Haas Team Principal Ayao Komatsu has offered a grim prediction for the team's form at the first Formula 1 race of the 2024 season in Bahrain.
The team was the first to reveal their VF-24 design and livery ahead of pre-season testing, with it keeping a similar look compared to last year with a modified design.
Haas introduced a modified version of its car last year at the US Grand Prix in preparation for the 2024 season, as it looks to turn around its fortunes and move further up the grid.
The bathtub and tall sidepod design concept has been ditched in favour of a downwash effect pioneered by Red Bull with the RB19. Although the team has a new Technical Director and Performance Director, Komatsu believes it will be a while before they can be competitive.
“Out of the gates in Bahrain, I still think we’re going to be towards the back of the grid, if not last," said Komatsu.
"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."
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Haas explains early struggles
Komastu replaced Guenther Steiner as Team Principal at the beginning of the year, after the team elected to not renew the latter's contract. He offered a reason as to why he thinks the team will struggle to show results out of the box with their launch-spec car.
"It's 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," said Komatsu.
"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 team has historically struggled to keep up in the development war, while their car last year suffered from excessive tyre-wear which ultimately led to them falling out of strong positions in races.
Both Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg will play a critical role as they provide feedback during pre-season testing, in understanding the VF-24 from the offset.
“The focus is to have a good test program for Bahrain so that we come away from the test having quality data for the team to analyze 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," explained Komatsu.
“Drivers will play a stronger role too. Last year, in terms of subjective feedback from drivers, their understanding of what the weakness of the car was clear, however, we weren’t then able to reflect that in our car development program.
"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.”