Haas is getting closer to the midfield as its two drivers progress and gain experience, giving encouragement to team principal Guenther Steiner.
Mick Schumacher was 0.6s off a spot in Q2 in Portugal but then produced an impressive race with no mistakes, overtaking Nicholas Latifi late on after forcing the Williams driver into an error. Schumacher’s best lap was also a match for George Russell ahead, and Steiner sees the gap to the likes of Williams closing as his drivers get more comfortable in the car.
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things,” Steiner said. “The drivers get more comfortable in the car, they know the ups and downs of it, they adjust to it, they know what not to do, find the balance better and when the car is a bit unstable they just deal with it.
“We matched or were better than the Williams in race pace. We all know that George can do a fantastic lap in the car – like sometimes Charles Leclerc does, he can just pull it off – so going forward for us, it was a very encouraging race. We see that we can be quicker than one Williams, we just cannot get past them.
“On the straight we are missing about 10kph so it was difficult to pass them, but otherwise we can match them or be a little bit faster. As I always said, we need to be a little bit patient with everything with both drivers. We need to keep on being patient because if it was easy to come into Formula 1 and immediately go as fast as the other people who were there for a few years then I don’t think it would be called Formula 1.”
— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) May 3, 2021
While Schumacher impressed, Nikita Mazepin was well adrift of his teammate after making an extra pit stop. But Steiner saw signs of improvement from the Russian as well, and said the pair are just developing at different rates.
“Everything was good, when (Schumacher) put pressure on Latifi he didn’t do anything wrong and then he backed off when it wasn’t possible to overtake to save the tires,” he said. “He did a very good race.
“Over the weekend, if you look at FP3, the gap was getting closer, and the race in the first 20 laps on the C2 tires, I think (Mazepin) fell back about 4s and then we pulled him in because he would have gone in the cycle of coming out of the pits with the lapped traffic. We tried to keep it as clean as possible. That’s why you saw a big gap between them, and we did an additional pit stop.
“At the moment Mick has got a little bit of the upper hand, but I wouldn’t say that he’s this quick or Nikita is this bad. We’ve only done three races, so I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions. We need to wait a little bit longer; maybe Nikita takes a little bit longer to get up to speed.”