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Why Haas now have the attention of Formula 1’s midfield

Haas F1 struggled for positive coverage prior to this weekend’s race in Bahrain, but this pessimism is no longer the prevailing theme.

Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen both showed very promising speed in Sakhir. The VF-24 is far more predictable than last year’s car, giving the American team a good platform to work with.

The Bahrain GP certainly wasn’t all smooth sailing.

Early contact with Lance Stroll compromised Hulkenberg’s evening, relegating him to the back of the pack.

However, his race pace was comparable to the Aston Martin pairing – who rounded out the top 10.

This feat cannot be overstated, considering where these teams were last season.

The 36-year-old still crossed the finish line before both Alpines, a Williams and a Sauber.

Whilst far from sensational at face value, this is a respectable result under the circumstances. Meanwhile, his teammate was the author of a far cleaner race.

Magnussen was frustrated with his efforts in qualifying, which left him several places outside of the top 10.

In Bahrain’s Saturday race, a good start put him firmly in the midfield.

Whereas last year, the Dane would have struggled with tyre degradation, this trend is already changing.

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New year, new Haas

K-Mag finished in P12, a result which – on another day – could have materialised into points with retirements further up the field.

In any case, Ayao Komatsu can be very pleased with his team’s efforts. Haas are now firm contenders on race day.

Telemetry data almost unanimously points towards Haas as the sixth-fastest team in the Grand Prix.

Considering this hardly happened at any stage in 2023, the progress made over winter cannot be overstated.

The decision to spend testing and practice almost exclusively focusing on tyre management has also been vindicated.

Looking ahead to the remainder of the season, there are possibilities accompanied by familiar obstacles.

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There is no denying that Haas can compete for points on a semi-consistent basis this year.

Hulkenberg and Magnussen are certainly not destined to be backmarkers. However, a word of caution is necessary.

Whilst the likes of Alpine are struggling, the American outfit cannot stagnate.

Improvements, ideally in the form of a regular upgrade plan, are a critical ingredient to their medium-term success.

Considering the usual constraints at Haas, progress at Maranello could be their saving grace.

If Ferrari can improve the SF-24 throughout 2024, it seems reasonable to expect a similar trajectory from Komatsu’s squad.

After all, the US outfit’s best season have historically coincided with competitive Ferrari cars.

At least for now, though, they are in the mix.


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