HALF TERM REPORT: Haas – Qualifying promise but race day problems
Haas made a solid start to the season with points scored in three of the first five opening races, but since then it’s unraveled somewhat for the American team, with race day performance a real Achilles heel. Here is their half term report…
Nico Hulkenberg – 7th in Australia
Nico Hulkenberg’s return to the Formula 1 grid this year with Haas has featured plenty of highlights – particularly in qualifying – but his seventh-place finish in Australia brought him and the team a valuable six points. Unfortunately the momentum the team wanted to carry through the season hasn’t materialized as hoped.
An honourable mention also goes to the German’s sixth place at the Sprint in Austria, but his outing in Melbourne is as good as it has been for Haas – with the points making up more than half of the team’s tally of 11.
Hulkenberg 9-3 Magnussen
Qualifying is where Hulkenberg has really shone this year, making six Q3 appearances along the way through 2023. A particular highlight was his P2 qualifying finish in Canada, although a subsequent three-place grid penalty for a red flag infringement during the session took some of the shine off of that moment.
By contrast team mate Kevin Magnussen has only made it into Q3 once this season, although that was a very impressive P4 in Miami.
Hulkenberg 6-6 Magnussen
Race day is where the problems have been for Haas, and here the two team mates are tied on six apiece. Magnussen has two 10th-place finishes – in Saudi Arabia and Miami – to leave him with two points for the season, while Hulkenberg has nine points thanks to that Australia result and his Austrian Sprint endeavours.
But tyre degradation and downforce issues have hampered Haas’ progress in race stints, a problem the team are yet to get a grip on.
While Hulkenberg’s seventh place in Australia has been the race day highlight, you probably have to look at the German’s P2 qualifying finish in Canada as the team’s best moment of the season. Yes, that grid penalty dropped him to a P5 start for the race, but that still marks their second-best start in 2023.
Hulkenberg was one of the big stories of that Saturday out in Montreal, and he and the team rightfully enjoyed it. But what followed wasn’t quite so positive…
From that high of qualifying in Canada, the race in Montreal represented a really poor showing for Haas. In the words of Hulkenberg it was a “one-way street in the wrong direction.”
From fifth on the grid, Hulkenberg sunk to a lowly 15th by the time the race concluded, while Magnussen could only manage 17th after starting 14th.
If any day on track was going to make Haas' problems most evident it was that one. The struggles with tyres and long-run pace have become their 2023 story so far, which is a shame considering the start of the season had offered plenty of promise.
There is a very simple aim for Haas: improve the pace and performance on race days. They haven’t enjoyed a top-10 finish since May and, while talking at Spa, Magnussen conceded that frustration was building within the team.
Haas have proved on several occasions that the qualifying pace is there – six Q3 appearances for Hulkenberg through the first half of the season shows that – so if they can nail the race pace then an increased number of points should follow.
P7 in the championship is up for grabs for Haas without question - it’s currently occupied by Williams, with both teams on 11 points. However, Alfa Romeo, in P9, are only two points behind, so if Haas can’t crack their long-run issues, they could quite easily go backwards in the standings too.
They have the driver pairing to deliver, it’s now all about banking those points when the opportunity arises.