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Formula 1 Japanese GP

Komatsu insists no ‘bull***t smokescreen’ over Haas F1 form prediction

Haas Formula 1 boss Ayao Komatsu has challenged the suggestion of his predecessor Guenther Steiner that the team downplayed pre-season expectations when it knew it had a good car.

Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

In a media call last week, Steiner suggested that prior to his departure, the wind tunnel numbers already suggested that the VF-24 would be competitive and that the team was "wrong" to take a low-key approach when predicting its potential form.

The car has already proved capable of making Q3 and Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen have made the points three times between them, putting the team in seventh place in the constructors’ table.

Komatsu insists that the team couldn’t have predicted such potential as it didn’t know how much progress rivals would make.

“I knew how much we were finding,” he noted in Suzuka on Thursday. “But I’ve got to assume everybody else is finding at least the same or more because I know how late we started. I know we stopped for two months to do the Austin upgrade.

“Then we are the smallest team, right? It's not like we've got more advanced methodology. Now, I'm sure everybody else is as clever as anybody else, on average.

“So that's what my baseline is. It's not about bullshitting or putting up a smokescreen or anything. That's my expectation of reality.

“And knowing that number, I'm sorry, but it's not a big number. So, there's no way I would have thought that would be good enough for P7. No way. Then how can you expect Alpine to do what they did? Would you predict that? No.

“Then you cannot bank on somebody messing it up, you’ve got to assume they are doing a good job.”

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Komatsu did admit that he downplayed expectations not for the outside world but in part so that team members would not be disappointed if Haas remained stuck in the 10th position that it achieved in 2023.

“Internally as well, I don't want my people to see the car Bahrain in P10, and then get depressed and get the heads down,” he said.

“Because I just wanted to make sure, 'You guys know what you're doing, you just didn't have enough time to put enough performance on the car - it's not your fault if we are P10 in Bahrain.’

“That's the internal message I just wanted to be clear. So I needed to prepare my guys that for Bahrain, when we are last, they don't get depressed about it.

“Then they’ve got the grounds to say, 'Okay, this is where we're going to start, this is where we're going to improve.’

“So that's more internal message if you like, but it's not a bullshit smokescreen. Seriously, that was my expectation.”

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Komatsu conceded that the Bahrain test indicated that the VF-24 had potential, despite the focus on tyre management rather than outright performance.

“When we did pre-season testing, after day one, day two, looking at our long run pace, I thought we could fight against maybe two or three other teams,” he said. “I didn't know exactly about how much, but somewhere around P8, P7.

“But yeah, I only knew that once we started running. And also in terms of, let's say, downforce we generate from the car - it's very different from what wind tunnel says.

“That within itself is a problem. But part of it is a good surprise. Could I predict that, looking at the wind tunnel number? No way.”

Asked if the car is producing more downforce than expected he said: “I don't particularly want to go into detail. But it's not like that. It's not linear.

“But certain characteristics we see on the track – it may not be great on, let's say, in the simple number, outright number, headline number, should I say - but in terms of characteristics, it's much more usable, so the driver can extract it.

"So if you've got like a peaky car, a driver can get to the limit maybe once in a while. But if you have got, let's say, a benign car – okay, absolute performance is less, but nine out of ten, he can get there.

“If you look at a race over 305kms, which car do you want? Of course, you want a benign car. And then this year's car may not be by design, but on certain parts of the car, we got that benign car.

“So that's why drivers can grow confidence from it. Again, if somebody can tell that from the wind tunnel, that's amazing.”

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