Danish driver Kevin Magnussen said he is excited to see real change at Haas after Japanese engineer Ayao Komatsu replaced Guenther Steiner last month as principal of the Formula One team.
Italian Steiner, a larger than life character who became an unintentional star of the Netflix ‘Drive to Survive’ docu-series, left the U.S.-owned team when his contract was not renewed at the end of last year.
Ferrari-powered Haas finished last of the 10 teams over the 22-race season. “I love Guenther, I’ve had a great relationship with (him) in the time I’ve been with Haas but it’s also exciting to see some change. Some real change,” Magnussen told reporters at a pre-season event organised by team title sponsor Moneygram on Thursday.
“I think it’s great that Ayao is already addressing some of the elephants in the room, like our trajectory on development for a season just hasn’t been good…it’s certainly very exciting times for us in Haas.”
Komatsu, appearing with Magnussen and team mate Nico Hulkenberg at the new F1 Drive kart track inside London’s Tottenham Hotspur stadium, last week gave a blunt assessment of the task ahead.
He said he expected Haas to remain towards the back of the grid, if not last, in the opening races because an upgrade introduced last year had diverted resources and cost two month’s work on this year’s car.
Komatsu said on Thursday he was focused on setting a clear strategy and revealed that the team’s target for 2024 was to finish eighth.
“We made some changes in the organisational structures and we made some changes in promoting certain people internally for key positions,” he added. “I’m optimistic in the sense that there’s a lot we can do.”
Komatsu said he was an accidental boss rather than someone who had always wanted the role, and would not try and be like Steiner or replace him as a character. “I was really happy running a car,” he said of his start as a race engineer.
“Then an opportunity came up after four years and I became chief race engineer. Then again I came to Haas. “Was I looking for a new team? No. But then I came to speak with Guenther, I really liked his vision and what he told me and so I decided OK I’m going to take this challenge… it’s not like I wanted to become principal, replacing Guenther. No way.”
“(Owner) Gene (Haas) made his decision. OK, I know the team very well, lots of ideas, I know people are good, so why not give it a go?”