Formula One Diary: Sunday morning

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 fifth in a series.


I had the chance to chat with a group of Formula One fans at the tweetup this morning, and they gave me an education on the best way for casual fans to start getting more into F1.

First, you have to pick a driver or team from the top group — Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull — or you’ll likely never get the satisfaction of a win. Drivers from the top three teams have won all 16 races so far this season, with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel combining to win 12 of those.

But then fans also need to choose a driver or team from the second group — which is why those people were attending a tweetup on what’s known as Haas Hill.

Though most of them were wearing the gear of their primary driver, the fans said they’ve chosen Haas F1 Team as their underdog pick — and they find that makes the sport more enjoyable.

That jives with what Haas team principal Guenther Steiner and team owner Gene Haas told me Sunday morning when I asked what new fans should know about Formula One.

“The top three teams are typically going to be one to two seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field — but the rest of the field is within a second,” Haas said. “So you can find a lot of excitement watching the cars in the back dice it up, because they’re trying to beat the cars in that group.

“You really have two different races going on here at the same time.”

Steiner said new F1 fans need to pay attention to what’s going on at the front of the field and who is going to be champion. But when they look further down the running order, the appreciation of the mid-pack battle can really add to the viewing experience.

“They need to look at who we race,” Steiner said. “We are not racing for the win, we are racing midfield. There is a big fight going on in the midfield — with Renault, with Toro Rosso, with Williams — which for a new team is quite surprising.

“In the last 20 years, all the new teams who came in are gone already. And all together, they made maybe three or four points (points are only awarded for top-10 finishes in F1). In two seasons, we’ve gotten more than 70 points — and we keep on going. So they should cheer for us.”

In addition, Haas said the pit strategies and tire strategies (there are several different compounds teams use in the race, which are distinguished by color) enhance the experience once fans figure out the complexities.

“If you can start to understand a little bit about that, the whole sport really becomes very interesting,” he said.

But ultimately, one of the biggest differences between F1 and NASCAR is the fastest car almost always wins. And the 10 fastest cars are often the top 10 finishers.

So every single position gained is an achievement against the best of the best, with teams and drivers who travel around the globe to compete at the highest level of motorsports.

“Nobody here gives you a break,” Haas said. “Nobody here would give you a helping hand when it comes to winning a race. So you know when you beat these people, they gave it their all and you gave it your all, and at the end of it, whoever finished ahead wasn’t something that was given to you. You had to earn it.”


Saturday diary on the fan reception for Haas in Austin

—  Friday afternoon diary on Haas F1 Team’s growing pains

— Friday morning diary on the track walk and team dinner

— Thursday diary on media day

2 Replies to “Formula One Diary: Sunday morning”

  1. Great series of articles Jeff. You need to lobby for a trip to Monaco next year, to you know, report on the progress of Haas. And if you need an assistant I’m available

  2. Having your favorite driver win is very satisfying. In F1, there are so many side stories, having your driver do well is usually icing on the cake. Here are some…

    Team Loyalty… I bleed Ferrari red. I love seeing Kimi and Seb move through the pack and make daring passes. I’m heartbroken when one of the red cars fail. I also an an ardent supporter of Haas and his huge success in less than 2 years.

    Technology… It’s inspiring to see half the grid, (11 teams), with different Chassis/Engine combos. Yes, there are very tight rules, but there is no clam shell that must fit all cars regardless of make. The teams are allowed to improve the cars all season as long they are within the rules envelope.

    Driver Talent… We get to watch 22 drivers that are definitely near top of the motor sports crop. A TV on board ride with any of the drivers can make you wish you had a 6 point harness in you Lazy Boy chair. NBC has given us breathtaking rides with Hamilton that set new track records by a couple of seconds. Speaking of NBC… Hobbs, Matchett, Diffey and Buxton are in my option the best team in all of motor sports broadcasting.

    Team Strategies… With need for the use of two tire compounds, the fact that there are no fuel stops and the resultant changes due a lightning fuel weight, makes race strategy paramount. Combine that with sub four second pit stops and we get to watch a race within a race.

    Yes , the podium celebration is important, but the two hours to get there is rarely boring.

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