Hulkenberg highlights Komatsu’s F1 strengths and warns “no one can bull**** him because he knows what’s going on”

Photo Credits: MoneyGram Haas F1 Team
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Haas F1 Team had a 2023 season to forget. They finished the year bottom of the standings and despite having a good car for qualifying, would consistently struggle for pace on race day. The VF-23 suffered from excessive tyre overheating and this was most evident on demanding circuits and in warmer climates. Inevitably, someone had to be held accountable which is probably one of the reasons as to why Guenther Steiner did not have his contract extended when it came to an end in 2023. Instead, longstanding employee, Ayao Komatsu, is now the new team boss tasked with fixing the problems. Haas F1 Team’s Nico Hulkenberg told media recently the qualities that Komatsu will bring to the role and in his typically open style stated that “engineers can’t bull**** him, no one can bull**** him because he knows what’s going on.”

The focus of the pre-season test for Haas F1 Team last week in Bahrain was very much on race-distance runs for the team’s VF-24. Haas’ boss Ayao Komatsu told media following this that “this year’s car is behaving in a predictable manner. It’s consistent.”

What had been consistent at Haas F1 Team since the team arrived in the pinnacle of motorsport, was the role of team principal being held by Guenther Steiner. The departure of Steiner has certainly been felt on social media with fans lamenting the loss of his bluntness from the paddock. However, in his own blunt style, Nico Hulkenberg told media in Bahrain that it may be a very different situation in the factory from now on due to Komatsu being able to call on his engineering background from his time at Renault and BAR.

Photo Credits – MoneyGram Haas F1 Team  

“He’s a totally different guy, different character. remarked Hulkenberg. That’s pretty obvious. He’s an engineer. Different background. He has a lot of experience and know-how. Engineers can’t bull**** him, no one can bull**** him because he knows what’s going on. He looks [at] things very much from the technical side.

“What he’s done so far already, the restructuring within the technical department, it looks good. He’s obviously trying to – and that’s his job – optimise a lot of the structures and maximise what we have currently.”

Photo Credits – MoneyGram Haas F1 Team

Hulkenberg’s headline making phrase was then shared with his teammate Kevin Magnussen by the media, but the Danish racer took a slightly different tone in his remarks coming to the aid of his former boss but also highlighting the obvious strengths Komatsu will bring to the role.

“I don’t think anyone was trying to bull**** last year. I just think having someone who is that technical and has that deep understanding of the engineering of a Formula 1 car across all departments.

“He’s come straight from race engineering, leading that group. I’m a part of that group. So, we’re working with aero, vehicle dynamics, systems, design. We’re touching all the different [departments]. He’s been leading that group and now he’s in charge. So, everyone feels like they can go and speak to someone who they feel is understanding. As a leader, to be understood, first you have to understand. For Ayao, it’s quite a lot easier to understand given his experience.” Magnussen concluded on the matter.

For all Komatsu’s strengths, due to the lateness of Steiner’s departure, the success or failings of the VF-24 as it stands should not yet fall at his door. Instead, the real key will be the upgrades which come over the course of the season.

Identifying issues and addressing them in a timely manner will be the key to seeing whether Haas F1 Team move higher up the grid by season’s end – or find themselves at the foot of the Constructors’ Championship for a second year running.