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Haas F1 issues “we can race” verdict after strong Bahrain GP

The Haas drivers dropping back and making early tyre stops was a regular feature of Sundays last year, and often led to good grid positions going to waste.

The team focused its design efforts with the VF-24 on addressing the problem, and spent most of the Bahrain test concentrating on long runs.

Despite a lack of low fuel experience, Nico Hulkenberg gave the team a boost by making Q3 and qualifying 10th for the Bahrain GP.

The German’s Saturday evening was ruined by a first corner incident and a stop for a new nose.

However, a solid drive from team-mate Kevin Magnussen to 12th, after starting 15th on the grid, indicated that Haas has vastly improved its race form relative to last year.

Komatsu made it clear that the team has made progress despite last year’s VF-23 development programme compromising work on its successor.

“If somebody told me before we ran the car this year that we are fighting for points in race one, I wouldn’t expect that,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com if he saw Magnussen’s result as a good outcome.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24

Photo by: Erik Junius

“I know how much gain we made from when we started designing this VF-24, but I know we started late. I know we stopped for two months doing the Austin upgrade. So that’s just lost time, and we are behind, right?

“But I’ve got to assume, given the same amount of time, everybody else’s development rate is at least as good as us. Because we are the smallest team. So that’s what I assumed.

“And then I saw something a bit different in testing, but I just didn’t want to count on it. And then of course, we saw more on FP2. But again, everything was for today [the race].

“So even yesterday our target was to get both cars in Q2, which we did. And Nico did what Nico is really good at in Q2. Amazing lap, in Q3 again, but we didn’t run new tyre because we needed new tyres for today.

“Unfortunately, his start wasn’t great, and his race was over by Turn 1. But as you can see from Kevin’s race, we can race this year now in the midfield. It’s just there’s no margin. So everything has to be perfect – which we didn’t completely do today – so we can score points. But yeah, very positive.”

While acknowledging that thus far the team has only sampled one venue, Komatsu said that the signs are encouraging given the nature of the Sakhir track.

“If anything, for me, this circuit exposes that weakness, so I was pretty happy,” he said. “Okay, track temperature is not as hot as a normal Bahrain race here. But still, midday during the testing, and then FP1, FP3, you can see the weakness. So, it’s all relevant, I think.

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

“Of course, you get a different circuit, more medium, high-speed corners circuits like Suzuka, that will be different. I’m sure we’re going to struggle more.

“And then next week, Jeddah as well, some higher-speed corners, and also lower downforce. That will be another challenge. But if I compare to where we are relative to the competition 12 months ago here, we are much more in the ballpark. We can race. So that’s very positive.”

Asked if he had anticipated that Haas would be competing with Sauber, RB, Williams and Alpine at the first race, Komatsu admitted that it was a surprise.

“Let’s say before we ran in the Bahrain test, I wasn’t expecting that,” he noted. “Honestly, like I said, none of these guys are stupid, right? And they’re all bigger than us. Then we started late. I know that we stopped for two months. So how can I expect us to beat anyone?

“But luckily, we seem to have done a better job than some other teams. But I cannot assume that. That to me it’s almost disrespectful to other people.”

Komatsu said that the team’s initial development programme relied upon the launch package successfully addressing the tyre issues, while acknowledging that some changes will be made as a result of lessons learned.

“I expected our car to be towards the back here in Bahrain, so that means you really have to develop aggressively,” he said.

“So you cannot wait until you run the car. So all the things in the pipeline are the ones assuming that our winter development is in the correct direction, so we just have to keep going on that and put performance on the car.

“Now we ran the car, we understand a bit more, so we will change certain directions. But that’s not going to be, let’s say, in a very early part of the season.”

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This article was originally published by a www.motorsport.com . Read the Original article here. .

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