Haas’ current F1 model ’not enough’ for success - Hulkenberg

"I wanted to emphasise that by moving back"


21 February 2024 - 09:16
Haas' current F1 model 'not

Nico Hulkenberg says he agrees with sacked Haas boss Gunther Steiner that the small American team needs to invest more to succeed in Formula 1.

It is widely understood that the biggest tension with owner Gene Haas was that Steiner was arguing that the billionaire needed to inject more funds in order to pull the team off the dead last spot in the constructors’ standings.

Hulkenberg, 36, rounded out his return to F1 with Haas last year by sounding very critical of the fact that Haas’ highly-anticipated ’B’ car did not prove a step up compared to its early-season predecessor.

"It was a big change," the German told Auto Motor und Sport, "but the fact is, it wasn’t any better.

"I wanted to emphasise that by moving back," Hulkenberg added, referring to the fact that he reverted to the ’old’ car shortly after the new one was debuted.

It appears that Steiner had come to the same conclusion - that just continuing with the model he and Haas innovated almost a decade ago no longer works in the budget cap era.

"That was already the indication last year," Hulkenberg agrees. "We have to step up. What we are currently doing is not enough.

"It also depends on what you want - where you want to go as a team. What are you willing to invest? That is the question that Gene has to ask himself as the owner. The budget cap is not entirely reality, because what was possible in 2016 and 2017 has now become a little more difficult.

"It probably needs a follow-up," he insisted.

And so, he admits that when Gene Haas called him just after Christmas to inform him of Steiner’s impending sacking "came as a surprise to me".

"To be honest, I didn’t expect that," said Hulkenberg. "But his successor Ayao (Komatsu) is not an unknown quantity at Haas - he’s been here since the very beginning. He knows everyone and everyone knows him.

"I met him last year. So there are no surprises there."

However, Hulkenberg admits he had a "very good working relationship" with Steiner at the helm, adding: "We also got along very well on an interpersonal level.

"We have a very similar sense of humour, despite being serious. We were always happy to poke fun at each other," he said. "That was a cool understanding and good collaboration with a team boss. I had never experienced anything like that before."

He said he trusts Komatsu to react well to his new position, including the departure of technical boss Simone Resta, but Hulkenberg is also not expecting a major step forward for Haas in 2024.

"It won’t change that much," said Hulkenberg. "I don’t expect any quantum leaps or miracles.

"We have been able to improve our package, but there will be no fundamental transformation for us now. From a sporting perspective, I expect a difficult year.

"What we have found is a step forward, but I also believe that it will not be enough. I just have to take the speed from last year and try to make progress, but I can’t imagine that we’ve made a huge leap yet."

Hulkenberg’s comments also need to be read in the context of the driver market in Formula 1 for 2025 and beyond, as he admits that Lewis Hamilton vacating his post at Mercedes late this year could indicate an opportunity for him.

"Maybe. Things are shifting everywhere," he admitted. "It’s going to be an interesting few months.

"Every driver wants to get into the best possible car, which is why you always want to position yourself as best as possible. Of course, a lot depends on how much your car allows you to put yourself in the shop window and whether your shares are trading higher or lower. But we’ll see."

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