Haas preview the Malaysian GP

Romain Grosjean is hoping that Malaysia is a "very difficult weekend" to Singapore while Esteban Gutierrez doesn't want a sixth P11 at Haas.

Romain Grosjean
After a difficult weekend like the one you experienced in Singapore, how do you put it behind you and focus on the next opportunity, in this case, Malaysia?

“It’s actually very straightforward. It was frustrating not to race. It’s what I love to do. I just want to go to the next one and get on top of all the issues we had. Singapore was a very difficult weekend for myself, but mostly for the guys on the team.”

There is a multitude of changes to the Sepang International Circuit this year, so much so that the promoter says drivers will feel like they’re racing at it for the first time. Even though you have experience at a particular circuit, how long does it take to become familiar with the intricacies of a track when it receives an update?
“With the resurfacing, you’ve got to go through with the cars and see if the grip is different. There’s also a lot of rain at Sepang, so we could see some big aquaplaning. We’ll be working as hard as we can to deal with all the conditions.”

On Thursday of every grand prix race weekend you walk the track with your engineers. What is the goal of that walk and this weekend at Malaysia, does the track walk take on added importance because the track has undergone so many changes?
“It’s usually a good sun-tanning session! It’s good for seeing changes, because every track we go to there’s a little bit of change each year. It’s also good to spend over an hour walking with the guys, talking about the program for the weekend and what we can do better, and a little bit of socializing. It’s always a good time. We can do our work and have some laughs at the same time.”

Singapore, site of the last grand prix, was hot. But Malaysia is even hotter. With Singapore preceding Malaysia, does it help prepare you better for the heat and humidity?
“Kind of, yes. Even though I didn’t get much racing in Singapore, you get your body used to the heat regardless with your overall fitness and training. That helps you feel good when you get there. Your body is better prepared to accept the temperatures you encounter.”

In Singapore, all of your track time came either at dusk or at night. In Malaysia, it all happens in the heat of the day. Is Malaysia a more physical race because everything takes place under the glare of the sun?
“They are two of the most difficult races of the season with all the elements to consider. As I didn’t race in Singapore, I’m absolutely ready, physically, to race in Malaysia.”

The weather in Malaysia is predictably unpredictable, with heavy downpours late in the afternoon commonplace. Do you go into the weekend like you do at Spa-Francorchamps, where you know a lap around the circuit can suddenly change due to weather?
“Yes, it can rain at one point of the circuit and not at all on the other side. I think that was the case last year. In qualifying, in Q2, I told my guys, ‘It’s raining,’ and they replied, ‘No, it’s not’. For me, it was pouring down and I could barely keep the car on track. I was on the edge. Suddenly the guys then got the rain and were like, ‘Yes, we can see it’. So yes, Malaysia can be very variable with the rain, and in a short amount of time. It’s part of the show and part of the game.”

The energy loads are high at Sepang. The tires take a beating, but so do the drivers. Between the heat and the g-forces sustained over the course of a race, how physically demanding is the Malaysian Grand Prix?
“I think it’s pretty much the hardest race of the year. Singapore is a slower track with slower corners, whereas Malaysia has high speed with high loads. Again, it’s a great challenge, a great track, and when you have a good car, it’s an amazing experience.”

When it’s hot and the race is physically draining, how important is mental preparation prior to the Malaysian Grand Prix?
“It’s always very important. Of course, when you are physically suffering as well, it’s more important to stay calm. It’s like riding up a hill and someone’s trying to chat to you or your phone’s ringing nonstop. You can get fed up with that very quickly simply because you’re tired. You just need to be ready for every race.”

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Sepang?
“There are plenty. There are some big straight lines with good top speed, and then some big braking zones. It’s a track with high tire degradation. Overtaking is really good fun at Sepang.”

Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Malaysia?
“I remember GP2 Asia in 2008. I had the pole position in Sepang by around a second or something like that. It was a very fast time. I stalled on the grid, came back from last and almost climbed back up to first, but I was pushed out by a backmarker. I finished ninth, while the top-eight were then reversed on the grid for the second race. I started the second race from ninth and finished second. It was a weekend where I should’ve won both races but, unfortunately, didn’t. I love the track though.”

What is your favorite part of the Sepang International Circuit?
“I’d say turns five and six – very high-speed corners.”

Describe a lap around Sepang International Circuit.
“Big braking into turn one – it’s very similar to China, both turns one and two. Long right-hand side corner, then a left hairpin. You need good traction. Then you have a long straight line going to turn four. Big braking, 90-degree right-hand side corner going up a crest. Then you have very high-speed corners going through turns five and six, almost flat out. Then it’s a small brake for the double right-hand turn eight. It’s a mid-speed corner with very tricky traction going through to the next turn, another left-hand side hairpin. The right corner is very long. It’s quite good fun when the car is well balanced. You then have a bit of straight line going to turns 12 and 13. Flat-out left corner, big braking, with g-forces from taking the corner. Then it’s a long straight line approaching the final corner. Big braking to carry minimum speed, then it’s full-throttle as early as you can to finish the lap.”

Esteban Gutierrez
There is a multitude of changes to the Sepang International Circuit this year, so much so that the promoter says drivers will feel like they’re racing at it for the first time. Even though you have experience at a particular circuit, how long does it take to become familiar with the intricacies of the track when it receives an update?

“We’ve experienced new tracks before like Baku, and Budapest and Austria as well, which were completely resurfaced. Now comes Malaysia, so I don’t expect it to be too complicated. It’s always nice to have change in the track, so I’m really keen to get to know it. Hopefully the grip is going to be very high, because when the grip is high, it’s much more fun to drive.”

On Thursday of every grand prix race weekend you walk the track with your engineers. What is the goal of that walk and this weekend at Malaysia, does the track walk take on added importance because the track has undergone so many changes?
“Yes, definitely. It’s actually one of the main targets – to walk the track to see the changes that have been made to the track, the curbs, to spot some bumps. Sometimes the tracks when they get used with cars running – different categories, different types of cars – it changes through time. It’s important to have a look at the bumps that can affect the stability of the car in certain braking areas or curbs, things like that. You need to be aware and take notes so you can really optimize the track when you’re out there in the racecar. It’s important from the engineers’ point of view and also from the driver’s point of view.”

Singapore, site of the last grand prix, was hot. But Malaysia is even hotter. With Singapore preceding Malaysia, does it help prepare you better for the heat and humidity?
“Singapore is one of the most demanding races because it’s a street circuit and the humidity is very high. It’s also very hot. One of the benefits is that it’s at night and that’s why it’s less hot than Malaysia. You have the same level of humidity in Malaysia, but everything happens during the day, so it’s really hot. At the same time, it’s not a street circuit like Singapore. It’s much more flowing, with long straights where you have a bit of time to recover.”

In Singapore, all of your track time came either at dusk or at night. In Malaysia, it all happens in the heat of the day. Is Malaysia a more physical race because everything takes place under the glare of the sun?
“No, I don’t really think it’s more demanding than Singapore. Actually, I believe that Singapore is the most demanding, physically. Malaysia is obviously very, very hot because it all happens in the heat of the day, but because the track is more flowing, it’s not as demanding as Singapore.”

The weather in Malaysia is predictably unpredictable, with heavy downpours late in the afternoon commonplace. Do you go into the weekend like you do at Spa-Francorchamps, where you know a lap around the circuit can suddenly change due to weather?
“There isn’t a lot you can do to prepare for that. You just have to be very open and very flexible, because it can rain any time. You do need to be able to anticipate a little bit when you know rain is coming just so you can get the most from the track conditions that are available. It makes Malaysia pretty special because when the rain comes, it’s usually in a big thunderstorm.”

The energy loads are high at Sepang. The tires take a beating, but so do the drivers. Between the heat and the g-forces sustained over the course of a race, how physically demanding is the Malaysian Grand Prix?
“It’s a physical race, but not more than Singapore. Malaysia is a different track. Still demanding, but more flowing. That’s always been the case and even with all the changes, I don’t expect it to be too different. Its flowing and fast corners are what make the difference, and that’s a characteristic of the Malaysian Grand Prix.”

When it’s hot and the race is physically draining, how important is mental preparation prior to the Malaysian Grand Prix?
“It goes together, physically and mentally. The mind is the most important, but then the physical side is what starts to trick the mind. That’s why we get ready with a lot of physical training. We arrive for the weekend with the right mindset – a clear mind in order to get the most of every opportunity that comes up in the weekend.”

Where are the overtaking opportunities at Sepang?
“I would say the main straight, turn one and probably at the back before the last corner. The two main straights are the biggest overtaking opportunities.”

Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Malaysia?
“It was one of my first grand prix in Formula One. It used to be at the beginning of the season back in 2013, and I have great memories from that, so I’m really looking forward to coming back and enjoying the circuit.”

What is your favorite part of the Sepang International Circuit?
“I would say probably turns six and seven – a very high-speed corner left and right. It’s a beautiful corner and you can really feel the car on the limit.”

Describe a lap around Sepang International Circuit.
“You approach turn one with a lot of speed. After a long straight, at the first corner you brake and turn in with a lot of lateral load. It’s a fairly long corner that goes into turn two, which has a change of surface angle which makes it a bit tricky on the apex to get the right grip for the exit. Then you come down flat out and into turn three. You approach turn five, which is basically a 90-degree corner to the right where you can use all the curbs available. Then you come to turns six and seven, which is my favorite part of the circuit – high-speed corner left and right. Turns eight and nine comprise a right-hand corner, which is basically two apexes on one whole corner. Then you arrive into turn 10, which is a hairpin. Big braking, and there’s also change in the surface which makes it pretty difficult to get the right traction out of that corner. By that time the tires are pretty hot, so you struggle with the traction out of the hairpin. Then you go into turn 11, which is not really a corner but preparation for turn 12, which is a medium-speed corner. Then you have (turn) 13, which is a left-handed, very high-speed corner where you’re flat out. Then you come to the famous corner from Sepang, which is a very long corner to the right with a lot of braking. It’s a very technical corner because it has so many different lines which you can really use depending on the setup of the car and depending if you are on a qualifying lap or in the race. Then you come down the straight and into the last corner, braking pretty late into a medium-speed corner. It’s important to carry the speed in where you really go deep and then prepare with a right line for the exit and come to the straight line.”

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