Haas F1 team owner Gene Haas has set an ambitious performance target of being around half a second behind technical partner Ferrari during the upcoming Formula 1 season.
The American team showed signs of greater consistency during their second year on the grid in 2017 but much like their first, couldn't sustain the development level later admitting they changed focus to this year too soon.
Haas F1 will hope that does bring some benefits of being stronger at the beginning of this season, however, in what is an important and likely to be very competitive year in the midfield.
“It looks like everyone is going to be better,” Haas said in a season preview. “It’s no secret we use a lot of Ferrari equipment, so we’re using them as our baseline. We need to be within a half-second of the Ferraris in order for us to be competitive."
Looking at where the biggest gains can be made compared to last year, eliminating key weaknesses was top of the list for the Kannapolis and Banbury-based outfit.
“Tyres are the toughest issue we have," Haas stated. “The tyres are very sensitive to downforce, overheating and sliding, but in order to get the tyres right, you have to have the right chassis and the right aero.
"Without all of that working right, the cars become very difficult for the drivers and you can’t expect them to make up for a car that just doesn’t have the capability of holding the track.”
The team owner also addressed comments earlier this year from his team principal Guenther Steiner, who suggested no current American drivers were ready for F1 when explaining why none had yet to drive for Haas.
“The fact is that we’re still learning here in F1 and bringing on a driver who needs to learn about F1 probably isn’t the best thing for us or them," he claimed.
“I felt like there were times last year where our drivers were better than our cars. So, we need to step up, but we know where we need to improve thanks in large part to the experience of our drivers."
On American drivers, in particular, Haas added: “We’re not saying no to having an American driver, this debate about American drivers really isn’t a debate. I believe in American drivers.
"The discipline is different, but sure, there are competent American drivers who can compete in F1, we’re not ready for that yet.
'Getting anyone up to speed who hasn’t already been a part of a development program would be hard. I think that’s the point Guenther was trying to make.”
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