Haas F1 tyre wear gains “a big game-changer” as they were a “runaway train in the wrong direction” last year, say drivers

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team
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One of the positive stories to come out of the first 3 rounds of the 2024 F1 season has been the impressive turnaround from Haas following a brutal 2023 campaign.

They finished last in the Constructors’ Championship as horrendous tyre wear left Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hülkenberg completely exposed on Sundays, regularly falling through the field as points became pretty much impossible to score as the year went on.

However, the start to this term has been really encouraging for the American owned team. They sit P7 in the standings on 4 points thanks to points in Saudi Arabia and Australia. Both cars took advantage of some chaos in front of them to finish 9th and 10th in Melbourne.

Speaking about the fact the team is going about things quietly under the leadership of Ayao Komatsu, Kevin Magnussen explained the good energy in the team at present as they can now fight on a Sunday.

“Yeah, I think the team is very focused at the moment. There’s a very optimistic and positive atmosphere and outlook for everyone.

“The fact that we can fight on Sunday is such a big game-changer. That was so frustrating last year, and even in 2022, we saw signs of that.

“But, yeah, it feels like a little bit of a fresh start.”

Magnussen went on to talk about how they are able to stay in the fight through race stints now.

On new tyres, whether be in qualifying or the race, showed Haas had good speed last year. However, they would heavily degrade their tyres within laps and be sitting ducks to their main competitors as the stints went on.

As the Dane points out, the car is potentially a little bit slower over a single lap versus this time last year.

Hülkenberg qualified P10 in Bahrain like he did in 2023. However, P13 and P14 was the best the team could do in Saudi Arabia and Australia with Magnussen — the German had qualified P11 and P10 at those venues last year.

“It’s performing differently. You’re able to keep your tyres alive and be in the fight all the way through the race.

“Yeah, I think that’s basically what has been improved. Why we see this performance this year is that […] I don’t think we’ve actually moved up [in] overall performance.

“In qualifying, we’re around the same or maybe even a little bit worse. But because we have this performance in the race, we’re able to execute a race well and on par with everyone else.

“So we have a chance on Sunday and I think that’s what we’re seeing.”

For Nico Hülkenberg, he agreed with his teammate that the tyre management improvements is a game-changer for the team, giving credit to the Haas engineers for the job they did over the winter.

“Yes, yes, it’s definitely… Yeah, we’re in a different environment and world compared to last year.

“I think the work mostly the aero guys have done over the winter just allows us to be in a much better position, especially on Sundays, flatten out the aero map. Yeah, desensitising the car.

“Yeah, it seemed very crucial.”

Haas is involved in a mighty scrap with RB, Sauber, Williams and Alpine as those 5 squads look to benefit when the top 5 teams slip up, as we witnessed in Melbourne 2 weeks ago with both Mercedes drivers and Max Verstappen retiring.

Hülkenberg says it gives them a fighting chance against their rivals now they have got their tyre wear under control and at a level similar to their opponents.

“I think we’re just… I feel like we’re aligned with all the other teams, where last year obviously we were really a big step down.

“And regardless of where we were starting, it was a runaway train in the wrong direction.

“And now I feel we’re pretty even with all the other midfield teams. So that obviously gives us opportunity to race and go for opportunities.”

A compromise has always got to be reached between qualifying and race pace, especially if you do not degrade tyres to the extent Haas did in 2023.

Although Hülkenberg feels qualifying has been a bit more difficult this year to date — he was knocked out in Q1 in Australia — starting a bit further back is irrelevant if you can actually fight in the Grand Prix itself with the cars around you.

“I think it’s just the field is very tight, and very small margins, fine margins. So I think the one lap pace is not gone necessarily, but it’s just been a little bit more difficult so far.

“100 percent [preferring it this way]. Definitely. Yeah. Last year we’ve said that many times, if you could trade, you would always do that. “So good that the guys managed to turn it around in quite a short amount of amount of time, actually.”

When asked if the current campaign is more enjoyable compared to the pain of last year when they were unable to fight, Hülkenberg said, “Yes, 100 percent, of course.”