Haas VF-24 rendering, 2024

Haas’ new team principal predicts they will start season ‘at the back if not last’

Formula 1

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New Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu admits he has low expectations for the performance of the team’s new car in 2024.

Komatsu took charge of Haas after the departure of long time team principal Guenther Steiner early last month.

The team finished tenth and last in the constructors’ championship last season following difficulties with tyre wear across 2024. Haas have retained their driver line-up for the new season with Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg racing together for a second season.

Despite the frustration of team owner Gene Haas with his team’s performance in recent years, Komatsu says he does not expect a leap forward up the grid for his team entering the new season.

“Out of the gates in Bahrain I still think we’re going to be towards the back of the grid, if not last,” he admitted.

“The reason our launch-spec car is not going to be quick enough in Bahrain is not because of the quality of the people we have here, but it’s because we started late and then we stopped for two months to do the Austin upgrade. It really diverted resources, so we lost time there, but the team is finding good gains in the wind tunnel so that’s positive and in terms of characteristics, it’s going in the right direction.”

After the team introduced a major upgrade to their 2023 car in the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas in late October last year, Komatsu says the new VF-24 has used that upgrade package as a base.

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“In terms of physical changes, as everyone knows, when we made the upgrade in Austin that was the concept towards this year’s car – but because we had the physical limitation of the side impact structure, rad[iator]-duct arrangement and cooling arrangement, we couldn’t do the full-blown VF-24-type-concept,” he explained. “I knew exactly where we were going for this year, but everyone saw a preview in Austin.”

Having been in the team principal role for a matter of weeks, Komatsu admits the timing of his move was “not ideal” for the team.

“It has impacted things,” he said, “as it was announced on January 10, and we’re running our car for the first time on February 11 – that’s a pretty short timeframe.

“However, in terms of car build and preparation for the test, it wasn’t a problem operationally. It wasn’t just my role, we had a technical director leave as well, so there were two significant vacancies to fill. We formalised and communicated this structural change as soon as we could. The timing of this transition period was not ideal; however, I’ve been very impressed with the maturity of everyone’s reaction. Thanks to this, we were able to keep the disruption to the minimum. Now we’ve clarified the structure, we should be full steam ahead.”

Komatsu says Haas aims to be proactive about upgrades over the upcoming season in a marked departure from the team’s previous philosophy of fewer but more major upgrades packages.

“The focus is to have a good test programme for Bahrain so that we come away from the test having quality data for the team to analyse and understand which direction to develop the car,” he said.

“This means understanding the strength and weakness of the VF-24 accurately, then put a coherent plan together to produce updates on the car, which hasn’t happened previously.”

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Will Wood
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21 comments on “Haas’ new team principal predicts they will start season ‘at the back if not last’”

  1. The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive, in particular by competing for podiums and race wins. This would materially increase fan engagement and would also increase the value of the Championship in the eyes of key stakeholders and sources of revenue such as broadcasters and race promoters.

    1. I guess you missed the minor detail that Haas joined when Bernie was in charge, and with Bernie in charge people can offer opinions, but he can ignore them.
      Bernie has always believed that a written contract or set of rules weren’t even worth the paper they were printed on.
      That attitude may transfer into filling out tax forms.

      1. My perception is Bernie did abide by contracts. The problem was he was a very good salesman, so he’d get contracts and the rules written in a way which favoured himself.

    2. Yes! This needs to be brought up again and again at every available opportunity.

      What is Haas contributing? Why are they not competitive? What are they doing on the grid?

      1. What is Haas contributing?

        A constant reminder that Bernie was a bit of a wild card.

      2. It should be the first question every team gets at the first race. “What are your team contributing to F1 and why do you think you deserve a place on the grid?”

        1. Except those on the podium, as that is apparently now how F1 defines being a worthy entry.

          But that aside; yes! This is a narrative that should be pushed after every session at every race. Make them explain it. Every single time.

    3. But, but Zak Brown said on May 20

      Prospective entrants have faced opposition from F1’s incumbent teams since the FIA application process was launched.
      McLaren CEO Zak Brown has called upon prospective new teams to follow Haas’ example in establishing themselves in F1.

    4. Absurdity. Rahal nailed it

      “However American racer Graham Rahal said he was unsurprised by the decision, pointing out his earlier assessment of F1’s reluctance to consider admitting Andretti.

      “F1 is an elitist sport,” he wrote last year. “They don’t want us. Remember that. They want US companies’ money, they want wealthy US individuals’ money. But they don’t care about the rest. Always has been that way, always will be.”

  2. Meanwhile, Andretti’s team application is rejected because it wouldn’t bring value to the sport, or.. wait… it would bring more value to them than to the sport… or.. whatever.

    Bunch on wa**kers… all was said from their 1st GP. But no worries, we won’t hear much about them, no that Steiner is gone.

  3. This interview will be a great quote to add to Andretti’s lawsuit against FOM, very nice of Komatsu

  4. And these guys vote against new teams in F1, believing they are above them. One big boo!

  5. That’s the USA racing heritage we want to see right here, cheap drivers, cheap outsourced projects and struggling from day one!

    Andretti can stick with F-E or Indy, Haas is the way to go!

    1. lol, while not a big American motorsport fan, this comments shows an amazing level of ignorance on American racing / engineering heritage. And all Haas reflects is a single businessman doing F1 on the cheap. Not American engineering.

      1. Wow man, you’re so bright. Want a medal?

        I wrote this as to make sure everybody could see i’m being ironic and still you failed to catch it. Shame on you.

        1. I’m happy it was sarcasm.

  6. I can’t believe this is part of a PR strategy, maybe I’m getting old but this feels like a ridiculous thing to say in an interview. Being realistic is one thing, but what employee of any team wants to hear their leaders spouting negativity all over media and setting low expectations of fans, sponsors and reporters? Backing up “well probably be last” with excuses and flimsy justifications, then saying we can and will do better, doesn’t feel like the right balance to me. I imagine anyone who paid money to put their logo on this car might be furious with this.

    1. I like realism, prefer one who says they’ll be 10th and then they’re 9th-10th to someone who says they’re aiming for 5th and then they end up with the same result.

  7. I’m keen to see how things go for HAAS this year. That will be the true test of whether Steiner was hurting the team and whether the decision to oust him was correct.

    “then put a coherent plan together to produce updates on the car, which hasn’t happened previously”

    Absolutely brutal assessment of their previously incoherent plans there. There must have been some resentment bubbling under the surface at HAAS for something like that to come out so freely.

  8. As others have said, this may make for bizarre reading for anyone scratching their heads about the Andretti entry. Twenty cars on the grid is not enough. What makes it worse is that there are only six completely distinct teams, with the others being to some extent joke teams used by the big three to test junior drivers.

  9. “I knew exactly where we were going for this year, but everyone saw a preview in Austin.”

    That is not confidence inspiring and even less so due to the fact the way he said it was meant to do just that. K Mag will take anything he can get, but it’d be funny if we saw Nico quit mid-season lawsuit be damned.

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