The Italian Grand Prix was a tough weekend for the Haas drivers who were the last cars running and the only ones not on the lead lap when the chequered flag dropped.Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen already knew that better days lay ahead. Before the summer break Haas began work on what team principal Guenther Steiner calls its biggest ever in-season upgrade. It is due for introduction at the team’s next home race, the United States Grand Prix at Austin in a month’s time.
Monza “was definitely the worst moment of the season in terms of performance,” said Hulkenberg in response to a question from RaceFans. “But even before Monza this plan was in motion.”
“I hope obviously it will give us a big step forward but I can only speculate now,” he added. “I know what’s going on and there’s a big push for that.”
He admitted he’s hoping the upgrade proves “an early Christmas present that gives us some performance.”
Haas haven’t scored a point in a grand prix since their last home race at Miami in May. While the team has enjoyed some strong qualifying performances, both drivers have experienced severe tyre degradation in races.
Steiner said the team realised several months ago it had reached a development dead-end with its current design. “We couldn’t find any performance anymore,” he said.
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“We couldn’t find anything anymore. We developed the whole year and there was nothing there anymore. At some stage you need to decide we need to do something different here. We cannot keep on banging our head against a wall, trying.”
Since the current technical regulations were introduced at the beginning of last year, several teams have abandoned their original designs and moved towards the sidepod downwash configuration pioneered by Red Bull. Steiner confirmed Haas will do the same.
“You look at the other cars and you see they keep on finding [gains]. McLaren changed their system like this, they find something. At some stage you need to see, hey, we need to change concept, we need to face reality.”
As Haas are limited both by the chassis regulations and the fact they obtain many of their parts from Ferrari, they face limitations in how fully they can adopt the ‘downwash’ configuration in the time available.
“The concept of the car will change,” said Steiner. “Going in that direction, you’re limited with your chassis and a few other things as you all well know. But we are trying to go to that downwash shape now like everybody else has got.”
Haas have brought few upgrades to their cars in recent months as they focused their efforts on their major upgrade package for the Austin race.
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“The plan was to have more upgrades with the concept we have got now,” said Steiner. “But because we didn’t find performance, we did not introduce upgrades this year because we didn’t want to make them, there was no performance. There’s no point to make car parts if the car doesn’t go faster. So because we haven’t spent that money, we can now spend it on this big upgrade.”
Although the team is taking a risk by making a drastic change to its car so late in the season, Steiner hopes the lessons they learn from it will prove useful for developing next year’s chassis.
“We had to say let’s do something this year so at least we’ve learned as much as possible for next year on that concept and maybe learn something which we can then integrate next year’s car as well.”
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