Haas team principal Guenther Steiner says the opening three races of the 2023 season have effectively demonstrated why he wanted to sign Nico Hulkenberg.
Mick Schumacher was replaced after two years with Haas in favor of the vastly experienced Hulkenberg, the latter having not raced full-time in Formula 1 since 2019. Despite that, he’s hit the ground running by outqualifying teammate Kevin Magnussen at each race so far — reaching Q3 on two occasions — and picking up his first points with seventh place in Melbourne.
“That was the whole thing — how can we bring the team forward?” Steiner told RACER. “And Kevin is part of the team. I think it’s a motivation — not only for him (competitively), it’s also he can see that if he cannot find his setup he has got a very experienced teammate to lean on. And that’s what he’s doing.
“He was strong (in Melbourne), maybe not as strong as in Jeddah but he said it himself that in qualifying he made a mistake at Turn 6 on his Q2 lap and it didn’t work out. But he knew where it went wrong and the speed is there from the car and the drivers. If we continue like this there will be a race coming that both of them are getting into the points.
“It’s a very good feeling when you’re sitting there and you know that you can attack, you don’t only have to defend. You know you can attack and go out there to get something; it’s not like hoping that something goes wrong for somebody else — you know that you can do it with your own means.”
With how regularly Haas is fighting for a top-10 result, Steiner believes the start of the season has shown the team to be close to the front of the chasing group behind Red Bull, Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari.
“We have to reiterate that we didn’t get lucky in a situation, like for example one of the McLarens got — (Oscar Piastri) finished eighth and had a little bit more luck than we had. But we showed in all the races now that we twice went into Q3 pretty dominantly, without luck. Everybody thinks we have to have luck but I think we’ve got the sixth-best car out there, at least. We make the point that we scored points in two of the three races and twice got through to Q3.
“I’m impressed by Nico, how quickly he adapted to the car and to the team, and always tries to get the best out of it. It’s not always possible because there is no midfield anymore, there is the four leaders and then the rest of the pack — there is nobody weak there anymore. We are fighting in there and at the moment we are fighting at the front end of that pack.”