Ayao Komatsu, Haas, 2024

Komatsu targets eighth after taking charge at Haas

Formula 1

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New Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu has set his team the target of eight place in the championship for his first season in charge.

Team owner Gene Haas selected Komatsu as Guenther Steiner’s replacement earlier this year. As the former chief race engineer and director of engineering, Komatsu says his technical background means his leadership style will be different to Steiner’s.

“I guess it’s a very different dynamics compared to my predecessor,” Komatsu said.

“Another thing is that I know the team, I know the people, the strengths and weaknesses, and we understand each other. So I think we’ve got a very good base to start off with.

“Last year our biggest issue was of course on the technical side. I understand why we couldn’t make the improvement – at least I think I do at the moment. So I’m just trying to do everything possible with the guys here to really improve on that.”

Haas head into the new season having finished last in the championship twice in the last three years. Their rise to eighth in 2022, the first year under new technical regulations, proved a false dawn.

Komatsu says he is targeting a return to that position in his first season in charge, but recognises the challenge that represents for his team.

“In terms of the championship, we don’t want to be P10, of course,” he said. “We’d like to be in P8, to start off with. But of course that means we have to beat two teams, right? So who are we going to beat?

“So more than just the championship target, I think it’s very important we pull together as one, as a team, and move forward and make incremental improvements. So that’s what I’m looking for.”

Komatsu’s team completed more laps in this week’s pre-season test in Bahrain than any of its rivals. Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen covered 2,386km between them – almost eight grand prix distances – over the three days. Komatsu said he was encouraged by the team’s early showing.

“Our race simulations show that yes, we’ve got lots more work to do, but at the same time we’ve got a base car that we can actually race,” he said.

“Considering the qualifying performance, we haven’t worked on it at all – Friday was our first time looking at it – but again, it was decent. We’ve had a very good start to the season with all this preparation in testing. I’m very happy and my thanks to everyone on the team.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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18 comments on “Komatsu targets eighth after taking charge at Haas”

  1. I can’t see that happening at all. 8th? Ahead of two teams… No way.

    1. Which two teams would that be?
      Not: RBR, Ferrari, Mercedes
      Extremely unlikely: AM, McLaren
      And his peers moved clearly ahead last season and are steaming forward: RB, Sauber, Williams (the latter one with one driver).

      Only Alpine has some question marks about where they are, but is still on all fronts miles ahead of Haas.

      Haas would do extremely well if they score points in 5-10 races.

      1. I’m not sure if Ayao Komatsu is the right man to lead Haas. I think the dream for Gene Haas would be 1995 Forti levels. If you’re getting lapped every four laps you’re guaranteed to be on TV! The TV doesn’t always show the leader, can’t capture every midfield battle. But if you’re superlatively slow no matter who the cameras are following, you will be seen getting lapped. Time on TV means brand exposure! Forget that finishing in 8th silliness, getting lapped is the real deal.

    2. It’s a target – not a guarantee.

      1. A very unrealistic one at that.

  2. Sounds depressing

    1. Only a handful of years ago, McLaren were in the same position… Except they had much greater need to perform better than Haas do now.

    2. Still better than settling for last already, i guess. Will have their work cut out though to achieve anything the like this year IMO

  3. So much pessimism. Points at the bottom aren’t about performance, it’s about being focused to capitalise on the random factors and scrappy enough to do well when you can. If they’re good enough to identify they’re strengths (as Williams managed last season) then it’s totally achievable.

    Setting smart goals is so important and so much better than hand waving them away with just wanting to improve. Good luck to them.

    1. It’s an unrealistic goal. If it happened it’d be purely by chance, because of a freak result in changing conditions or because other teams didn’t nail a result together.

      That’s not the way to move forward.

      1. That’s what all the bottom places are about. They’ve already said time and time again they expect their car to be terrible due to decisions made last year. So be it, therefore 8th is the best they can aim for.

        It’s not like they’re saying they’re going to break into the top 4 or make Q3 regularly. They would be unrealistic goals.

        Working for what points they can and aiming for 8th is totally realistic and achievable. They’ve at least got 2 experienced steady hands at the wheel.

        1. I don’t really understand, if they said they had no goals and will just circulate this year focusing on next year, they would be absolutely crucified.

          Comments saying they shouldn’t even have this very modest goal are just kicking the horse when it’s down.

          1. kicking the horse when it’s down.

            What is that?
            Is that like one of Joe’s mixed metaphors such as “you can take a bull into a china shop but you can’t make him drink.”

          2. Sure, let’s go with that… :D

  4. Remember when F1/FOM said:

    “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.”

    Haas has finished the previous seasons in 10th (’23), 8th (’22), 10th (’21), 9th (’20), 9th (’19), 5th (’18), 8th (’17) and 8th (’16). So with the singular exception of 2018, they’ve never done better than 8th, and more often worse. They outsource their car design to Dallara, they have no manufacturer partnership and simply buy Ferrari engines, they bring nothing in terms of driver talent to F1, and they’re so “American” that they plastered their car in the Russian flag for multiple seasons.

    I’m sure the folks at Haas are just doing their job, and I certainly don’t blame them for their situation, which is the predictable result of how the Gene Haas has set up his operation. But … why is this team even in F1?

  5. Yep I remember when F1/FOM said that
    Yep and I remember when Zak “the guru” Brown said :
    Brown has called upon prospective new teams to follow Haas’ example in establishing themselves in F1.

    The reason they are in F1 is simple,
    A maximum number of protected snouts in an ever increasing trough.

  6. Everyone understands why they couldn’t make improvements last year. That doesn’t take a rocket surgeon. The primary reason is lack of funding. Even with the cost cap, it seems Haas are one of the more destitute teams in the paddock, with very little money to invest in updates. The second reason is a consequence of their outsource methods: they outsource the car design to Dallara and there is clearly a disconnect between the engineers in Haas and the designers in Dallara in that they can’t translate Haas’ needs into production parts for the car. These are intrinsic problems to Haas’ philosophy and changing out Steiner for Komatsu isn’t going to change that.

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