Haas turned its attention to 2024 well in advance, taking advantage of the last Grands Prix of 2023 to test some functional innovations for the next project. In Austin in particular, one had been introduced new bodywork coupled with a revised bottom, innovations which according to the team constituted a change of concept in view of the new season. However, despite the scope of the updates, the VF-23 did not make a leap in performance, instead losing some of its downforce. The recent events of the American team thus become emblematic of the time needed to implement a technical revolution.
Pros and cons
The temporary poor performance of the new package developed by Haas does not only emerge from the results. In fact, after racing with the new specification in Austin, Mexico and Brazil, Nico Hulkenberg preferred to return to the start-of-season configuration for the last two races in Las Vegas and Abu Dhabi. “It depends on personal preference”, the German’s explanation. “We had three races with the new package and although there might have been some small benefits, there were also some not so good aspects. It wasn’t the step up we needed from a big update and I think I just feel it a little more comfortable and confident with the old package”.
Hulkenberg’s words reinforce what has already been expressed by other drivers and engineers. In fact, a change of concept goes beyond a simple update to the bodywork, but is linked to way the car works aerodynamically and mechanically to achieve a certain performance. So the updates mounted on the VF-23 have altered its characteristics, moving away from the preferences of the German pilot. On the other hand, Kevin Magnussen positively described the behavior of Haas in its new guise, choosing to use it until the end of the season.
“The updated car is more in line with plans for next year”, explains Magnussen. “The concept resembles what we are thinking about for the new season. It’s not actually faster or given us more downforce, but it’s better from a driving point of view, easier, the balance is more constant. This is why you don’t see a step backwards when we race with the new spec, despite having less load. This is what we need to delve into over the winter, develop in that direction and hopefully we can take a step forward for next year.”
The feedback from the Haas drivers during the season was similar to that of the Ferrari duo. Magnussen and Hulkenberg have repeatedly described a car that is as fast on the flying lap as it is inconsistent in the race, with a tendency to slide and overheat the tyres, the victim of a operating window too narrow. Rethinking the car concept and making the car work in a different way has instead made the VF-23 more docile to drive, increasing the confidence of the drivers or at least one of the two.
Advances in consistency and handling have allowed Haas to maintain similar performance levels despite the loss of downforce. The drop in downforce is emblematic of the difficulty encountered by all the teams who revolutionized their concept during the season. Reach immediately and in an alternative way the same performance as an older concept developed for over a year can be prohibitive. The initial loss, however, is compensated by the prospect of greater growth in the long term.
The McLaren case
Despite having undertaken a process of renewing the vehicle concept, Haas will have to wait before seeing a leap in performance. A very similar story is the one that has characterized the growth of McLaren. The updates introduced in Austria immediately brought the Woking team back to the podium, which however had already taken a new path since the Baku Grand Prix. On that occasion, however, the leap in performance was not immediate after the change in concept. “The Baku bottom was an update from a conceptual point of view”the explanation by Andrea Stella. “He brought some performance, but it can be quantified as less than two tenths per lap. The leap we’ve made with the updates in Austria is potentially even bigger, conceptually speaking.”. The Haas case and like it the McLaren one are emblematic of the waiting time necessary after a change of concept, potentially the source of a momentary loss of performance at the beginning, but whose potential then emerges in the long run.
#improving #losing #load #Haas #case #symbolic