Hulkenberg’s China sprint shows Haas «not completely out» of tyre issues

Haas has made considerable progress on the issue that blighted its F1 campaign last year, which was caused by a fundamental aerodynamic imbalance that meant the VF-23 could get its tyres working well for qualifying, but would then chew through them in races.

In preparing its VF-24 2024 challenger in pre-season testing, Haas spent most of its time in Bahrain completing long-run efforts in a bid to reduce its tyre problem through the design changes it had made in the off-season.

These appeared to pay off, with Hulkenberg scoring in the season’s second round and Komatsu having felt «we can race this year in the midfield» from the season-opener before Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen doubled up in Australia.

In last weekend’s opening race in Shanghai, Hulkenberg plummeted from a 13th-place starting spot to finish last, blaming «a wrong turn on the set-up» as he quickly encountered severe tyre degradation while running in the pack.

After Hulkenberg scored a point with 10th in the following day’s grand prix, Komatsu explained how his driver’s inconsistent weekend highlighted the ‘fine-margins’ challenge Haas is still facing to avoid high levels of tyre wear.

When asked if Haas felt the old tyre situation had been fully solved or if Hulkenberg’s sprint situation had caught it by surprise, Komatsu replied: «I wouldn’t say it’s gone, gone».

«For instance, we expected certain things [in China], we experienced something different,» he told Autosport.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24, Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber C44

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-24, Valtteri Bottas, Kick Sauber C44

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

«You can look at Nico’s sprint – it’s not only the tyre problem, but a result of a few combined factors, [but] we killed Nico’s tyre.

«I cannot say still [that] 100% we are completely over it. I think this circuit, with this temperature, and then these compounds exposed some new areas.

«But because we focused on that I think [it’s] something we can work on to improve to cover.

«[If] we come here again, we’ll probably come up with slightly different configurations, which we haven’t got at this minute.»

«If you look at Kevin’s [sprint] race – a solid race, finished in P10. But his pace wasn’t great.

«The way Nico dropped back is not one factor – it’s a combination of factors. But you can see how sensitive it is.

«If you get into certain conditions, scenarios, if you don’t have the margin to keep the tyres in a good state, that’s what can happen.

«So then, learning from that, we need to have a car – everything, set-up configuration, driving – to give ourselves a bit more margin so that if certain situations happen, the tyres not gonna die [and] we’re not completely out of it.»

Komatsu added that «it’s good that we put it right for this [main] race» via returning to a previous set-up arrangement Haas knew would work for the tyres over longer stints rather than some «slight differences» it tried that «actually made the car worse», as Hulkenberg was referring too.

He concluded: «Nico’s [GP] pace, it wasn’t amazing, but still, it’s pretty good [to score a point].»

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