Haas F1’s new leader, Ayao Komatsu, has his eyes firmly set on resurrecting the American team from the depths of the constructors’ championship this year. This ambition follows a significant shake-up, with team owner Gene Haas opting to replace long-time team principal Gunther Steiner after a disappointing last-place finish in 2023, a result Haas found “embarrassing.”
Komatsu, elevated from his previous role as engineering chief, conveyed his insights to as-web.jp, detailing the thought process behind the team’s leadership change. “I think Gene was thinking about it for at least the second half of last season,” Komatsu revealed. He shared Gene Haas’s aspirations, stating, “He wants to be the midfield and believes the team has the ability for it.” Komatsu reflected on Haas’s frustration and embarrassment, saying, “I think he was slowly getting frustrated and embarrassed to see his team fall to the bottom of the championship.”
The goal for Haas in 2024, as outlined by Komatsu, is to ascend to eighth in the standings, a target that may sound modest but is deemed “a big deal” by Komatsu. This objective involves overcoming teams like Sauber, Alpha Tauri, and Williams. Komatsu admits, “I think it will be difficult for us to overtake two teams on our own, rather than relying on others.” He acknowledges the budgetary and systemic advantages of Alfa Romeo (Sauber) and Williams, and the strengthening partnership between Alpha Tauri and Red Bull.
As Haas embarks on this transformative year, Komatsu describes 2024 as “a transition period for us,” emphasizing the necessity of improving results amidst changes. “We have no intention of staying in eighth in the future, but this is a year of rebuilding,” he asserts. However, he anticipates a challenging start to the season: “There’s less than a month left until pre-season testing, so I think the car we’ll take to Bahrain will still be at the bottom.” Komatsu attributes this to delayed development, not the fault of the aerodynamics staff, but due to decision timings. He concludes that the focus in testing should be on thoroughly evaluating the car to identify the right direction for development.