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Haas declare ‘we can fight this year’ after F1 Bahrain Grand Prix

At first blush, it was not the result that Haas was hoping for from the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix.

But when you dig a little deeper, the Formula 1 team might feel much better about their chances this year than they did a season ago.

After qualifying in P10 for the first race of the season, Nico Hülkenberg suffered front wing damage on the first turn of the year, which required an early pit stop and saw him finish outside of the points. Teammate Kevin Magnussen, who began the day in P15, picked up a few spots to finish in P12, but still outside the points.

However, the team leaves Bahrain believing the race was largely a “positive” result for them, and that they can truly fight with the teams around them on the grid.

“I’m kind of pleased – not over the moon, as we didn’t score points – but it seems like we have a car which is a bit better on the tires this year, not necessarily quicker than last year but at least better on tires, and I think we’ve shown that today,” said Magnussen in the team’s post-race recap. “Nonetheless, it’s only one track, one bit of tarmac, and one set of conditions so we still have to show that elsewhere. It’s been a good couple of weeks of work, the team has done a really good job, and we’re in a good place – we just need to find more.”

A big story for the team throughout the past two weeks — from pre-season testing through the Bahrain Grand Prix — was their work to solve tire degradation issues from a season ago. Last year the VF-23 showed tremendous one-lap pace, most notably when Hülkenberg qualified on the front row alongside Max Verstappen for the Canadian Grand Prix, but as soon as the races began, they were sliding back through the field.

For Magnussen to pick up a few spots, and Hülkenberg able to do so as well after sliding back to P20 after his early pit stop, shows that the team might have solved that particular riddle.

Photo by Joe Portlock – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Even Hülkenberg, despite his bitter start, was able to see the positives.

“It’s very frustrating and disappointing, and it was a very similar scenario to last year into Turn 4 at the start. On a positive note, our race pace and tire degradation looked pretty reasonable compared to the other midfield runners, and I think we’re fighting Williams, Sauber and RB, so I guess we take that as a positive,” said the Haas driver. “There will be more findings after today, things to improve and optimize on. Jeddah is obviously a very different circuit with completely different characteristics, so we’ll see what we get there but it feels like we have a much better foundation to work with compared to last year.”

Team Principal Ayao Komatsu, in his first race in that role at Haas, also saw the positives from Saturday night’s race.

And made a declaration about where the team stands after one race.

“Okay it wasn’t the perfect race, Nico had a bad start and damaged his front wing which essentially meant his race was over at that point. Kevin’s race showed that we can fight this year.

“We don’t have the best degradation but at least in the midfield, we can fight for the points.”

Going forward, Komatsu is predicting a strong showing for the team in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, which comes in just a week.

“We didn’t do a perfect strategy but even then, Kevin was fighting in the midfield until the last moments which was a huge positive. We know the margin of error is very, very small so we need to step-up on that side as well,” added Komatsu. “There are huge positives to take from this weekend and then looking forward to another chance next weekend. We’re really looking forward to a strong show again in Jeddah.”

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