[Haas needs fix for “difficult to digest” tyre overheating woes before F1 2024 switch
Haas’s 2023 challenger showed flashes of pace in qualifying, particularly in the hands of the returning Nico Hulkenberg.
But problems with the VF-23’s excessive tyre overheating, especially on more demanding circuits and in warmer conditions, have prevented the team from converting its one-lap pace into decent results over a race distance.
Hulkenberg and team-mate Kevin Magnussen have each only managed to score points on two occasions, leaving Haas a joint seventh in the standings heading into the second half of the season.
Haas’s disastrous Belgian Grand Prix, the last race before the summer shutdown in which Magnussen and Hulkenberg finished a distant 15th and 18th respectively, indicated that a solution still hasn’t been found.
In an exclusive interview with Motorsport.com, team boss Steiner admitted that Haas’ season so far has been “difficult to digest”.
“Obviously, we started off pretty good but then didn’t get a hold of our problems right away, which is the tyre overheating,” Steiner said when asked to evaluate his team’s season so far.
“And now we’re a little bit on the back foot. We can do very good qualifyings and very bad races, we can do both of them. For the whole team it’s a rollercoaster to have these highs on a Saturday and these lows on a Sunday. It’s difficult to digest.”
“We’re working very hard on it and hopefully we’ve got something after the break. But it’s not easy and until you try it on the car, you don’t know.
“You can do a lot of simulations, calculations, whatever. But you need to put the stuff on the car, because it’s still a very weird problem we have got compared to everybody else. But you cannot give up.”
Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
Many midfield rivals have shifted the majority of their resources towards 2024, but Steiner pointed out his team first needs to fix the source of its tyre issues, so the problem doesn’t carry over to next year’s project.
“I think we need to fix this one before. We can go parallel to 2024 but we cannot ignore this one now and just go for ’24,” he explained.
“If you don’t understand it then it could be in the ’24 car again, that would be pretty stupid. We are working now on the ’23 car flat out to make it better.”
Haas shares its power unit, gearbox and suspension with partner team Ferrari, and also uses the same wind tunnel. As it happens, Ferrari too struggles to keep its tyres alive and replicate its qualifying performances over a race distance.
Theories suggest Haas’s problems could be inherited from taking Ferrari’s rear end. Steiner noted the two squads were not suffering from exactly the same issues but did concede the similarities warranted further investigation.
“It’s very weird. With them you can see it a lot less because they run higher, but if they hadn’t had it, would they win races maybe? But that’s not for me to talk about, that’s for Fred to talk about,” Steiner added.
“If you see the Ferrari, it’s not the same problem. And the point is that doesn’t make our problem better. Somebody else having a bad day and me having a bad day doesn’t make my day better. I’m still having a bad day, you know?
“But obviously, it needs to be looked at as well and we do. It’s not like we’re sitting here and doing nothing, but there could be an issue in the specifics there.”
Haas’s plight is particularly frustrating because several midfield rivals had started the season with an inherently slower car, but the team failed to capitalise before others were able to catch up.
“Absolutely, if we would have sorted our stuff out [we could have been way higher up],” said Steiner.
“But the only thing you can do with things like these is to keep your head down and keep working.
“[McLaren] made good steps forward, fair play to them, they did a good job. But the good thing on that one is that it is possible. Just knowing that it is possible is a motivation.”