ANALYSIS: After bouncing back into the points last year, can Haas claw their way up the midfield in 2023?
Since joining F1 in 2016, Haas owner Gene Haas and Team Principal Guenther Steiner have never felt the need to make a song and dance about their new car, instead pursuing a low-key reveal through digital renderings and a few quotes.
Their view is that, at this stage of the year, there is nothing to say. While they hope they’ve built a car that can deliver on targets, there’s no way of telling until the car hits the track in Bahrain next month for three days of pre-season testing alongside the rest of the field.
So, it’s no surprise to see they’ve stuck with their tried and tested approach for their eighth campaign in F1 – releasing digital renderings with their striking new black, white and red livery on a car that is partially based on last year's model, and leaving us to wait until their shakedown early next month to get a first glimpse of their 2023 challenger. However, their state-of-mind, hope and expectations will be more ambitious compared to last year.
Ahead of 2022, the American team that have earned a reputation for their agility and resilience, were on their knees.
Covid had hit the little operation hard, and in a bid to reset and rebuild, Steiner and Haas took the painful decision to not develop the 2021 machine at all, and instead throw all their resources – from a budget that is the smallest on the grid – on getting the 2022 car, built to sweeping new regulations, right.
Understandably, there was trepidation inside the team. They needed the gamble to pay off so they could put their first pointless season behind them, build some momentum and start a new era. Impressively, they did just that.
The returning Kevin Magnussen delivered a fine fifth in the 2022 season opener in Bahrain. A flurry of small points finishes followed through the year, the campaign peaking with Magnussen delivering their first ever pole position in Sao Paulo.
But they were easily out-developed by their immediate rivals and had to settle for a final position of eighth in the constructors’ championship. It was admittedly two places better than the year before – but not quite the rebound they had had in mind. The pain of the Covid year still lingered.
This year, Haas want to kick on and claw their way towards the head of the midfield – where they found themselves back in 2018. To do that, Steiner knows his team need a car that delivers a more stable performance across the variety of racetracks, rather than peaking at certain tracks and being nowhere at others.
Their hopes of achieving that feat will be boosted by the fact they have a full technical team – which is based in Maranello within a private wing to ensure they don’t cross paths with rival Ferrari personnel – in place and operating smoothly, having been built up by their Technical Director Simone Resta who joined for 2021.
This stability should help with their development rate – while also, in theory, helping them solve problems and install fixes quicker.
Haas’s partnership with Ferrari remains close and an integral part of their business plan, the American team taking as many parts as the regulations permit from the Italian outfit – though the number allowed for this season has reduced.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of that relationship right now is the Ferrari power unit, which has developed more grunt in recent years.
And while the works team and customers had to run it at lower levels in the closing stages of last year to protect reliability, sources say fixes have been found and that should open the door to a power output that could make them class leaders in the engine stakes.
In terms of finances, Haas are in a very good place. They always have the fallback option of Gene Haas’s impressive personal fortune – but it is their intention to run the team as a business and bring in outside backers. They’ve done just that for 2023, with digital payment firm MoneyGram signing up as title sponsor for this season and beyond.
Steiner will be hoping it is a case of third time lucky here, having ended deals early with previous title sponsors Rich Energy and Uralkali for well-documented reasons. Impressively, there are believed to be more partnerships to come, as the team look to build on their growing appeal.
This cash injection will help Haas move closer to the budget cap, which has reduced to $137.4 million for 2023 as part of a planned glidepath, and should put them in a position to fight with their rivals on a more level playing field.
Haas can also rely on an experienced line-up in Magnussen and the returning Nico Hulkenberg, who has signed as a replacement for Mick Schumacher. The young German was not re-signed for a third season because while Steiner felt Schumacher did a good job, the team “needed to carry him – and we need somebody to carry us a little bit”.
Hulkenberg and Magnussen have 322 Grand Prix starts between them and it is that experience and expertise that Steiner and his team will be relying on to score regularly and then heavily where possible.
The ambition, then, is for Haas to continue their upward trajectory and head back towards the heady days of 2018. They have a good strategy to achieve this – now it’s now up to Steiner and his staff to deliver on it.