Haas opt to run two different cars in F1 Las Vegas GP due to “driver preference”

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The Las Vegas Grand Prix is fast approaching. With the race even closer than usual, now taking place on a Saturday, teams will have less time to prepare for the upcoming dash to the Vegas Strip. Some teams are under less pressure to perform, but some are under a microscope to make sure that this weekend is a successful one for their team.

One of those teams that is under a microscope is Haas. Not only because this is one of their three home races of the season, and because it’s a new track, but because the team is currently sitting dead last in the Constructors’ Championship, while Alfa Romeo has a four-point lead over them. While there are two races left in the season, there is still hope for the American team to finish 9th and receive the extra millions of dollars that comes with that move in position.

With that pressure on the team, drastic measures need to be taken, and that’s exactly what the team chose to do with this upcoming race in the Mojave Desert.

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

Citing preferences for each driver, the team is deciding to not run cars with identical specs for Las Vegas, but opting to give Kevin Magnussen the newer aero package, while Nico Hulkenberg has chosen to have the older aero package.

Team Principal Gunther Steiner said that the decision had nothing to do with data collection, and said that it was to respect the drivers’ choices. After all, with the pressure to bring home points, the measure needed to be taken.

“The main drive behind this was Nico feels that for him the old spec suits him better, and Kevin is the opposite,” said Steiner.

“We’ve opted to give them what they want, we have two races to go and nothing to lose, so we’ve tried to do what we can.

“We could discuss gathering data, but we’ve got enough data, it’s a decision based on what each driver likes more than anything else. It puts them in a comfortable position so that they’re as happy as they can be with the car they get.”

While the race is another return home for the American team, Steiner also mentioned that the night race in Las Vegas, which may end up being the coldest one in F1 history, can be challenging. However, the data that they collect in practice will give them an idea of how the tires will degrade throughout the race.

“The low temperatures are a challenge, as everyone knows you need to keep the tyres higher than the minimum temperature, which is higher than five degrees, so we always need to keep them a bit warmer, but it depends also a lot on the asphalt.

“It’s a combination of temperature and roughness of asphalt, but I don’t think degradation can get much worse for us than in Brazil. On Thursday, during practice, we’ll get to know the surface, the track, the temperature and then we’ll know more.”

Photo Credit: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

Steiner’s concerns with tire issues are extremely valid, since his drivers struggled with tire degradation last time out in Sao Paulo. While Steiner realizes that nothing that can be saved for the remaining races of this season, the things they learn now will help them fix the car for next season.

“We’re learning what doesn’t work, but I think we need to fix it. We know what we need on the aero. But we still need to make it, obviously.

“We are going in the right direction I hope in the wind tunnel. And for next year, we will cure this, we’ll learn about the cooling of the rims, and all that stuff.

“At the moment, we don’t have a big issue any more with the carcass temperature, it’s just the sliding, the surface overheating now.

“You learn bit by bit, but we cannot keep on learning, we need to give some results, to be honest. At least we’re doing something, because the other car just didn’t work.”

While the tire degradation remains a big issue, Steiner mentioned that it remains a major problem that was highlighted last time in Brazil, however it has remained constant. Nico Hulkenberg, while finishing a respectable 12th place, he only finished in front of cars that were one lap down after the red flag and restart. The pressure that he had put on his tires made his race worse.

“Nico struggled so much,” said Steiner. “It’s all management. It’s not racing, it’s management. It’s a pattern of the whole year. It’s not just the rears, it’s all the tyres, we just have big deg, we just cannot keep them alive.

“But look at the Mercedes. What is it that some cars are doing it good, and some are bad? The Aston was good, but the Ferrari was degging as well.”

Steiner certainly sounds like a man on a mission, looking forward for 2024, but trying to save 2023 at the same time. It’s now up to his drivers to outscore Alfa Romeo by four or more points within two races to get out of the dishonour of being last.