Haas’ upgrade-less performances have quietly stunned the F1 paddock, leaving prospective rivals, including the likes of Mercedes no less, full of praise for the small team.
The team’s VF-22 hasn’t competed with any new upgrades since pre-season testing, marking the only team currently yet to develop their 2022 car. This comes after the team spent the entirety of last season without developing their 2021 car, fully focusing on this year’s design.
At the Canadian GP, Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher locked out the third row of the grid with a P5 and P6 and have since gone on to take two double points finishes at the British and Austrian Grands Prix.
Remarkably, it has been the less experienced Schumacher who has finished ahead of Magnussen on both occasions, with a P8 and P10 at Silverstone for the team and a P6 and P8 at the Red Bull Ring. Schumacher’s P6 is made even sweeter by the notion that he started the race in P9, displaying comparatively good qualifying pace too.
Magnussen split the two McLarens in the Austria finishing results, and split the Aston Martin pair at Silverstone while Schumacher battled profusely with the admittedly damaged Red Bull of Max Verstappen until the chequered flag, to the delight of the capacity crowd.
At certain stages of each of these weekends, Haas have been impressively within the ballpark of the much-improved Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell in terms of lap times. Whether the Ferrari-powered team have simply got lucky, as it were, with two circuits that happened to suit their car is unclear, but the pace was certainly there in multiple scenarios and types of corners.
The Ferrari team’s principal Mattia Binotto is happy for the Haas team, who have recently acquired their own small outpost in Maranello, but suggests that the last two circuits have allowed their car to adapt better than at others.
“Honestly, updates I don’t know,” Binotto said when asked on Haas’ clear recent run of performance. “But I think showing that… At first I think that some teams, top teams, brought some upgrades but sometimes what you’re doing is really small details, because there is not much you can do and those cars are quite prescriptive, and there is not much you can do after the first.
“You’ve decided the layout of the car and you decided the first project so it’s great for them that it’s still doing well. I see it’s about maximising always the potential of the car at each single race. Maybe those last two races are adapting better to their car, I don’t know, but on our side as well we didn’t brought much development the season so far and we are trying to keep up the pace and we are still fighting for the pole, which is great so showing that if we can do it they can do it as well.”
Mercedes CEO and team principal Toto Wolff echoes Binotto’s praises, pointing out the importance of getting your car into the right set-up window with the new generation of cars. This is arguably something that Mercedes know about all too well from the early races of this season.
“It’s great that Guenther’s gang can be competitive out there,” Wolff says. “We’ve seen it in the last few races they were right up there and we certainly had them on the radar to compete with us, and that’s fun.
“Not bringing any update, it shows that if you put the car in a happy spot setup-wise, this is where you can unlock a lot of potential rather than adding a tenth or two in aerodynamic downforce. That doesn’t translate always in lap time, so they have done a great job.”
In light of the support and applause from rivals and media, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner revealed that Magnussen and Schumacher are genuinely surprised that the VF-22 can produce the results it has while others publicly introduce major upgrades. He is confident in the team’s plans and direction and emphasises believing in their package.
“I would say a lot of people are surprised,” Steiner summed up. “We knew there was more to come and we therefore said why should we rush to do something. Even the drivers are saying ‘I’d never have believed this car can still qualify sixth and seventh when all the others bring packages’.
“I told them ‘yeah, they bring packages, but you guys don’t know what packages they bring, so how can you judge those packages?’ We know exactly what we are doing and can just try and do our best. We need to believe in ourselves and we did.”
Steiner also reveals that the team are not planning on repeating the 2021 development process, of which the team admitted there was none for the car racing at the time, by planning an upgrade package before the summer break at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
“I think we have proven the car is still strong and there will be a package coming and hopefully it gets even stronger… Can you imagine if we had upgrades where we are?” Steiner joked.
“I always say upgrades are overrated, in my opinion, and we will bring some in Hungary – hopefully they will work as they should. I don’t always follow what the others are doing, you need to go your own way, and we decided in Barcelona not to bring anything just to bring them because it wasn’t good enough. We developed more and hopefully, when we bring them in Hungary, they will work.”
Here’s Kevin Magnussen, Mick Schumacher on Austria result