Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says his squad must be jinxed with its pit stops at the Australian Grand Prix after losing a driver due to a tyre problem for the second consecutive year.
Haas had been confident of avoiding the pit stop disaster it suffered 12 months ago at Albert Park when both its drivers were forced out of the race due to cross threading wheel nuts during stops.
Having analysed its pit stop procedure immediately after the Australian race, and going the rest of last season without an issue in a race, the US squad appeared to be struck with an almost identical problem when Romain Grosjean pitted.
The French driver lost a handful of seconds waiting for his left front tyre to be fitted, the exact same tyre which cruelly undid his 2018 race in Melbourne, which dropped him out of the points positions.
Worse was to follow 15 laps later as he was forced to retire with a left front wheel problem and upon assessment into the cause Steiner confirmed the wheel nut had broken due to too much forced being applied during earlier the pit stop problem.
“In the pit stop there was an issue as we lost seven seconds and the race was lost there even if he could get to the end,” Steiner said. “He wouldn’t have got in the points, that was the issue, then they got the wheel back on.
“We didn’t lose the wheel like last year, but after 15 laps it mechanically broke as we forced it on. The wheel nut broke.
“It just seems to be jinxed. It is very strange like last year. After Melbourne we had 20 races without a problem then we come back here and we have a problem.”
Steiner says Haas had not changed its planned pit stop crew but rotations could be triggered following the incident which cost the teams valuable points like last year’s pit stop nightmare.
Despite the disappointment, Haas did see Kevin Magnussen enjoy a problem-free race to lead the F1 midfield and take sixth place after seeing off an undercut attempt from Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg. Steiner believes the team’s pace throughout the race weekend gives reasons to remain optimistic for the 2019 season.
“It is disappointing but the good thing is the potential in the car is good,” he said. “It is a mixed feeling. Starting with the good things: we are competitive, Kevin did a fantastic race and the car is good qualifying sixth and seventh here, we finished sixth and have eight points which compared to last year is eight points more, we are in fourth position here and last year we were last.
“The negative is it could be a lot more if we wouldn’t have had the déjà vu from last year with Romain’s pit stop.
“There are more positives than negatives therefore you don’t see me in tears or down. Now we know the potential of the car we just have to get it out of it and do a good job.”