The 21 race long 2016 Formula One calendar finally comes to a close this coming weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. While it has been the longest season ever in the history of the sport, the old adage applies and it feels like only yesterday the shiny new cars and fresh faced drivers were lining up on the Albert Park Circuit in Melbourne Australia.
For HaasF1, this weekend marks the end of their debut season in the pinnacle of Motorsports and for their Mexican driver, Esteban Gutiérrez, it also signals his farewell from America’s only F1 team.
Here he speaks about the season with Haas and how special it was to help build them from scratch and about the upcoming season finale where he will say his final goodbye to them…
Abu Dhabi is the season finale, and it’s also the finale of Haas F1 Team’s debut season. What’s it been like to be a part of a team built from scratch and how satisfying has it been to have contributed to the team’s success?
It’s been a very nice experience, but with a lot of challenges. There were some very difficult days for the mechanics, working day and night for quite a lot of time, the engineers as well. Being a new team, you don’t have a lot of people that you can really rotate, so it was quite a challenge for everybody, but also for myself.
Is there a particular moment from this season that stands out the most for you?
I would say Monza when we got into Q3 for the first time. That was a special moment.
Every driver wants to win races, score podiums and earn poles. However, few drivers get to help build a team. You did, and knowing the Formula One landscape, are your accomplishments still satisfying?
I would’ve liked them to be better, but the fact of building a new team was definitely something special – something you don’t really get to live very often in life. We built up something from scratch.
The Yas Marina Circuit is a showplace. What makes it stand out on the Formula One schedule?
It’s luxurious and it’s modern. It’s an incredible track. There was a lot of investment in it. Every time you get there it’s like a whole different world, like a Disneyland more or less. It’s nice to get there and have the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.
Yas Marina Circuit consists of three distinct sectors. How do you find a setup that suits all aspects of the track, or do you have to compromise in one section to take full advantage of another section?
You have to compromise in the first sector, which is mainly about high-speed corners. Then you have sectors two and three, which are about straight line speed and braking into chicanes and slow-speed corners. You have to manage the tires, and that’s the most challenging part.
With the race beginning in the late afternoon and ending at night, how much does the track change as the air and track temperatures cool?
Once you are into the race, it doesn’t really change much. It changes a lot after three or four o’clock and the sun starts to go down and by the time the race starts it’s already on a very good level. Everything is more stable. The temperatures are more stable, the tires are working better and, usually, you can manage them better by not overheating them.
What can you do to combat those changing track conditions during the race?
You just have to consider how the balance of the car is going to evolve during the race. Basically, what’s the plan going to be in terms of changing the car balance a little bit through the race with the front wing and with all the tools we have in the car.
Yas Marina is a smooth track and it seems that it takes a while for the track to rubber in. As the grip level increases over the duration of the race weekend, how do you determine where the limit is from Friday to Saturday to Sunday?
It’s very simple. You always go to the limit, and then if the limit is on one level, you reach that level. If it goes increasing through the weekend, you adapt to that.
Do you have any milestones or moments from your junior career that you enjoyed at Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi was where I got to test a Formula One car after driving a season in GP2.
What is your favorite part of the Yas Marina Circuit?
Definitely the first part, sector one.