Komatsu vs. Steiner: The feud over Haas’s F1 strategy heats up

Ayao Komatsu has robustly refuted suggestions that his prior assertions about Haas F1 Team’s potential bottom-of-the-table performance in 2024 were ever deceptive. These allegations were notably voiced by Gunther Steiner, Komatsu’s predecessor, who implied that Komatsu’s management deliberately minimized expectations for the 2024 season as a deceptive tactic.

Steiner, as reported by Ekstra Bladet newspaper, critiqued the approach, suggesting, “They downplayed (expectations) to have an excuse at the beginning. To me, it was the wrong thing to do.” He further noted his contributions to the team’s development, stating, “The team and Simone Resta did well, because the car was already made last year before I left. The car was already assembled. I kept telling Gene Haas where they would be, because I knew the numbers from the wind tunnel.”

In a strong counter, Komatsu defended his stance, asserting his initial outlook for 2024 was rooted in transparency, not deceit. Speaking at Suzuka, he explained, “On paper it just looked like we had very little time,” due to the challenging task of balancing development between the previous and current year’s cars. “There was no reason to believe that we would start like this. We had a feeling that we had improved the car, but relative to everyone else, we thought they had made more progress. It wasn’t bulls**t or putting up smokescreens.”

Komatsu also touched on the uncertainties inherent in forecasting performance without insight into competitors’ advancements. “Of course I knew our numbers too, but how could I know if it would be P7, P8, P9 or P10 without knowing the numbers of the others?” he questioned, highlighting the team’s size as a factor. “Could we have predicted Alpine doing what they did? You, you can’t trust others to fool themselves.”

Furthermore, Komatsu emphasized the importance of maintaining team morale, irrespective of initial standings. “But also internally, I didn’t want my people to see the car in Bahrain and be depressed if we were last. The internal message was ‘this is where we start, and from here we improve’.”

He concluded by sharing an unexpected positive development regarding the car’s performance. “When we talk about how the car creates downforce, it is actually very different from what the wind tunnel said. This is a problem in itself, but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Could I have predicted it? No way.”

Komatsu’s revelations underscore the complexities and unpredictabilities of F1, where outcomes can defy even the most informed expectations. “After a few days of winter testing, I expected that we could fight with two or three other teams. But I only knew that when we had seen the car on the track,” he admitted, shedding light on the dynamic nature of the sport.

GMM

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