Nico Hulkenberg explains that Haas’s only upgrade package for 2023 has failed to improve the VF-23’s performance.
With various teams and narratives taking F1 headlines in recent weeks, one outfit has been noticeably absent. Guenther Steiner’s Haas is in a tricky predicament heading into next season.
At the start of 2023, the Haas team principal promised there was a meaningful development plan for this year. In recent months, however, it became clear that only one major upgrade package would arrive at the VF-23.
These updates were fitted for the American GP in Texas. The Sprint weekend format compromised their efforts in COTA, as evidenced by their pitlane start. A lack of practice time (necessary to optimise) set-up seems a viable excuse for their performance in this instance.
However, the same cannot be said for Mexico or Interlagos. Despite a relatively small sample size to draw from, Nico Hulkenberg seems confident the American team hasn’t made any progress.
Introducing updates so late in the season would always present a challenge. What likely wasn’t anticipated, though, was the changes wouldn’t bring about any improvement.
Speaking after the Brazilian GP, Hulkenberg outlined the current consensus on Haas’ updates:
“It’s not a clear step forward. We understand that now, and we know that,” Sky Germany quotes him as saying.
“It feels similar in some places, better in some and worse in some.
“At the end of the day, it’s balanced. But we actually needed a real step in performance. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.”
This failure will have short-term consequences, most notably in the 2023 constructors standings. Unless there is a significant change in fortunes, Haas will end this season in last place.
AlphaTauri has taken a considerable step forward, with Williams comfortably ahead. Only Alfa Romeo is within touching distance, but even then, there isn’t much reason to expect Guenther Steiner’s team to score points.
The bigger concern will be Haas’ prospects for 2024. There is no clear direction for next season, given that the only upgrades to the VF-23 haven’t yielded any results.
Once again, the American outfit is playing catch-up in F1. It is clear this strategy is not sustainable, and the future is looking increasingly grey for the team.