Starved at Silverstone, the Haas team is hoping to turn up the heat in search of more F1 points on its first visit to the Hungarian Grand Prix.
As the travelling circus swaps the ultrafast and flowing Silverstone for the slowest permanent circuit in F1 at the Hungaroring, Haas team principal Gunther Steiner admits that, after the US squad's unexpected start to life in the top flight, not scoring points hurts more than usual.
“We probably wouldn't have thought that we would have 28 points so far in our first season, but we still do wish that we were a little higher up in the standings,” he said of Haas' eighth place in the constructors' table, “I am very proud of us, though. We are doing well for our first season and the team has been working hard to be where we are.
“We are very close to the teams in front of us and hope that we can keep competing and moving up in the standings, moving up, of course, and getting more points. As long as the team is able to gain more experience and prepare for a better year next year, I am happy.”
While the British Grand Prix might not have been its best race to date – with Romain Grosjean retiring and Esteban Gutierrez finishing a distant 16th – Silverstone did give Haas its best Friday of the season, with more than 670km logged between its three drivers, as GP3 frontrunner Charles Leclerc made his debut. The collective effort led to another productive practice session on Saturday, and resulted in a qualifying performance that led Grosjean and Gutiérrez to believe Sunday would yield their first double-points finish of the year. Sadly, a downpour just before the start meant that the sound strategy crafted from two days of running went down the drain.
“Everyone has bad days, and we had one at Silverstone,” Steiner admitted, “The team realised that and got past it so they could focus on what lies ahead. But we did have a good Friday and Saturday at Silverstone, where we accomplished a lot, and as a new team, that helps. We're going into Hungary as prepared and confident as we have to all of the other races this year.
“We are by no means perfect, but we are striving to be better, which we are doing well right now, and Silverstone was an example of that. With time and experience, we have been able to learn and get better in everything we do. If we have a problem, we are able to fix it quicker because of what we've learned at the past events. The performance that we had on Friday not only gave us the data we needed, but it also gave the team confidence. With more time, the more we can continue to improve.”
Having had one eye on eating into the four-point margin between itself and seventh-place McLaren, Haas was left starving at Silverstone, but its rival also failed to advance its tally so the target remains the same at next weekend's Hungarian race, at a circuit where qualifying can be crucial, but where strategy has also been known to the turn expected results on their head.
“I would say it is brutal in the midfield, which is where we are in the standings,” Steiner acknowledged, “We just need to keep putting in a lot of work and making sure the cars are as prepared as possible, the tyres are in the range they need to be, the drivers are hitting their marks perfectly, and that we go out on the racetrack at the right time [in qualifying]. It ends up being a lot of ingredients that we have to get together, but I think getting to Q3 is achievable.
“Things get heated when logistics have a downfall, like at Silverstone when we had the power go down on all our systems in the pit perch or a safety car is used, but the strategy is to try and prepare in advance for the chance that these types of things will happen.
“The main thing is how we react to a change in our strategy, and the change in the degradation of our tyres and everyone else's tyres. It gets quite tense sometimes, but it's also what makes racing challenging and fun, at least in my eyes. Having situations that aren't expected gives teams the chance to get an edge on other teams. It's a part of racing, and it makes it more interesting for the fans.”