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Formula 1 Pre-Season Test

Haas F1 engineers “can’t bull****” new team boss Komatsu

Haas engineers “can’t bull****” new Formula 1 team boss Ayao Komatsu owing to his vast technical experience in the championship, according to driver Nico Hulkenberg.

Outspoken and popular founding Haas team principal Guenther Steiner left the squad over the winter as his contract came to an end.

Steiner also had a disagreement with owner Gene Haas that related to the technical structure and level of investment required to climb the constructors’ standings, after the American squad finished last in 2023.

Former BAR and Renault engineer Komatsu, the team’s trackside engineering director since its 2016 debut, has taken the reins. Given his background, Hulkenberg says the engineers cannot get away with “bullshit” because he “knows what’s going on”.

Speaking at pre-season testing in Bahrain, the German said: “He’s a totally different guy, different character. That's pretty obvious. He's an engineer. Different background.

“He has a lot of experience and know-how. Engineers can't bullshit him, no one can bullshit him because he knows what's going on. He looks [at] things very much from the technical side.

“What he's done so far already, the restructuring within the technical department, it looks good. He's obviously trying to – and that's his job – optimise a lot of the structures and maximise what we have currently.”

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team, Ayao Komatsu, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

Haas was dogged last season by a development path that failed to improve performance as the VF-23 car struggled to control tyre overheating in race conditions.

Hulkenberg said the car was not “terrible” to begin with but “we stood still, and therefore went backwards”. He conceded the team knew what the issues were but “didn’t have the ideas to get on top of them”.

Since then, technical director Simone Resta – on loan from Ferrari – has returned to the Scuderia but not to work on its F1 project. Andrea De Zordo has been promoted from within to replace compatriot Resta.

When Hulkenberg’s “no bullshit” line was put to team-mate Kevin Magnussen, the Dane praised Komatsu’s background for giving him an understanding of all departments.

Magnussen said: “I don't think anyone was trying to bullshit last year [under Steiner]. I just think having someone who is that technical and has that deep understanding of the engineering of a Formula 1 car across all departments.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-24

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

“He's come straight from race engineering, leading that group. I'm a part of that group. So, we're working with aero, vehicle dynamics, systems, design. We're touching all the different [departments].

“He's been leading that group and now he's in charge. So, everyone feels like they can go and speak to someone who they feel is understanding.

“As a leader, to be understood, first you have to understand. For Ayao, it's quite a lot easier to understand given his experience.”

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