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Is It Too Early to Get Excited About Haas in 2024?

In three races, Haas have managed to score four points (a quarter of their total points in 2023) and stand seventh in the Constructors’ Championship. ...

Before the 2024 Formula 1 season even started Haas were downplaying their chances. Not only did they finish last in 2023, but they also lost their team principal, Guenther Steiner. With such a large shake-up going on behind the scenes, new team principal, Ayao Komatsu, told fans that they would be “towards the back of the grid.” Fast forward to race three and Haas has started to make their case as the best team in the midfield.

In three races, Haas have managed to score four points (a quarter of their total points in 2023) and stand seventh in the Constructors’ Championship. However, and this is a big one, Haas started 2023 very strong with seven points after three races before falling off.

Tyre Degradation Issue Solved?

The big reason for Haas’ drop off was their tyre degradation issues that became more acute as the season wore on. This year the team have made significant progress in managing this problem.

After the Saudi Arabian GP, Komatsu told the press that “after the first races which are two very different circuits in very different conditions, we’re pretty satisfied that we have made a step forward both in terms of car and set-up.”

He added that the Australian GP would be a real test for them as tyre graining was the specific issue with last year’s car. Komatsu notes that they “haven’t had significant graining this year so far.”

Australia turned out to be a great race for Haas with both drivers in the points. Nico Hulkenberg managed to start from P16 and perform a long stint on the hard tyres and through a series of undercuts reached P10 (which became P9 after George Russell’s crash).

So they’ve seemingly sorted out their degradation issues and are now only behind Yuki Tsunoda’s RB? Perhaps.  

Sauber Pit Stop Issues Hiding Performance?

Sauber’s Valtteri Bottas was in the running for points in Australia before his pit crew once again ran into a threaded wheel nut, forcing his pit stop to over 30 seconds. Without that incident, it would have likely been Bottas in the points rather than both Haas drivers.

In both FP2 and FP3, both Saubers were faster than either Haas with Bottas earning their best time with a 1:17.752 in FP3. That was 0.209s faster than Nico Hulkenberg, and that gap was reflected in qualifying with though to a lesser degree with Bottas scoring a 1:17.340 to the closest Haas of Kevin Magnussen’s 1:17.427.

Okay, so the Haas’s are no longer surprising qualifiers. Komatsu did state that they would focus on race pace even if that meant sacrificing qualifying pace. What about in the race? Interestingly, Magnussen put in the ninth fastest race lap with a 1:21.082 with Sauber’s Zhou Guanyu coming closest with the 14th fastest lap of 1:21.327.

Haas’ qualifying prowess has only been slightly diminished. In Saudi Arabia, both Haas cars made it to Q2 whereas neither Sauber did. In Bahrain, Hulkenberg was able to reach Q3, whereas, once again, neither Sauber reached Q2.

Haas so far have been quicker than Sauber, but not in Australia. This seems to suggest that Sauber’s pace might be track specific, but if they can’t perform a pit stop correctly, we’ll never really know.

Teamwork Making the Dream Work

So far, it’s looking good for Haas. Their main rivals this year seem to be Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunoda, both star drivers of their respective teams (Williams and RB) and each are paired with a teammate yet to deliver results. Haas, in contrast, have two solid drivers who are able to keep close enough to each other to be able to provide the assist when needed. We saw it in Saudi Arabia with Magnussen slowing up the pack to give Hulkenberg some breathing room to pit.

What kind of teamwork have we seen from RB or Williams? Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo clashed over team orders in Bahrain, almost crashing during the cooldown lap after the race. In Australia we saw Albon crash in practice, damage his chassis, and then the team deciding that he would drive Logan Sargeant’s car instead (despite Sargeant doing no wrong). The decision makes sense, Sargeant has scored one point in F1 and that was due to Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton being disqualified. Similarly, Ricciardo has yet to score points this year while his teammate has been thoroughly impressive in both Saudi Arabia and Australia. So both Williams and RB are seemingly competing with just one car. Advantage Haas.

If Haas can remain steady and consistent to be there when points are up for grabs, then it is likely that they will have a much stronger year than the last. There’s a big BUT though. Development is not Haas’ strong suit and if the other teams in the midfield bring upgrades that substantially improve performance, Haas will be in trouble if they can’t keep up.

Haas definitely seem to be a solid contender this year, but it remains to be seen whether this is because of the gains they have made or because the other teams are dropping the ball. So far though, there is reason for optimism.

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