Haas finds itself in a perilous position, languishing at the bottom of the championship standings. Despite a highly anticipated car upgrade unveiled in Austin, the American team’s fortunes have not taken a turn for the better – and it looks like costing Haas nothing short of millions.
Nico Hulkenberg, the team’s on-form 36-year-old German driver, does not mince his words whilst reflecting on a disappointing race in Mexico, where he failed to score any points. “It was inevitable,” Hulkenberg told Ekstra Bladet newspaper, acknowledging the grim reality of Haas’ situation after key rivals raced ahead in the closing stages as the hyped-up ‘B’ car continued to eat up the Pirelli tyres. “We’re paying the price for not having brought upgrades – for not having found performance.”
Hulkenberg perhaps should have said he lamented not enjoying upgrades ‘that work’, as he expressed desperate hope that the stagnating situation even with a ‘new’ car might serve as a “wake-up call” for the factory. “At this pace, you simply cannot compete in Formula 1,” he stated, laying bare the stark challenge that Haas faces.
Indeed, the team’s ‘B’ car – which draws inspiration from Red Bull’s almost flawless design – was supposed to address the significant issue of tyre degradation once a decent qualifying laptime was set. However, Hulkenberg’s experience in Mexico told a different story: “The speed I needed to keep up was too high, so I really had to push it and that eats into the life of the tyres.”
He even speculated that the original 2023 car specification might have fared better in Mexico’s low-speed dominated track than the shiny new one. “I feel like the old specification might have been better,” he confirmed, while also acknowledging that the team is fully committed to its current direction. “It’s clearly a one-way street for us going forward.”
On the other side of the Haas garage, Kevin Magnussen’s race was even worse – marred by a terrifying high-speed crash, resulting from a suspension failure in his overheating ‘B’ car. The Dane was visibly in pain as he shook his hands after the incident, but later assured, “I just got hit on my hands and they were a little sore afterwards, but they’re fine.”
With about $78 million in official F1 prize money on the line for eighth place in the constructors’ championship last year, a dead-last finish this season could see Haas taking a significant financial hit – around $10 million. The pressure on F1’s smallest team is mounting.