Welcome to the RACER.com Guest Mailbag, where this week we’re pleased to welcome the Haas Formula 1 team up to Mailbag Towers.
The only U.S.-flagged team in Formula 1, Haas has established itself as a regular upper-midfield threat in its four years of racing; an achievement made possible in part by a budget-conscious approach built around a technical alliance with Ferrari that helped it to avoid many of the financial tripwires that have taken down other fledgling teams.
Team principal Guenther Steiner and drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen stepped up to the plate to take questions from RACER.com readers, and we’d like to extend them a huge thanks for being so accommodating.
If you missed the first Guest Mailbag with Mario Andretti, you can catch up with the GOAT here. Questions for all of our other upcoming guests are now closed, but look for more to be announced shortly.
And now, over to Haas F1.
Q: Have you ever watched an IndyCar or NASCAR race? Do you appreciate oval racing?
RG: I have watched NASCAR racing, and some IndyCar racing too – they’re both great. I don’t fancy oval racing that much… well, the last 10 laps are pretty good. Generally, it’s not something that interests me, at least in terms of wanting to drive one. It’s pretty good fun though, watching NASCAR and IndyCar races.
Q: Do you have good memories from the sportscar chapter of your career? Is that something you’d think about going back to one day in the future?
RG: Yes, I do have good memories from sportscars. It was very nice to do the Le Mans 24 Hours, it’s probably one of the best races I’ve ever done in my life. [ED: Grosjean contested the 2010 LM24 in a Matech Competition Ford GT1]. I would like to go back there one day, but with a team to try and win the race [outright]. Sportscars are obviously very different from single-seaters, but I can see myself doing more in the future.
Q: How does a driver know when he is within 1.0s to be able to use DRS? How does he know he is 0.8 seconds behind versus 1.3 seconds? Is there something on the readout, or does the team engineer relay that info to the driver? Thanks.
RS: We have something on the dash. When we cross the DRS detection line we have one green light that comes on the steering wheel. When we are at the activation line, a second green light comes on the dash, then you can press the button. It’s automatically on the dash that we get a light to know if we’re within a second or not.
Q: Hi Romain, thanks for answering our letters. Your F1 debut came under unusual circumstances with everything going on at Renault at the time. [ED: Grosjean, then a Renault test driver competing in GP2, was called up mid-way through 2009 to replace Nelson Piquet Jr amid the fallout from the Singapore 2008 ‘Crashgate’ incident]. How much pressure did you feel? And while any driver will obviously take an F1 opportunity if it’s handed to them, in an ideal world would you have preferred to finish the GP2 season and have had more time to prepare?
RG: Obviously it was not an option to say no. I really enjoyed coming to Formula 1. There was pressure, of course, because it is Formula 1, but also, I was told it was seven races to prepare myself for the future. I had never driven that car before first practice, so the first time I jumped in the R29 was Valencia. It wasn’t too bad, it’s just that car was a tough one to drive. My performance wasn’t too far off Fernando Alonso, which was pretty good. I was leading the GP2 championship when I left, so yes would have been nice, but I got the chance to come back later in my career and win the championship.
Q: Once your F1 career has ended, would you consider crossing the pond to race IndyCar? If so, why? If not, why not?
Westlake Village, CA
RG: I would probably not do IndyCar. I’m more interested in something like Formula E and the World Endurance Championship. I’ve also always loved the DTM. Those could be the options. IndyCar is a no because there are too many ovals, and I don’t really like those.