Formula One Diary: Friday afternoon

I’m following the American-owned Haas F1 Team through its weekend at the only Formula One race in America: The United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in Austin. This post is the third in a series.

For an organization in only its second year, Haas F1 Team is doing quite well. Twice this season it has had double-points finishes — where both drivers finish in the top 10 — and that’s extremely rare for new teams in an ultra-competitive sport.

The paddock has noticed. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso said Thursday that “what Haas has managed to do in the last two years is quite impressive.”

“Two consecutive years in a very demanding sport like F1, competing at a good level, is a great achievement,” Alonso said, also calling Haas’ success “a very good thing for the sport.”

But there are also growing pains for a young team, and one such instance was on display during a rough practice session on Friday afternoon.

In Formula One, teams are allowed to design fancy-looking pieces that help generate downforce. They are attached to the nose, the sides, the floor and even the rear to redirect the exhaust. Unlike NASCAR, there’s no template to measure such things, so creativity rules.

One such instance was a new design tweak Haas brought this weekend. As I mentioned in the Friday morning post, Haas made a big change to a piece of the car called bargeboards, and the enhancement had created some buzz amongst the media this weekend.

The thought was Haas’ design could help its cars perform better in the race. And while that still may be the case eventually, it’s not what happened in practice.

An up-close look at the new bargeboards. The piece to the right is what came loose.
After Romain Grosjean spun early in the second practice session, he told the team via radio it had a “massive, massive, massive” aero problem.

“I don’t think I can do anything,” he said. “(Another run) is not going to work. It’s pointless.”

So what was the issue? Well, after he came back into the garage, the team discovered part of the bargeboard actually fell off. One of the team members thought they saw it on TV sitting somewhere in Turn 20.

That meant the team had to spend valuable time replacing the brackets that held the bargeboards in place — not just on Grosjean’s car, but also Kevin Magnussen’s.

The team had to scramble during practice to replace the new bargeboard brackets, which required removing the nose of the car.
Grosjean said later it was unclear whether the bracket just couldn’t handle the additional load or if the bargeboard fell victim to one of the track’s many curbs. Either way, the team will need to come up with a solution to secure them better.
But that wasn’t even the most dramatic part of practice. After Grosjean spun out, Magnussen almost ran into the back of him while trying to pass later in the lap — and had to dart to the inside of a corner to avoid contact.

“Get out of the way, please!” Magnussen said on the team radio (though Grosjean couldn’t hear him).

“Extremely intelligent there from Kevin,” Grosjean said sarcastically.

Magnussen, who also spun out later in the session and flat-spotted his tires, said in an interview afterward the near-incident was just a “miscommunication.”

“There’s no problem there,” he said twice.


“It was a bit close, but that was fine,” Grosjean said in a separate interview, adding the two drivers didn’t discuss it. “Not a big deal.”

Ultimately, Grosjean finished the session in 20th — last — and Magnussen was 14th. Fortunately, there’s one more practice on Saturday before the all-important qualifying later that afternoon.

“Yeah, it wasn’t our best Friday,” Grosjean said.


Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day

6 Replies to “Formula One Diary: Friday afternoon”

  1. Really cool to follow this weekend. (Geoff) haha. It looks like you get some pretty cool access for this event. I’m surprised that they let you snap pictures bardgeboards. F1 teams seem to be very picky on letting anything aero stuff be posted. Very cool to see and glad your Bosses let you make this very cool trip happen. Can’t wait to hear the post race podcast of your trip to an F1 race.

  2. McAbee says your bosses allowed you to go to COTA. My understanding, (and envy), of your role in life is that of “no boss”. I assume you’re funded by patrons of NASCAR. From 1988 to 2002, I spent 60 hours a week with NASCAR and several other racing organizations working in licensing and merchandising. At the end, it stopped being fun and started being a headache.

    I’m retired now, but if you continue on the course of the last three posts, I will find some $$$ in my meager budget to be a patron.

  3. Mark Long: FYI — Jeff currently has 980 Patreon supporters who he calls his bosses (me included). We have a monthly video conference “Staff Meeting.” For $5/month and higher, we have access to a private Facebook Group of only Patreon supporters. Jeff acts at times as though he has “no boss,” but deep down he knows that if he makes the Bosses mad they will withdraw their support (which some have done recently.) It’s pretty cool that a sports writer can be crowd-funded to pursue his dreams and fulfill the needs of his supporters.

    1. Mike S… Thanks for your post. I had assumed Jeff had some kind of support group like the one you described. I’m heartened and pleased that his crowdfunding efforts have been so wildly successful. If only our national institutions would do their jobs with a high priority being the wishes of their “Bosses”. Imagine a Congress with the members upcoming paychecks and job continuation dependent on crowdfunding.

      If Jeff’s agenda continues to be less NASCAR and more of F1, Indycar, IMSA, Sprint Cars, Rally and other forms of motorsports, I’m a player. I don’t do Facebook and I’m not sure what it takes to “Video Conference”, but I feel that folks like you have the dedication and wisdom to help steer the ship.

  4. Awesome Job here Jeff. I learned something I was not aware F1 team’s could be so innovative. Super glad we decided f1 for this weekend.

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