Nico Hulkenberg has said Haas’ ‘B-spec’ VF-23 achieved “nothing” and the team has to “be honest with ourselves” after its introduction.
Having gone without an update on their VF-23 for almost all of 2023, Haas rolled out a comprehensive upgrade package for their car at the United States Grand Prix in what was essentially a ‘B-spec’ version of the machine.
But the car’s performance scarcely changed and, over the final two races, Haas ran their cars in different configurations as both Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen enjoyed different preferences on car feel.
Nico Hulkenberg: The old car showed more downforce in the data
Speaking in an extensive interview with Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport, Hulkenberg spoke about the situation that developed in the final weeks of the season as Haas rolled out the updated car – an attempt at defining the direction the American squad will take with the 2024 car.
“Nothing,” was Hulkenberg’s blunt answer, when asked about what Haas achieved with their B-spec car.
“[It’s] sobering and alarming. You can’t hide that.
“We have to be honest with ourselves and admit that it doesn’t meet our standards when we do so much work to rebuild the car and then the end result is almost the same. It’s our job to do better next year.”
Having run the B-spec version in the final races of the year – in Magnussen’s hands at least – Hulkenberg said he’s hopeful the same lack of progress doesn’t happen when the 2024 car is rolled out.
“I can’t say that with confidence right now,” he said, when asked if lessons have been learned for 2024.
“We’ll probably have to organise ourselves a little differently internally so that the same thing doesn’t happen again.”
The upgrade is understood to have hit the car’s performance through high-speed corners, which Hulkenberg confirmed is evident in the data as he explained why he and Magnussen opted to split configurations with the Dane sticking with the upgraded car.
“That’s a bit of a personal preference,” he said.
“The old car has more downforce in fast corners. The data also proves that.
“Kevin probably made the better choice in Las Vegas. We’d never driven the new package in the low-downforce configuration before, and it worked surprisingly well. In Abu Dhabi, the pendulum swung back in favour of the old car.”
Nico Hulkenberg: The wind tunnel showed downforce values weren’t improved
But, given the upgrades were only rolled out for the final five races of the year, was the B-spec given enough time to have its performance unlocked?
While that may have played a role in its failure to land, Hulkenberg admitted the wind tunnel figures weren’t promising in the first place.
“The upgrade came a bit out of necessity. We had a modification to the underbody in Miami, but it was nothing major,” he said.
“Then nothing happened for a long time. The Sunday problems got bigger and bigger. The pressure on the engineers also increased, and that’s how this B version came about.
“Also, of course, because you could see that all the good cars had switched to the Red Bull philosophy, including Ferrari. It made sense to jump on this bandwagon too.
“We did it, but in my opinion, we didn’t understand it. Even in the wind tunnel it was clear that the values were not improving.
“The hope was that we could get rid of these so-called “delta-to-map” problems. But there are still huge discrepancies between what the wind tunnel promises and what the racetrack delivers.”