Haas will run different specification packages on its cars for this week’s Las Vegas Grand Prix as the team caters to the preferences of its drivers.
Nico Hulkenberg will revert to the VF-23’s pre-US Grand Prix spec package while Kevin Magnussen will continue with the most recent aero spec introduced by the team in Austin.
Last month, Haas rolled out a significantly revised car at The Circuit of the Americas, with its Red Bull-inspired changes representing a veritable change of philosophy for the team.
The US outfit, which was the last outfit on the grid to convert to the bulls’ trademark downwash sidepod concept, hoped that the overhaul would not only improve its car’s aerodynamic efficiency and establish a foundation for next season but also solve its chronic tyre degradation issues.
Haas was challenged in Austin to gain a good understanding of its new package due to the compressed schedule of the US Grand Prix’s sprint weekend.
In Mexico, the team had more time on its hand to gauge its potential improvements – or lack of. But the track’s altitude, which typically deprives cars of downforce, left Haas once again with little clarity.
In Brazil last time out – again a sprint event – the team’s drivers had little to show for their efforts. Hulkenberg outqualified Magnussen for Sunday’s Grand Prix and finished P12 while the Dane was eliminated at the outset following a start-line crash with Williams’ Alex Albon.
Haas team boss Guenther Steiner explained the team’s split specification approach for Vegas.
“The main drive behind this was Nico feels that for him the old spec suits him better, and Kevin is the opposite,” he explained.
“We’ve opted to give them what they want, we have two races to go and nothing to lose, so we’ve tried to do what we can.
“We could discuss gathering data, but we’ve got enough data, it’s a decision based on what each driver likes more than anything else.
“It puts them in a comfortable position so that they’re as happy as they can be with the car they get.”
Like its rivals, Haas will be facing some specific challenges in Sin City at around the venue’s 6.2km track that will see drivers speed down Vegas’ renowned Strip.
“The low temperatures are a challenge, as everyone knows you need to keep the tyres higher than the minimum temperature, which is higher than five degrees, so we always need to keep them a bit warmer, but it depends also a lot on the asphalt.
“It’s a combination of temperature and roughness of asphalt, but I don’t think degradation can get much worse for us than in Brazil.
“On Thursday, during practice, we’ll get to know the surface, the track, the temperature and then we’ll know more.”
Both Magnussen and Hulkenberg are eager to get acquainted with Vegas’ fast street circuit and both drivers agree that tyre temperatures amid projected single digit ambient temps will be a crucial factor as every session will take place during the evening in Nevada.
“Before Brazil, I have to say I didn’t know too much about the track, but since I’ve been in the simulator,” explained Magnussen.
“After Brazil I immediately switched focus to Las Vegas, getting to know the track and all the corners.
“If it’s going to be that cold in the night, then getting the tyres up to temperature is going to be very difficult.
“We could see some spectacle – it’s going to be all about getting temperature in the tyres. Downforce helps with that, so let’s see how we go.”
“No driver will have had extensive preparation for this one, so practice is going to be important,” added the Hulk.
“I don’t normally do a track walk, so let’s see if I do one here, could be a unique way of seeing all the sights of the Vegas strip.
“For a race weekend, it is unique to be running in such low temperatures, so we’ll have to see how easy it is to warm up our tyres.”