Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner has played down hype surrounding his team by rivals ahead of its Formula 1 debut in 2016, even if he remains optimistic it won't be starting from the very back come March's Australian Grand Prix.
Haas will make its much anticipated F1 bow this year with the experienced Romain Grosjean and former Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez in driving duties, though it is its 'technical collaboration' with Ferrari that has particularly piqued the interest of rivals.
Indeed, though the car is yet to break cover, rivals predict Haas could well prove competitive from the opening race, depending on the strength of the ties it has established with Ferrari.
However, Steiner is rather more cautious about Haas' chances from the start, saying it will be difficult for it to battle in the lower mid-field if other teams have enjoyed a productive winter period.
"What we need to be careful of is not to believe the propaganda of what people are saying,” Steiner told GPUpdate
. “As I've said, it's always very difficult to predict, because everybody else [could have] developed better things.
"You don't know who moves where. If they all did a fantastic job, to get into the lower midfield will be difficult. There's a lot of big talk about us, which is nice to hear, but I don't get carried away, I try to stay realistic."
Referencing comments made by Force India's Sergio Perez that Haas could be on terms with the Silverstone-based squad from the start, Steiner is refusing to set targets until the car turns a wheel for the first time in Barcelona on 22nd February, but is targeting better than last.
"We haven't put a wheel on the ground yet. We will, obviously, but I'm not predicting that we are going to beat Force India, you know. They were fifth, so I would say they're doing a pretty good job.
“I always say, even to come last in Formula 1 is a big job - it's not as easy as it looks. We don't target anybody because we don't know how good they are. What we would like to get is the lower midfield -- we don't want to be last."
Haas and Ferrari's collaboration was thrown into the spotlight in November when Mercedes approached the FIA to deem what was legal with regards to sharing data and information between teams. Though Mercedes maintained it was merely seeking clarification, it was seen as a veiled criticism of Ferrari and Haas' relationship, particularly if Ferrari had gotten around certain in-season bans by instructing the out of competition American team to do so instead.
Though Mercedes never accused Ferrari of any wrongdoing – and later suggested it was within its right to have gained from such a move if it did - the perceived 'loophole' has now been closed, with Haas classified as an official entry, thus bringing it into line with the sporting and technical regulations.