The Challenges Ahead for Haas: Consistent Updates and Competing in the Midfield
After a series of struggles, Haas Formula 1 team has returned to a state of normalcy, according to team principal Guenther Steiner. With a more stable driver lineup and a new car in development, Haas has shown promise early in the season and aims to improve on last year’s eighth-place finish.
According to Guenther Steiner, the team principal of Haas Formula 1 team, the team has returned to a state of normalcy this year. This comes after a series of issues including car problems, the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and instability in the driver lineup, which had kept the team in the spotlight. However, it is unclear what Steiner specifically means by “normal” for Haas.
Steiner’s assertion that Haas has returned to normalcy is a valid one, considering the team’s struggles in the previous three years. The team encountered a significant setback in 2019 due to aerodynamic stalls in slow and medium-speed corners, which caused the rear end of the car to slide and overwork the rear tyres. Haas spent a considerable amount of time trying to identify, diagnose and address the issue, but it was only resolved with the 2020 car.
However, after a promising pre-season testing in 2020, the Formula 1 season was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the team halted all development work. There were concerns about whether Gene Haas, the team’s owner, would continue to support the team’s participation in F1.
Haas committed to long-term participation in Formula 1 only after the new Concorde Agreement was established, which ensured a fairer distribution of F1’s revenue among the teams and a reduced cost cap limit. This agreement meant that Haas had effectively written off both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. The teams were required to carry over their existing cars with only a limited number of significant changes allowed. Haas made the minimum updates necessary to comply with the tweaked floor regulations and accepted that they would likely have a challenging season competing at the back of the grid.
As a result of the decision to carry over their existing car and make only limited changes, Haas had an unproductive season with drivers Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, resulting in no points scored. The previous season, Haas had only managed to secure three points. However, the team’s performance improved last year, with a more competitive mid-pack showing, finishing in eighth place in the championship. The replacement of Mazepin with Kevin Magnussen, following the latter’s removal from the team and the loss of Uralkali sponsorship due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, contributed to the team’s better performance. During the season, Haas secured a pole position at Interlagos and a morale-boosting 5 place finish in the Sakhir season opener.
The significant development for Haas in the last season was that they were running a car that did not require troubleshooting while simultaneously working on developing a new car. This was the first time since 2018 that Haas had achieved this. As a result, the team’s 2023 car is a product of normal development without a disproportionate focus on resources or lack of investment.
In response to a question from F1Lead at the beginning of the season, Steiner emphasized that regardless of the team’s performance, Haas was back to a state of normalcy because they were continuously developing and making progress.
Steiner explained that the team had been instructed to develop the 2022 car last year, but due to time constraints, there were some issues that had to be addressed. However, the team has since grown together and is working more effectively. This year, the team is operating normally, like any other team, and if they are not performing up to their expected level, they will work on developing the car to make up ground. Steiner expressed confidence that the team could make progress, even if they are not performing as expected in the initial phase, and there is no need to panic.
Haas has had a commendable start to the current season, and there is no reason for them to panic. The team has already scored points twice, with Nico Hulkenberg securing seventh place in Australia (despite having to stop on the slowdown lap due to an MGU-K issue), and Kevin Magnussen finishing tenth in Saudi Arabia.
In Bahrain, Haas’s chances of securing points were dashed when Hulkenberg’s car suffered front wing damage in a collision with Esteban Ocon on the first lap. However, even without the damage, it would have been challenging for Haas to finish in the top 10 due to their tire usage.
Haas has managed to address its rear tire degradation issues to some extent, but it still remains a weakness for the team. The car appears to suffer more in turbulent air, similar to Ferrari’s car, potentially due to a similar concept, although it has shown improvement compared to last year, with drag levels no longer posing such a significant problem.
In qualifying, Haas has twice made it to Q3, thanks to the efforts of Hulkenberg, who just missed out on making it in Saudi Arabia, finishing in 11th place. In terms of qualifying average pace, Haas is the fifth strongest team, but using the supertimes methodology (which is based on the quickest individual lap of each car), it falls to sixth, behind Alpine.
Although Alpine has a fundamentally stronger car, Haas’s performance this season has been commendable, with a relatively strong overall performance. This is a notable achievement for Haas, considering the team’s recent struggles.
Although the team’s current state may seem similar to where it was at its peak before its slump, several significant changes have taken place. Haas has established its technical headquarters at Maranello, which is still dependent on Ferrari but also working to develop its own technical capabilities.
Under the leadership of Simone Resta, who is serving as the technical director on loan, Haas’s technical headquarters in Maranello has been functioning effectively. As a result, the team is now responsible for a larger proportion of its aero design work than it was before, with Dallara’s involvement reduced.
Now that Haas has returned to normalcy, the team has shown that it is a competent, efficient, and reliable Formula 1 team. The main challenge for the team this year is to produce more consistent updates, as last year was focused primarily on a single major package in Hungary.
If Haas can produce more consistent updates throughout the season, there is no reason why the team cannot achieve a better result than last year’s eighth-place finish in the constructors’ championship. Based on current form, that appears to be the worst-case scenario.
Haas still has some way to go to demonstrate that it can compete at a higher level than a midfield team, even in the cost cap era. However, the team has convincingly demonstrated that it is capable of holding its own in the mid-pack, even when things are back to normal.
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