Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner has hailed the impact Nico Hulkenberg has already had on the team since his arrival at the start of the year.
After two years of fielding an inconsistent and crash-prone Mick Schumacher, Haas acquired the experience of Hulkenberg to go alongside Kevin Magnussen for 2023.
Although Magnussen bagged the team’s first point of the year in Saudi Arabia, Hulkenberg has had the measure of his new team-mate in qualifying, starting inside the top 10 at both races.
Steiner considers the German’s storming form over one lap to be a positive for the American outfit in providing early healthy competition internally.
“I think he has given us what we were looking for,” Steiner said. “And we could see it immediately. I mean, Kevin struggled in qualifying, Nico didn’t.
“But Kevin is not upset about it. Actually, he is pretty happy that Nico didn’t struggle, because he knows he just needs to get there.
“Otherwise, it was like, ‘what is wrong here?’. To be qualified 15th and 18th, it’s just like a disaster.
“But we got into Q3 pretty, pretty strong [in Bahrain]. So Kevin knows it’s there. He just needs to get there.”
Having predicted that there wouldn’t be a midfield pack this season and following those comments up by claiming there is no backmarker team in ’23 after two events, Steiner is aware that it is likely to boil down to fine margins that could separate positions in the Constructors’ standings.
For the first time since its introduction in 2021, Haas is set to operate at the budget cap this year due to its new title sponsorship with American company Moneygram.
While Schumacher eventually got to grips and delivered solid points in Austria and Britain last year, the inexperienced German’s best form came when the car was at its least competitive.
Costly crashes in Saudi Arabia and Monaco at the beginning of the campaign also did little to endear Schumacher to the team’s top brass.
With Hulkenberg appearing to have got to grips with the VF-23 immediately, Steiner has suggested that his new recruit being on the pace at the start of the year could make a significant difference to Haas’ chances this season.
“That’s why we took him,” he declared. “You think I say that with hindsight, but we all know that with this regulation that was the direction everyone is going.
“There are 10 good teams there. Now, they’re all working on a very similar budget, they have got all good drivers, they’re all solid financially, they’re all solid technically.
“So what is happening is that it’s getting closer, everything. And little – or rather big! – things like a driver will make a difference, just to get the best out immediately.
“And that is what we wanted, just an experienced driver who can get us in that direction. So obviously, we are pretty happy with what happened.”
After frequent clashes occurred Magnussen and ex-team-mate Romain Grosjean in their four years alongside each other, Haas has imposed strict orders on its latest driver pairing when it comes to racing each other.
Both drivers have accepted the ruling as being beneficial to the team.
“We have a policy at Haas that we don’t block each other, we don’t fight each other,” explained Magnussen.
“I can push to try and keep him behind, but I can’t close the door and stuff like that.
“So it’s kind of just being nice to each other and making sure that we are working for the team, and not for ourselves.”
“I think it’s a good rule,” Hulkenberg added. “We don’t want to make each other’s lives harder. We’re here to maximise our performance and score as a team.
“So I think we’re perfectly fine. No problems there. I overtook him and there were absolutely no problems.”
Aiming to build on its point finish from last time out, the Haas team has endured mixed fortunes at the Australian Grand Prix in years gone.
Grosjean scored a remarkable fifth-place finish on the side’s F1 debut in 2016.
However, one of the darkest days in the side’s short history emerged only two years later when successive pit stop failures put both cars out when on course for top-six finishes.
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