Nico Hulkenberg, Haas, Yas Marina, 2023

Reaching Q3 in old-spec car shows major Haas upgrade failed – Hulkenberg

Formula 1

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Nico Hulkenberg put the old-specification Haas chassis nine places ahead of the new version on the grid for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and called it “the story of our season” afterwards.

Haas introduced a major overhaul of its chassis at the United States Grand Prix four races ago. However Hulkenberg has not been entirely comfortable with the new version and switched back to the old shape at the last round.

In qualifying today Hulkenberg lapped three-tenths of a second quicker in Q1 than team mate Kevin Magnussen managed in the revised VF-23. While Magnussen was eliminated in the first round and will start 17th, Hulkenberg went on to reach Q3 and claimed eighth on the grid.

The previous version of the car tended to be very tough on its tyres during races and Hulkenberg says it remains to be seen whether he will be better off in the old specification by the end of the weekend.

“We’ll see about that tomorrow night,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans. “But I think it just confirms my impression that the updated car didn’t really give a significant step.

“They are probably very, very similar in terms of performance. Which in itself is not great because an update, you need it to work. So maybe it proved a point there. We’ll see tomorrow night.”

However, he admitted it was a setback for the team that such an extensive upgrade had failed to yield a clear improvement in performance.

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“Of course it’s very disappointing and upsetting for us,” he said. “We’re not happy about this, of course.

“That’s the story of our season. We didn’t develop anything and totally got overtaken and out-developed and hence we are last today. And that’s the root cause. So we need to really address that going into next year.”

Hulkenberg said his qualifying performance was particularly surprising given his disrupted start to the weekend. He sat out first practice so test driver Oliver Bearman could take over his car, then crashed in the second session.

“It’s not bad, and pretty unexpected, to be honest,” said Hulkenberg. “Yesterday was obviously a really bad day with [first practice] – I sat out, that’s normal, that’s not the cause. Then obviously I did a mistake in [second practice] and only did one lap on the medium. So that was a bit worrying coming into today.

“But [third practice] somehow I came off on the good foot with the car, had a good rhythm, had good confidence which allowed me to push and kept that feeling all the way through quali, which is very nice. I think our own predictions were that we probably were going to be out in Q1, so it was a nice little surprise there.”

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2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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7 comments on “Reaching Q3 in old-spec car shows major Haas upgrade failed – Hulkenberg”

  1. Welcome to Haas

  2. Haas seems to do decent when they have a long period to design a car, i.e. they begin the season looking promising until others start to bring upgrades. I hope the new sponsorship will help Haas apply the same skill to in season updates.

    I wish HUL had a car that didn’t slide backwards, he is fun to watch.

  3. It shows what a failed spec Magnussen is too.

  4. They just copied what Ferrari did with theirs in Spain.

    This has been the tone for Haas since the beginning, they can’t develop anything. That black car was exactly the same, with Grosjean running an old spec and KMag the new one, there were very little differences then too, and the old one was seen as stronger.

  5. Haas have been at this for 7 years now, and I understand the way they are built as a team was aimed at getting on the grid and surviving. But if they really are pushing up at the limit of the budget cap now as Steiner claimed, then it’s time they started investing in infrastructure for the team so that they’re not so dependent on Ferrari. The more they build up the team the better it will be for them in the long term and it would also increase the teams value should Haas one day decide to sell.

    1. Either Steiner is lying about nearing the cap, or someone is skimming it off somewhere, or Haas have a completely incompetent technical team that is costing them a lot of money.

      This looks like a team that runs on $20m, not $100m.

      1. I am not so sure it really is about money even. I think the issue is rather more fundamental with the way they go about building their car using a lot of stuff from Ferrari and having to add stuff on from there on.

        It limits how well they understand the cars and that will hurt their setup, hurt interpretation of windtunnel results and it will hurt understanding where you can improve the car.

        On the other hand, it could be that the newer spec has more potential to build upon for next year, since the concept they introduced at the start of this rules set has been one that most teams have gradually moved away from to find more potential.

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