F1’s shock team emerges after “a collective groan” over “underwhelming choice”

“When Ayao Komatsu was announced as the new team principal there was a collective groan..."

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Haas VF-24. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3, Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne,
Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Haas VF-24. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 3,…

Haas are F1’s surprise package of the first three rounds of the 2024 season.

The US-based team claimed a double points finish at the F1 Australian Grand Prix with Nico Hulkenberg ninth and Kevin Magnussen 10th.

Haas finished bottom of the constructors’ championship last season and appeared in disarray when popular team boss Guenther Steiner left his job, claiming the owner did not want to invest in their improvement.

It means back-to-back unexpected points finishes for Haas after Hulkenberg was 10th in Saudi Arabia.

Hulkenberg was asked if he predicted Haas’ excellent Australia weekend: “I don’t think we could say with confidence.

“But on Friday the car felt better on high fuel on long runs, than it did with low fuel. That’s different to last year, and positive.

“A clean race, a few fights here and there. The first VSC helped my case.

“Good pit stops, good strategy and execution by the team. With George Russell’s crash, a double points finish, pretty good.”

Hulkenberg pinpointed the crucial factory: “We did a lot of work on the aero side.

“Changed the aero characteristic. It’s much better this year, and allows us to manage the tyres better in the race. That’s the key.”

Ayao Komatsu took over from Steiner as team principal, representing a pivot from a business brain to an engineering focus.

A beaming Komatsu said in Australia: “It’s amazing, two races in a row. A whole team effort. The boys did an amazing job.

“If I’m honest, our race operation was not perfect. We could have done much better. But honestly I am so happy."

Komatsu said their sole error was: “Kevin’s first pit stop. That strategy wasn’t right. Same as Bahrain, we can’t keep making those mistakes.”

Sky Sports’ Karun Chandhok insists that the first two rounds of the 2024 season hinted at Haas’ progress.

“I wouldn’t say surprised,” Chandhok reacted to their brilliant Australia result.

“They had good race pace in the first two races.

“I am really happy for Komatsu. Steiner is a huge character with big shoes to fill.

“When Komatsu was announced as the new team principal there was a collective groan across the paddock, like ‘that’s an underwhelming choice’.

“But people underestimated him. A) he’s passionate B) he’s engineer-driven in his decisions.

“I met him when he worked with Anthony Davidson in 2001.

“He’s changed the mindset in that team, and their approach.

“It’s performance, performance, performance in every decision that they make. And it’s paying dividends.”

Haas are seventh in the F1 constructors’ championship after the first three rounds of the 2024 season, with four points.

Below them, Sauber, Williams and Alpine await their first point.

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