The first two practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s Saudi Arabian Grand Prix are in the books, and while some teams expected to be at the front of the field still have work to do, some of the teams in the middle of the pack have reason for optimism.
Among them? Guenther Steiner and the crew over at Haas.
Nico Hülkenberg posted the eighth-best lap of the second session, putting him just 0.578 seconds being the pace set by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, giving the team hope that they could turn a solid start on Friday into some points on Sunday:
FP2 CLASSIFICATION— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2023
Max, Fernando and Checo in the Top 3 #SaudiArabianGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/RGz6yYXrDZ
“It was a very solid FP1 and FP2 today. There were no issues at all, we went through the whole program, and completed 97 laps,” said Steiner in a statement released to the media after practice, including SBNation. “We need to find a bit more performance but all in all everyone is quite happy.”
Hülkenberg, who started tenth in the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, called the day “smooth,” and noted that the team seemed to be competitive over one-lap runs, but wondered if longer runs — and the race itself — could be more of a challenge.
“We had a smooth Friday – no major incidents, situations, or problems. Like always, you learn about the car, the tires and where the balance is,” said Hülkenberg. “Certainly, again over one lap I think we seem to be competitive and long runs could be a bit more challenging for us, so that’s where our focus is now.”
His teammate, Kevin Magnussen, had a tougher run of things on Friday, finishing P16 in the first session, and P15 in the second. “It was good, we got through FP1 and FP2 fine but there’s lot of work to do on Friday night as always. The field is tight again just like in Bahrain and there’s a lot to fight for tomorrow,” said Magnussen. “It’s a very different track, different speeds, and it’s hard to compare but there’s new challenges. We’ll aim to do as good as we can of course and get into Q3, but the main focus is on Sunday.”
Steiner was hopeful the team could find a little more for Magnussen this weekend. “We need to find a little bit on Kevin’s car because he’s a little bit not so happy with his car, but I think we know what we have to look for,” stated the Haas Team Principal.
Whether Haas can put it all together this weekend remains to be seen. As many teams have stated this week, and really since the start of pre-season testing, the field does seem to be bunching together.
That makes every aspect of Sunday’s Grand Prix an opportunity for teams like Haas. As Hülkenberg put it: “[i]t’s all about pace, tire degradation and being quick in the right places – we need to analyze and consider it all to come up with the best strategy.”