Haas F1 team owner Gene Haas has admitted that his team's second season in the sport has proved even harder than the first, as he reckons the squad's direct rivals have raised their game.
The American team, which entered F1 last year, lies seventh in the standings with 43 points, having finished eighth with 29 in 2016.
Although the statistics suggest the team has enjoyed a stronger second season so far, Haas reckons his rivals having got "a lot better" has made things harder.
"It seems harder than last year," Haas told Motorsport.com. "I think the teams have all gotten a lot better. Certainly Honda has picked up the pace, and Renault is better, and Toro Rosso is always good.
"There are no laggards in this business at all, so in order to get ahead of your competitors you've just got to be good, and that's hard," he added.
The team scored its second double-point finish of the season after Monaco in the Japanese Grand Prix, with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean finishing eighth and ninth.
"It's always good to get points," Haas added. "Six points – it's amazing how hard they work to get that. But it's very gratifying to be able to run in that midfield and to be able to actually execute and complete to get those points.
"It was a tough weekend. Grosjean wrecked his car in qualifying, so they were scrambling to put it back together. The good news was that we had almost half a day to repair it, a few hours on Saturday and a whole morning on Sunday.
"They did a great job. Fortunately they didn't have to take the engine off, so we didn't have to upset any of those connections, but still you're always wondering when it goes out for the first time after major repairs is it going to hold together?"
Haas admitted he was frustrated by Grosjean's "absurd" collision with a loose drain cover in Malaysia that generated a hugely expensive repair bill for the team.
"It was just one of those things," he said. "You have enough problems in this business with all kinds of events occurring, and all of a sudden that seems kind of absurd, a little bit of a drain cover at a race track, something that we have no control over, destroys one of our cars.
"I think it kind of ruins your weekend. A front nose is a hundred thousand, a rear wing is a hundred thousand, and the bits in between are in the hundreds of thousands.
"It's extremely expensive. We know we have to have those things in races and practices, but where they occur outside your control, it's just absurd."