RACE DEBRIEF

    Haas Team Principal Ayao Komatsu has revealed the squad’s objectives for the 2024 F1 season and beyond, with changes made to their organisational structure expected to have an impact on the car’s development.

    The team unveiled the design and livery of their new challenger, the VF-24, on Friday ahead of its track debut at Silverstone on February 11, where Nico Hulkenberg will get behind the wheel.

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    While the driver line-up of Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen remains the same, change has been afoot at Haas in recent times, most notably with Guenther Steiner being replaced as Team Principal by Komatsu who was previously Director of Engineering.

    It was a challenging season for the outfit in 2023, a year in which they finished last in the constructors’ standings, and Komatsu is realistic about what their objectives are for the upcoming campaign. However, he also feels hopeful in regards to what the future holds amid recent changes within the team.

    “Out of the gates in Bahrain, I still think we’re going to be towards the back of the grid, if not last,” he conceded. “Since I’ve become Team Principal, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to managers – both in the UK and Italy – and they’re excited because it’s an opportunity to improve and there are areas of improvement everywhere.

    LUSAIL CITY, QATAR - OCTOBER 8: Ayao Komatsu of Japan and MoneyGram Haas F1 Team the F1 Grand Prix
    Komatsu's promotion to Team Principal was announced in early January

    “The reason our launch-spec car is not going to be quick enough in Bahrain is not because of the quality of the people we have here, but it’s because we started late and then we stopped for two months to do the Austin upgrade. It really diverted resource, so we lost time there, but the team is finding good gains in the wind tunnel so that’s positive and in terms of characteristics, it’s going in the right direction.

    “The focus is to have a good test programme for Bahrain so that we come away from the test having quality data for the team to analyse and understand which direction to develop the car. This means understanding the strength and weakness of the VF-24 accurately, then put a coherent plan together to produce updates on the car, which hasn’t happened previously.

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    “Drivers will play a stronger role too. Last year, in terms of subjective feedback from drivers, their understanding of the weakness of the car was clear, however, we weren’t then able to reflect that in our car development programme. With the changes we made in the team, we aim to address this issue with our drivers more in the loop of development paths so that nothing gets lost.

    “As engineers we have all the data from many sensors, but the one thing we can’t do is drive the car and feel what’s going on. So, we’ve got to be able to understand and react to drivers’ feedback better.”

    AUSTIN, TEXAS - OCTOBER 23: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and Haas F1 talks with Ayao Komatsu on the
    Komatsu is expecting driver feedback to be increasingly important for Haas going forwards

    On whether the VF-24 will feel the impact of these changes or if this will be more evident in 2025, Komatsu responded: “One of the things that we changed was how we shape the organisational structure so that as a team we work as one to understand the car and how to improve it. I’d like to think the very first thing we’ll see from the impact of this change will be the upgrade on the car.”

    A common trend with Haas in previous seasons has seen the car start the campaign off strongly before slipping backwards during the second half of the year, and Komatsu acknowledges that this is something the team are working to address.

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    “This is why we’re making changes to the organisational structure on the technical side to ensure that whatever we’re finding out on the track translates into car development,” he added.

    “If you look at the organisational structure previously, there isn’t a clear path to close the loop on that side. Everything that’s found trackside, there’s now a closed loop going into the aero, wind tunnel and CFD departments. Now, at least even if there’s a disagreement, everyone is clear about why we’re developing the car in a certain way.

    “That’s one key reason as to why we haven’t been able to put upgrades on the car and fall back in the season. We’re now already working in that way and there’s much better transparency, openness, and communication. Therefore, I believe we have a much better chance of upgrading the car properly this year.”