Haas to bring their first aerodynamic upgrade earlier than planned

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Haas Team Principal Ayao Komatsu has revealed that his team has managed to accelerate the production of several aerodynamic upgrades which will allow the team to introduce the first development package earlier than planned.

Formula One's sole American team has gone through key changes over the winter as team owner Gene Haas elected not to extend former team principal Guenther Steiner's contract. The American promoted Ayao Komatsu as new team principal instead. Moreover, former technical director Simone Resta also departed the Kannapolis-based outfit.

The Japanese talked down the team's expectations ahead of the new season after a year that saw Haas slip down the order to last position. However, Haas have taken an encouraging start to the 2024 F1 season, with Nico Hulkenberg taking the team's first point in Saudi Arabian while the American outfit left Melbourne with a double point-scoring finish.

"Pre-season I said I was expecting us to be towards the back, or last," started Komatsu. "I wasn’t sandbagging when I said that because I had to assume that if we were finding a second – as the smallest team – everyone would be finding at least the same, and in this sport you cannot rely on someone completely messing it up to make your successes.

"Testing went well because we had a very good focus on race performance tire degradation, which is paying off in the first three races, as you can see. Harder times will come no doubt, but the way we set-up the car, the way we’re working together, working with the drivers, it’s all positive."

Komatsu has confirmed that his team will bring the first upgrades to the VF-24 earlier than planned.

"Looking ahead, we know there is a lot of work to be done. Regarding the development of the VF-24, the direction is clear. Originally, we were going to bring our first upgrade slightly later in the season, but our Aerodynamics team has been doing some solid work. So instead, we’re going to bring updates earlier, which is a change for the team. We’ve seen encouraging signs so we now need to prove it on-track."

Komatsu began his career in Formula One in 2003 as a tyre engineer for British American Racing, and stuck with the Brackley team for two seasons. In 2006 he moved to Renault to work as a performance engineer, starting out on the test team before being promoted to the race team working with drivers such as Nelson Piquet Jr., Romain Grosjean and Vitaly Petrov.

In 2011, he was promoted to Petrov's race engineer, working with him for one year before partnering up with the returning Grosjean for 2012. Grosjean and Komatsu formed a close bond, scoring nine podium finishes and fighting for race wins at the end of 2013. After a disappointing 2014, Komatsu was promoted to chief race engineer at Lotus, helping Grosjean and the Enstone team score a podium at the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.

When Grosjean left for the fledging Haas F1 Team, Komatsu followed him, becoming trackside engineering director for the American outfit in 2016. He now fulfils the role of team principal at the American team.

"Next week Formula 1 travels to Suzuka for the Japanese Grand Prix, one I’m looking forward to for many reasons! I left Japan when I was 18 years old because I wanted to work in Formula 1, but I never imagined I would come back as a Team Principal of one of the teams, no way!

"I first came back in a professional capacity to Suzuka in 2009 – 15 years ago – as a Performance Engineer and I thought that was special. When I got this role, I didn’t really stop to think about the work I’ve done up to this point, and I still don’t as my focus right now is the job at hand, but it’s been 30 years since I left Japan and that feels crazy. I don’t think until I retire – at maybe 95 or something – I’ll reflect on my journey, Formula 1 is too fast-paced for that.

"Since starting my new role as Team Principal, the biggest thing for me has been everyone’s support. All three of our sites – the US, UK and Italy – have been amazing. From the very beginning, everyone has been aligned and open to moving forward in a certain direction, one that we all agree on.

"I think right now the team is in a good place – which is obviously helped by scoring points – but it’s a motivating environment to work in and everyone knows our objectives.

"MoneyGram Haas F1 Team is a family, made up of passionate, high-skilled professionals who deserve the best opportunities and are deeply loyal to Haas. I know everyone reading this is also fiercely loyal to Haas. We know we’re considered the underdogs, but your support has made the hard times bearable, and makes the good times even sweeter, so I’d like to thank you," Komatsu added.