournament if up against players who were training every day.

“But motorsport isn’t a sport like that.  We’re all used to jumping straight in with not too much practice and getting on the pace. It’s the same for everyone so it’s not that big a factor I think.”

Grosjean added: “I think physically I’m better than I’ve ever been. Obviously, the neck is the hard one to keep going, mentally I’m also very much ready.

“We haven’t had the chance to drive our car like some of the other teams, but I don’t think that will be an issue when we get back to racing in Austria.”

Last season Austria was perhaps the race that showed Haas’ polarised performance across a weekend. Kevin Magnussen had a stunning Saturday and qualified fifth, and Grosjean was on the brink of Q3. But both cars had a torrid time in the race – Magnussen dropped to 19th even behind the Williams of George Russell, and Grosjean finished 16th.

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Asked if he thought the Austrian rounds would provide an insight into car performance though, Grosjean said: “No, because it’s only one race track and one layout – a particular one too at the Red Bull Ring. I don’t think we can assess how the car behaves after the two races in Austria.”

One of the ways the Frenchman has  kept busy in lockdown is by launching R8G Esports, who put in a strong performance at the Virtual Le Mans last month to finish third in the GTE class.

Meanwhile, Magnussen has gone in the other direction, going back to his roots to rediscover karting, a tactic Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has also employed.

Team Principal Guenther Steiner saluted his drivers’ efforts, saying: “I think we’re as ready as we can be. Everybody on the team is highly motivated to get back out there and go racing again. They want to go out there and do their job, not just be sitting at home waiting on news as to what’s happening next.

“The drivers obviously kept on training. I know Kevin has been doing a lot of karting, Romain has been doing a lot of sim racing. Basically, we’re ready, we cannot wait.”