Haas crisis continues: VF-23 upgrades fail to elevate team

F1 2023 HAAS
Kevin Magnussen (DEN) Haas VF-23 leaves the pits. 06.10.2023 Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 18, Qatar Grand Prix, Doha, Qatar, Qualifying Day. - www.xpbimages.com, EMail: requests@xpbimages.com © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images

Haas is in an unenviable position to conclude the 2023 season, with the VF-23 making no progress with its upgrades. The optimism surrounding the team in testing, where they seemed capable of fighting for points, is largely dissipated.

The year’s opening rounds validated this optimism, with Kevin Magnussen finishing 10th in Jeddah. Considering there were relatively few DNFS, this result was hard-earned. Hulkenberg was next to score points in Australia, which he would have secured even without the late sequence of red flags.

Another strong showing from Magnussen earned him another P10 in Miami. Again, the result doesn’t quite do the Dane justice – given he spent significant parts of the race fighting with front-runners like Charles Leclerc.

At this stage of the season, tyre degradation was already a notable problem for Haas. However, it wasn’t seen as an utterly debilitating issue. After all, this issue was only present at certain Grand Prix, creating the impression that it was either somewhat manageable or not too severe.

MELBOURNE GRAND PRIX CIRCUIT, AUSTRALIA – APRIL 02: Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23 during the Australian GP at Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday April 02, 2023 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Simon Galloway / LAT Images)

Unfortunately, the remainder of 2023 paints a far more concerning picture. Even at the Austria Sprint race – where Hulkenberg was running comfortably in the top 3 – his intermediates fell off a cliff. He still managed to recover for points, but a far more meaningful result was lost.

Since then, the battle for points has been more of a desperate scramble for Guenther Steiner’s team. The upgrades introduced at the Austin GP have largely failed, with Hulkenberg especially critical of the latest changes.

Nico Hulkenberg prefers the team’s previous car specification. The team is willing to revert to the pre-upgraded version of the VF-23 for the German. Meanwhile, Kevin Magnussen will run the updated car.

In this sense, Haas is clearly unsure about their direction. For the upcoming 2024 season, this is obviously a significant concern. Time will tell if the situation becomes more positive at the American outfit.