Sep 3, 2016
After a strong showing on Friday in the two practice sessions (FP1 and FP2) for the Italian Grand Prix, Haas F1 Team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez returned to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza on Saturday for final practice (FP3) and then qualifying for Sunday’s 53-lap race around the 5.793-kilometer (3.6-mile), 11-turn circuit.
The plan in FP3 was for each driver to run the same program – two stints, the first at eight laps and the second at seven laps, all while running Pirelli P Zero Red supersoft tires.
Twelve minutes into the session, however, Grosjean spun his Haas VF-16 as he powered through the Ascari chicane. No contact was made with the wall, but the car ended up beached in the gravel trap, which brought out the virtual safety car. And with the location of Ascari being on the other side of the racetrack, Grosjean’s FP3 session was over. Track marshals delivered his car back to the Haas F1 Team garage at the end of FP3 and upon arrival, an inspection of the car revealed the gearbox had been damaged. A gearbox change was necessary, which meant a five-place grid penalty for the start of Sunday’s race.
This left Gutiérrez as the lone representative for Haas F1 Team for the remainder of FP3. His run program changed a bit due to the virtual safety car, but he was able to log a total of 15 laps over three stints. His best time was a 1:24.034, recorded on his final lap, which put him 10th overall. Grosjean ended up 14th fastest in his truncated FP3 session. He made only four laps, with his quickest being a 1:24.463, earned on his third lap.
Mercedes maintained its stranglehold atop the practice sheets, with Lewis Hamilton leading FP3. His fast lap of 1:22.008 was .393 of second better than that of his teammate, Nico Rosberg. Scuderia Ferrari continued to keep Mercedes honest, finishing FP3 third and fourth with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen.
Qualifying began with plenty of optimism for Haas F1 Team. In the eight grands prix prior to Monza, the American outfit had placed both of its cars in Q2 and in recent weeks had been knocking on the door of Q3 with five 11th-place qualifying efforts – three by Grosjean and two by Gutiérrez. Would the top-10 times each driver achieved in the weekend’s practice sessions continue in qualifying, finally allowing Haas F1 Team to kick down the door to Q3? It appeared doable, as the team’s low-downforce package coupled with the latest Ferrari engine complemented Monza’s high-speed straights. And with Red supersofts the choice throughout qualifying, there was the necessary grip to put that Ferrari power to the pavement.
Gutiérrez logged a 1:23.386 and Grosjean clocked a 1:23.421 to place them ninth and 10th, respectively, in Q1. Comfortably among the top-16, the duo sailed into Q2.
There, the stakes were raised, as only the top-10 advance out of Q2 and into Q3. Haas F1 Team rose to the occasion with Gutiérrez putting up a lap of 1:22.856 to claim the seventh-fastest time. It handily placed him into Q3, marking another milestone moment for Haas F1 Team. Grosjean posted a lap of 1:23.092 to grab the 12th-quickest time.
Gutiérrez acquitted himself well in Q3, even with the rear of his Haas VF-16 stepping out on him as he rounded the second Lesmo (turn four) during his qualifying lap. Gutiérrez ended the final round of knockout qualifying in 10th with a fast lap of 1:23.184.
Winning the pole was Hamilton. His lap of 1:21.135 propelled him to his 56th career Formula One pole, his seventh this season and his fifth at Monza. He edged Rosberg for the top spot by .478 of a second. Scuderia Ferrari continued to apply pressure to Mercedes, with Vettel and Räikkönen qualifying third and fourth.
Romain Grosjean, Driver No. 8, Haas F1 Team
“It was obviously disappointing to go into qualifying knowing I had the five-place grid penalty. We paid the price there that we didn’t have any running time this morning. I’m not very happy with qualifying. It’s great for Esteban to be out there in Q3. It’s great for the team. For me, I really struggled in qualifying to get the best from the car. With the tire pressures so high, it means you cannot push very hard. It’s a bit of a shame. We’ll see what we can achieve tomorrow in the race, but starting 17th is not ideal.”
Esteban Gutiérrez, Driver No. 21, Haas F1 Team
“First of all, I have to say thank you to the team. I’m very grateful and proud of them because everybody has done a great job in achieving the consistency that has allowed us to work on the details that make the difference. In qualifying, for the first time we broke the top-10 barrier by getting into Q3. It was an amazing effort from everyone involved in setting up the car throughout the weekend and having the communication and level of understanding to make it work. The laps were fantastic. I really enjoyed them and I loved pushing the car. Today we have extracted the maximum from our opportunities and we have to make sure we do the same tomorrow.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team
“A great effort from the team again. Unfortunately, Romain had a transmission problem in FP3, which took him out pretty early. We couldn’t get him as prepared as we wanted to for qualifying. We came back, though. He qualified 12th, which is now 17th with the grid penalty. Esteban did a fantastic job today. He’s been on it the whole weekend. We ended up 10th in Q3. We always said we wanted to get into Q3, and we’ve done that now. We need to try to do it again and again, and get better at it.”