Guenther Steiner has admitted that the 2021 Formula 1 season will likely be a challenging one for Haas, but also pointed at the team’s drivers as a reason for excitement.
Haas finished ninth in the constructors’ championship last season and have been open with the fact that they are focusing more of their resources on the new regulations, which will be introduced next year, than on their 2021 challenger, the VF-21.
Nonetheless, there will be plenty of interest in how Mick Schumacher, the 2020 F2 winner and son of seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, fairs during his debut season, while Nikita Mazepin will be looking to prove himself after facing criticism for his conduct.
The team had a steady, if unspectacular, run in pre-season testing, completing 394 laps in total across the three days, with the expectation being that they will be in a fight with Williams and Alfa Romeo towards the back of the field.
Looking ahead to the new campaign, Steiner sat down for a question and answer session with the team.
A lot of focus has been placed on 2022 and therefore Uralkali Haas F1 Team has modest expectations for 2021. How important is it to keep everyone motivated throughout a long campaign knowing it is going to be a challenging year?
Steiner: “I think we’ve got a few things to keep us motivated through the year. We’ve got two young drivers that we need to develop, and we will develop over the year. That will come with some excitement, I’m sure of that. Then the light at the end of the tunnel is 2022 where we will be back at our full strength because we regrouped last year and we made a step back to make two forward. For sure, some things will be challenging – also personally to keep on pushing, but I think we can do this. In the end, it’s all in nine months, but it’s 23 races. We are prepared for it and we’ll get it done.”
It’s no secret that Ferrari targeted straight-line speed gains this year. How encouraging was the performance of the upgraded PU during testing?
Steiner: “For us it’s very difficult to have a back-to-back with the power unit from last year. But I fully trust Ferrari in what they are saying to us as well as what they’re doing. We can see on their car that it’s better. For us, our testing was mainly focused on getting the two rookies as many laps as possible. We couldn’t really do back-to-back as Mick, for example, was only in last year’s car for one full day after Abu Dhabi, and Nikita only drove a Haas F1 car for the first time on our shakedown in Bahrain this year. I fully trust in Ferrari and I’m sure that the power unit is more powerful.”
F1 2020 had a heavily revised calendar but this year the schedule features 23 events and a return to a more normal schedule. How much are you looking forward to getting back to regular venues?
Steiner: “To be honest, I didn’t like last year’s calendar, at least I didn’t like the reason why it came to be due to the pandemic. There was a little bit of excitement though visiting new places or going to places we hadn’t been in a long time. Now it appears to be more of a normal year, not completely though. Imola as the second race for example, normally that wouldn’t be there, but it came back last year. It’s good but hopefully the pandemic settles down or goes away completely soon and we go back to things being very normal. Normality, at the moment, is not being normal.”
If you were to fast-forward to December’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix what would you regard as a successful season for Uralkali Haas F1 Team?
Steiner: “I would hope that our two drivers have learned as much as possible and maybe even more than that in order to get ready for next year. If we can get a point or two at some stage – that would be a fantastic result. But we are realistic, and points will be hard to come by. As long as we learn, we improve, and can get back to where we were in the past – I’m happy. It’s going to be a hard climb this season, but we will get something good out of it, we always do.”