Hulkenberg backs sacked Steiner’s call for more money at Haas

Nico Hulkenberg, aligning his perspective with Haas’ recently ousted boss Gunther Steiner, doesn’t shy away from stating what he thinks is obvious: for Haas to climb out of the Formula 1 basement, it’s time for Gene Haas to open his wallet wider. The tension that led to Steiner’s exit? A dispute over the necessity for increased investment to propel the team beyond their last-place finish in the constructors’ standings.

Hulkenberg, who rejoined F1 with Haas last year, expressed his disillusionment with Haas’ ‘B’ car, which failed to deliver the anticipated performance boost. “It was a big change,” Hulkenberg told Auto Motor und Sport, “but the fact is, it wasn’t any better.” This realization led him to revert to the previous model, signaling a need for a new strategy in the budget cap era.

Echoing Steiner’s sentiment, Hulkenberg remarked, “That was already the indication last year. We have to step up. What we are currently doing is not enough.” He challenges the team’s direction, questioning, “It also depends on what you want – where you want to go as a team. What are you willing to invest? That is the question that Gene has to ask himself as the owner.”

He admits he was caught off guard by Steiner’s dismissal, a move Gene Haas informed him about shortly after Christmas. “To be honest, I didn’t expect that,” Hulkenberg admitted, noting that Steiner’s successor, Ayao Komatsu, is a familiar face within the team. “I met him last year. So there are no surprises there,” he added, highlighting a seamless transition despite the leadership shakeup.

Hulkenberg, however, fondly recalls his rapport with Steiner, “We have a very similar sense of humour, despite being serious. We were always happy to poke fun at each other,” he said, cherishing their unique connection. Despite his trust in Komatsu, Hulkenberg remains realistic about Haas’ prospects in 2024, downplaying expectations of a significant leap forward.

“We have been able to improve our package, but there will be no fundamental transformation for us now. From a sporting perspective, I expect a difficult year,” he predicted, tempering hopes of drastic improvement. Yet, Hulkenberg’s gaze extends beyond the immediate challenges, eyeing potential shifts in the driver market, especially with Lewis Hamilton’s tenure at Mercedes ending late this year. “Maybe,” he said. “Things are shifting everywhere,” he mused, contemplating his own opportunities in this evolving landscape.

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