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Haas Formula 1 team makes big changes for 2024 and beyond

by SuperiorInvest

The name on the door of the Haas Formula 1 team remains unchanged. But, ahead of the 2024 Formula 1 season, there has been a major leadership change.

Guenther Steiner, founding director of the only American Formula 1 team, has died. In his place, Haas has promoted Ayao Komatsu, who had been the team's engineering director. Like Steiner, Komatsu had worked with Haas since entering Formula 1 in 2016. But it was his boss who had a high profile among Formula 1 fans due to Steiner's popularity in the Netflix series “Drive to Survive.”

Steiner's contract was due to expire at the end of the year, but his position did not appear to be outwardly threatened.

Then Gene Haas, the team's owner, informed Steiner after Christmas that he would not be offered a new contract, after which Haas moved Komatsu to the top job.

Haas said in an interview published in January on the Formula 1 website that its decision “came down to performance” after the team finished last in the constructors' championship and eighth the previous year. In its eight seasons in Formula 1, the team has never won a race and its best result was finishing fourth in Austria in 2018.

But there was also a disagreement between Steiner and Haas over what investment was needed to improve results.

Haas said he “cannot understand how we can be [last] with all the equipment and people we have.” Steiner, however, wanted Haas to invest more money to improve the team's production facilities.

This is something many Formula 1 teams have been doing since the sport introduced its new financial rules in 2021, which restrict how much teams can spend. In 2024, it will be 135 million dollars.

Other teams can find savings by improving their equipment and production processes. But the Haas team's model of buying as many car parts as possible from its supplier, Ferrari, meant its spending was largely locked in.

“You're on the outside, you look in and you say, 'Wow, I pushed for a long time, seeing where other people were going,'” Steiner said in a mid-January interview in Birmingham, England, about the team's model change. .

“Now you just have to be very efficient. You need to invest the money and configure everything so that you have a very efficient machine. Our model may no longer be the most efficient. Well, not our model, your model, because I'm not there anymore.”

Gene Haas said he chose Komatsu to succeed Steiner because Komatsu had been “with the team since day 1, he knows the ins and outs.”

Haas didn't want an outsider to waste time learning the team's methods. The team is also in the process of hiring a director of operations to assist the new team manager.

Komatsu also brings important skills to the Haas team. Komatsu's recent position means the team now has an engineer as team leader. This follows a trend at other Formula 1 teams, including McLaren and Aston Martin, which have performed well.

The logic behind this is to have leaders who understand what resources are needed to make faster cars thanks to their engineering background.

Komatsu also shares Gene Haas' belief that the team can be successful with the facilities and investment it already has.

“I think with what we have we can do a better job, without a doubt,” Komatsu told reporters in late January at the Haas factory in Banbury, England, although he also said he expected the team to continue struggling this year. . “And if we put it together, I'm sure we can do much better. Then, once we get to the stage where with what we have we are maximizing [race results]“We are an effective racing team.”

Kevin Magnussen, one of the team's drivers, has been working with Komatsu for six seasons. Magnussen said replacing Steiner was a “big change.”

“It's going to change the dynamic and the communication throughout the organization,” Magnussen said in an interview posted Feb. 20 on the Haas team website.

This will also be evident to those watching Haas from the outside. Komatsu has promised that he will not seek the same profile as his former boss, who had many admirers due to his outspoken style.

“I'm not trying to be Guenther Steiner,” Komatsu said. “She is a very different person. He has very different strengths and weaknesses than me. Gene knows this, and if Gene wanted Steiner's replacement that way, he would have appointed someone else.

“I'll try to be the best version of myself instead of trying to be someone else.”

Gene Haas' explanation of the change in leadership at his Formula 1 team has increased the pressure. The 71-year-old coach commits to his team to “survive for the next 10 years.” He said he was not interested in selling, as he almost did in 2020 before new financial rule changes led to a change of heart.

But the team has a big challenge ahead in the 2024 Formula 1 season. Its new car is not expected to be significantly better than its predecessor.

That racing car had a problem with its aerodynamic design and damaged its tires during races. Magnussen and his partner Nico Hülkenberg often retreated from their starting positions. Solving this problem was a process that Haas began at the end of 2023 with a major redesign of its car.

Komatsu is leaving expectations low for the new season, given the time it may take to resolve major car problems with the long production lead times required to manufacture new Formula 1 parts. He does not expect many improvements for 2024.

“Out of the gates,” he said, “I still think we will be towards the back of the grid, if not the last.”

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