It was a tough season for Haas despite it starting with some promise. Nico Hulkenberg was in prime form and put the VF-23 into Q3 on numerous occasions, but from there it would always go wrong on race day. It’s something that Hulkenberg doesn’t want to see repeated in 2024.
Haas have finished last in the Constructors’ once again, but unlike 2021, there is no excuse this time. In 2021, the team decided to halt development on the car and dedicate all their resources to the 2022 car with the hope that the new regulations might just give them an edge. They did see improvement, jumping up to P8 in the Constructors’ that year.
Now though, the teams around them have also seen improvement, particularly Williams and AlphaTauri, not to mention Aston Martin’s large leap forward. All of those teams continued to improve but Haas remained stagnant. Why? A lack of upgrades. Effective upgrades.
The VF-23’s big issue is tyre degradation. To understand how that has affected the team so severely, you only have to look at the finale at Abu Dhabi.
Hulkenberg qualified in P8 on the grid, but eventually fell to 15th thanks to tyre wear on a two-stop strategy while his teammate, Kevin Magnussen, was 20th and last.
Only one upgrade was introduced at Austin, which was supposed to be a large and comprehensive upgrade that would fundamentally work in their favour. It did not. They didn’t go backwards, like Aston Martin, but then again, how much further backwards could they go?
Hulkenberg: “An Update is Supposed to Be Better”
When asked about the Austin upgrades, Hulkenberg was candid with the media.
“I don’t think there is a huge difference between them, minor differences,” he said.
“Last weekend [at Vegas], I felt actually the new package had an edge over the old package on a low downforce configuration. This weekend I felt quite okay, Kevin didn’t feel so happy.
“They are so similar, but that’s in itself obviously not good enough. An update is supposed to be better and fix some of your issues and unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
When asked by the media what that proved and what work needed to be done over the winter break, Hulkenberg said that they simply needed to do a better job.
“I don’t know if it proved anything,” he continued. “We need to work hard because I want us to do better, we need to pick up our feet, do a better job.
“The signs were there early in the season, and we got away with it earlier in the season because other people also were struggling. Once they cleaned up and brought some real developments, that’s when we really started to pay the penalty.
“The second half of the season has been really tough, there was only an opportunity to score a point or two for me in Singapore, which we missed.
“Apart from that we just never had the pace to do it, even when there was a lot of cars dropping out we were just too far away from it.
“Of course, that’s not great and that’s why we need to be better.”
In a chat with Sky Sports Deutschland, Hulkenberg was very clear to everyone at Haas.
“I have demonstrated that the new car is not faster and that is quite clearly a problem,” he said.
“It’s a message to our factory, to the engineers and mechanics.
“Next year, we have to do things differently. That has been our problem this year. Our development was at a standstill and we have been brutally overtaken.”