Well, are we certainly glad we waited to start this series.

Beginning today we are looking back — and starting to look ahead — in the Formula 1 world. Working our way up through the grid we will look back at how each team fared in 2023, as well as taking a look at their prospects for the 2024 F1 season.

We start at the bottom of the table with Haas, the lone American team on the grid, at least for now. To say this was an underwhelming year for Haas would be an understatement. Prior to the start of 2023 the decision was made to replace Mick Schumacher with veteran driver Nico Hülkenberg, and with Kevin Magnussen already in the fold, that gave Haas two experienced drivers for the 2023 campaign.

The result?

Just 12 points, and a last-place finish in the Constructors’ Championship.

Then came the thunderbolt as the 2024 calendar year began. Earlier this month it was announced that Guenther Steiner, the only Team Principal Haas has ever known and one of the driving forces behind the team, was out. Steiner became a well-known figure in the F1 world thanks to his star turn on the Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive, and you can be sure Netflix executives are wondering where to shift the focus going forward.

2023 highlight: Canadian Grand Prix Qualifying

On a Saturday afternoon in June, everything broke right for Haas and Hülkenberg.

Ultimately the story for Haas in 2023 was the difference between their qualifying pace, and their race pace. The VF-23 was often strong during qualifying, particularly in Hülkenberg’s hands, but races were a much different story.

On that afternoon in Montreal, the teams were dealing with wet conditions, which made strategy rather tricky. During the third and final qualifying session, Max Verstappen went out early and laid down a lap which eventually put him on pole. But right before more rain came — which would ultimately lead to an early end to Q3 — Hülkenberg put in a thunderous lap of his own, which put him into P2 and on the front row alongside Verstappen.

However, much like their season as a whole, the joy was short-lived. Hülkenberg was hit with a three-place penalty for a failure to slow down under a red flag, which came out when Oscar Piastri hit the wall. That meant that Hülkenberg started the race in P5, and he ultimately finished out of the points.

It was that kind of season for the team.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Photo by Emmanuele Ciancaglini/Ciancaphoto Studio/Getty Images

2023 lowlight: Monaco Grand Prix

The streets of Monte Carlo were anything but glamorous for Haas this season. became something of a house of horrors for Haas. Both Magnussen and Hülkenberg failed to advance out of Q1, and started at the back of the field on a circuit where overtaking comes at a premium. Magnussen started the Monaco Grand Prix in P17, while Hülkenberg was behind him in P18.

Things did not exactly improve in the race. Magnussen made contact with Lance Stroll midway through the race, and then later he crashed again, forcing an early retirement from the race. As for Hülkenberg, he came into contact early with Logan Sargeant and was eventually given a five-second penalty for causing the collision. Then he was hit with a ten-second penalty, when he failed to serve that initial penalty properly.

Hülkenberg was eventually classified in P17, with Magnussen in P19.

“We tried everything possible today to get into the points. There’s no point in finishing twelfth, thirteenth or fourteenth so we decided to take a gamble at the end staying out and then pitting for full wets as you never know what can happen, but it didn’t work out,” said Steiner after the Monaco Grand Prix. “The race was lost yesterday in qualifying, and we knew that if something special doesn’t happen, we cannot get into the points. We tried, everybody was working hard to get it done. We got a penalty – we don’t know what for on lap 1 – again, inconsistency from the FIA there, but it seems to be what now is normal.”

Outlook for 2024

What a difference a week makes.

Massive changes have come to Haas in the last few days, not only with the departure of Steiner, but also the departure of Simone Resta, the team’s Technical Director. Ayao Komatsu steps into Steiner’s role, having previously served as the team’s Director of Engineering.

That move shines a light on where the team needs to improve.

As noted above, one-lap pace was not the problem for Haas, but race pace certainly was. Looking ahead to their 2024 challenger, they need to do better in this department, and to avoid the tire degradation issues that plagued them a season ago. When reports of Resta’s departure surfaced, there was speculation that a difference between Resta and Gene Haas, the team’s owner, was at the heart of the situation. Resta wanted to focus on development for the VF-23 during last season, while Haas wanted to forge ahead with a vision similar to Red Bull’s RB19 for the 2024 campaign.

When you are the one signing the checks, you get to make the big decisions.

They have two capable, veteran drivers, and a car that at times performed well on Saturdays. If they can sort things out for Sundays, they can climb out of the cellar.

If not …

F1 Winter Testing in Barcelona - Day Two

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images

Person under the most pressure to perform in 2024: Ayao Komatsu

Until recently Kevin Magnussen’s name was listed here.

Hülkenberg’s return shined a new light on the driver lineup at Haas. Back in 2022 Magnussen out-qualified Schumacher in 16 of the 22 races, but that number was flipped a season ago, with Hülkenberg coming out ahead 15-7 in qualifying against his teammate. If Haas wants to climb out of the cellar, they’ll need a bit more from Magnussen.

But that all went out the window with the sacking of Steiner. Ayao Komatsu is stepping into massive shoes here, and the spotlight will be on him all season long.



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