Haas chief Günther Steiner is braced for a "crowded" midfield fight in Formula 1 this year despite the team being tipped by many to impress following its display through pre-season testing.

Haas ended the winter running in Barcelona as the fifth-fastest team in the overall standings as well as showing a solid long-run pace, leading the likes of McLaren racing director Eric Boullier and Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to tip them to be strong at the start of the season.

The Haas team remained coy about its chances following pre-season testing, and while Steiner refused to put any firm expectations on the race weekend in Melbourne, he admitted to feeling upbeat about the squad's chances.

"I would say we are cautiously optimistic - but again testing is not qualifying or a race. We still have a long way to go," Steiner said.

"We will know more on Saturday where we really stand with the other ones. We know where we are, but even if we are magic, if somebody is mega-magic, we are still behind them.

"I'm waiting, but test two looked good for us. The drivers are happy with the car which is always a good thing to have. We'll see what we can do on Saturday and Sunday."

In the second year of the updated technical regulations, Steiner said he expects greater convergence in the midfield as Haas battles with the likes of Renault, McLaren, Toro Rosso, Force India and Williams.

"I think it will be pretty close, I would say within half a second. It will be a crowded area within half a second," Steiner said.

"I think almost all of them can be there. It’s a step up from last year, I think they will group more together.

"Last year, there were a few teams that were on top of it. I don’t think there is anyone on top of it."

Haas F1 driver Kevin Magnussen backed up his team principal's view when asked by Crash.net about the cluttered midfield fight, predicting that five or six teams could be battling together.

"I think it’s going to be a very close fight between McLaren, Renault, probably still Force India, and Toro Rosso," Magnussen said.

"Hard to say where Williams is, but they are probably going to be in there as well at some point - and then hopefully ourselves."


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