Haas F1 team will focus on closing its performance gap with Ferrari to 0.5s per lap, says team owner Gene Haas.
2018 is the American outfit’s third year on the grid. They came eighth in the driver’s standing for the last two seasons and are eager to move up in the ranking. Haas has a deep technical partnership with Ferrari and uses as many of their design parts as regulations allow. This has helped them avoid the pitfalls that most new teams face when entering the sport.
Given the number of common parts between his team and the Italian outfit, Gene Haas sees no reason to stay at the back of the grid. He has asked his team to work to close the gap with the Maranello squad starting from this season.
He said: “It looks like everyone is going to be better [in 2018]. We identified our weak spots and Guenther [Steiner, team principal] and I had a good heart-to-heart talk on that one in Mexico City about what direction we were going to take and how we were going to improve.
“It’s no secret we use a lot of Ferrari equipment, so we’re using them as our baseline. We need to be within a half-second of the Ferraris in order for us to be competitive. We weren’t last year. I would say we were a second to a second-and-a-half slower than the Ferraris. Overall, we were maybe two seconds off the pole qualifiers, so we need to knock a second off that if we really want to be competitive.”
In 2017, Ferrari stepped up its game and challenged Mercedes for the title. If Haas had stayed 0.5s off SF70H last year, they would have been within the top 10.
Gene Haas believes his team’s understanding of the tyres is still lacking and once they figure out the 2018 tyres, it would be easier to close the gap.
“We want to solve these technical issues that are holding us back. Tyres are the toughest issue we have because you have to keep the tires in a certain temperature range, but how you keep the tyres in that temperature range is how you handle your downforce and your drag and how you handle sliding the tyres.
“The tyres are very sensitive to downforce, overheating and sliding, but in order to get the tyres right, you have to have the right chassis and the right aero. Without all of that working right, the cars become very difficult for the drivers and you can’t expect them to make up for a car that just doesn’t have the capability of holding the track.”
The American millionaire is certain the gap in the performance of the power units between the top three producers will narrow even further in the coming season, and the emphasis will shift to the driver and the chassis.
“They are getting about as much performance out of the current dimensional package [of the engine regulations] as you can. I don’t think Mercedes or Renault is going to be that much farther ahead or behind Ferrari. I think they are all within a half-a-percent of one other.”