Formula One

F1 Haas 2023 mid-season analysis – Brilliant in qualifying, struggling in the races

The highs of qualifying and the lows of the races, all in the F1 Haas 2023 mid-season analysis
Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

Haas has endured a strange season so far in 2023, with great qualifying results but mediocre performances in the races, which have been getting worse and worse over the course of the year.

Tyre wear is the problem

Last season, Haas went into the summer break with 37 points, but only scored on one more occasion in the second half of the season. That late-season form has carried into 2023 and a recovery seems very tricky indeed.

Hulkenberg performing miracles, especially on Saturdays

Nico Hulkenberg returned to Formula 1 full-time this year, for the first time since 2019. He had stood in at Aston Martin (and its predecessor, Racing Point) on a few occasions over the course of those three seasons in between, so questions over whether the 35-year-old would be rusty in his comeback were raised.

The German has proven that he still has plenty of speed, as he has progressed to Q3 on six occasions, plus another time in Sprint qualifying at Austria. Additionally, he has qualified worse than twelfth just twice this season, excluding a session he did not set a proper time in, at Belgium. His highlight of the season undoubtedly is qualifying second in a wet qualifying session at Canada, perhaps the biggest shock of the season.

His best race results have been spectacular too. In Australia, had the race played out just a little bit differently, he might have gotten that elusive first Formula 1 podium, but instead his final result was seventh. Those are his only Grand Prix points, but he has also scored three points in the Sprint at the Red Bull Ring, where he started fourth and finished sixth, in wet weather conditions.

Outside of those though, the other race results have been pretty bleak. More than half the races have found the German fifteenth or worse, in large part due to the VF-23 having horrendous tyre management and dropping off towards the end of the stints.

Magnussen surprisingly mediocre

On the other hand, the season has been pretty bad for Kevin Magnussen. The Dane, who was one of the best performers of 2022, has only found himself once in Q3, when he qualified fourth in Miami. Outside of that one great result though, he has been thirteenth or worse on every single occasion, often eliminated in Q1.

At least for the first five races, Magnussen was on good form in the Grands Prix, as he scored twice, finishing tenth on both occasions. His first point came in Jeddah, after a late tussle with Yuki Tsunoda. The other came in Miami, where he spent much of the race battling with Charles Leclerc, but dropped off towards the end, just holding onto the top ten.

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Photo by Hoch Zwei / Icon Sport

Hulkenberg dominant in qualifying, even score in the races

Perhaps against what was expected at the beginning of the season, it is Nico Hulkenberg making the headlines in this season. But how do the pair compare in their head-to-head matchup? Despite the German driver scoring nine points to the Dane’s two, their race score is five apiece. Each driver has a retirement to their name, both after mechanical failures.

But in qualifying, their forms are polar opposites. The score is nine to three in favour of Hulkenberg, but this is not the only telling stat. The average qualifying position over the course of the season for Magnussen is 15.4, while Hulkenberg’s is 11.4. The latter could have been even lower, as the German was never sent out for a final flying lap in Belgium and started last.

What does the future hold for Haas?

Both short-term and long-term, there is uncertainty surrounding Haas and the way it is going to recover from its current slump in form.

The 2023 goals

As the second half of the 2023 season is upon us, the first and most immediate goal is pretty clear for Haas: More points to stay in the fight for seventh in the standings. It is not an easy task though. Despite Haas being exceptional in qualifying, Alfa Romeo appear to have a better car in race conditions and usually finish above the American team, while Williams also are very strong in low-drag circuits.

For Haas, the best opportunities will probably come in circuits with low tyre degradation, like Singapore and Qatar. From a good qualifying spot, both drivers can fend off those behind if their tyres do not fall off the cliff. Similarly, wet weather should also play into the car’s and the drivers’ strengths, so those opportunities need to be capitalised upon, if they arrive.

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Photo by XPB / Icon Sport

The next few seasons

In terms of the driver line-up, it would be a big surprise to see things change ahead of next season. Even though his performances this season can be described as lackluster, Kevin Magnussen will probably keep his seat. With five seasons under his belt at Haas, the Dane is well-liked in the American team. Hulkenberg doesn’t have a contract for next season yet, but there is no reason for his contract not to be renewed.

As for the team itself, there are a few sources of optimism, mainly linked to the developments at Sauber. With the Swiss team announcing its partnership with Audi from 2026 onwards, it is fair to assume that Ferrari will reallocate those resources to Haas. This can benefit Haas, as it will likely make it the de facto Ferrari second team. The two sides are already having a tight partnership, but the bond will probably get stronger.

The aforementioned news from Sauber have also led Alfa Romeo to terminate its relationship to Sauber, to which it has given naming rights since 2018. That is also rumoured to transfer over to Haas, but whether the deal gets completed -and in what form- remains to be seen. Moneygram currently serves as the title sponsor for Haas, in a multi-year deal that commenced this season.

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