Haas boss Komatsu on “very positive” F1 Japanese GP as he explains Hülkenberg mistake led to horrible second start

Photo Credit: Haas F1 Team
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Despite a missed opportunity at the Japanese Grand Prix, Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu remains optimistic about the team’s trajectory for the remainder of the 2024 Formula One season.

At Suzuka, Haas failed to add to their points tally as Nico Hulkenberg finished just outside the points in 11th place. Following an early race incident that led to a red flag, Hülkenberg initially restarted in 10th but experienced a problematic restart which saw him drop seven positions due to his own error.

“Nico’s first start was very good, he made positions, but the second start he just didn’t drop the clutch correctly, so the anti-stall kicked in and he lost loads of positions,” Komatsu explained.

Despite this, Hulkenberg managed to recover to 11th, ending the race only 5.5 seconds behind Yuki Tsunoda as he charged his way through in the final 15 laps.

Komatsu reflected on the race as a ‘missed opportunity’ but chose to focus on the positives.

“Considering he came back from P18 to P11, 5.5s behind Tsunoda, if he hadn’t had that mistake for sure he would have scored points. So that is frustrating but also a missed opportunity. However, the positive side is this circuit, in race four, is the worst for us so far.”

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

Haas had shown promise earlier in the season, scoring in two of the first four races, including a strong performance in Australia where both drivers finished in the points. This context makes Suzuka’s result less disheartening, according to Komatsu.

The team predicted they would struggle in the high speed sector 1 and that turned out to the race. But they ultimately proved to be very competitive in the midfield fight in both qualifying and the race as strong straight-line speed and low speed performance helped.

“This is the worst circuit by far for us, and if on the worst circuit you can do this, that’s very positive,” he said.

The team also recognises areas needing improvement, notably in terms of high-speed downforce and certain characteristics of the front axle of the car. Despite these challenges, the team’s performance in Japan has been encouraging:

“I was aiming to get just one car into Q2, and for Nico to deliver P12 was amazing. I still felt it was going to be really tough even to stay in that position. But we went backwards once and he managed to recover that well — it was good.”

Komatsu also lamented operational issues that affected Kevin Magnussen, who lost positions during his second pit stop to Tsunoda and Stroll when he had been running ahead of them. However, the overall sentiment remains hopeful.

“If it wasn’t for that, I think Kevin had a very good chance to stay in front of Tsunoda, and for sure Nico without that disastrous start would have scored points. So that is really positive.”

As the season progresses, Haas aims to build on their early successes and address their shortcomings, to become more competitive at every race.