Günther Steiner believes that it won’t be until the Australian Grand Prix in March that the new Haas Formula 1 Team will know where it stands in the pecking order this season.
NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas has been planning to enter F1 for over two years, and preparations are now entering their final stages ahead of the team’s debut in Melbourne on March 20.
Ahead of the first race, Haas will enjoy eight days of pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain with drivers Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean.
Expectations are mixed for Haas’ debut season. The failure of F1’s recent start-ups have not bred confidence in the paddock, yet it has been recognized that Haas is going about things in a very different fashion to the likes of Caterham, HRT and Marussia.
Nevertheless, team principal Steiner remains unwilling to make any firm assertions about how Haas will shape up to the rest of the grid until after the first race of the year.
“It’s always difficult to say certainly which team you compete [with], because we don’t know who is strongest or isn’t strong,” Steiner told reporters at Haas’ American base in Kannapolis, North Carolina earlier this week.
“You’re trying to hit a moving target. We don’t know what they’re coming out with, so it’s always difficult to say who will be the competition or how good they are until you get to Spain.
“You get a good understanding there. You don’t get the complete picture. The complete picture you get in Australia. But in Spain, you are 80% there. It could be completely different [from last season]. You just don’t know.”
Steiner’s thoughts were echoed by Gutierrez, who believes the change in power unit suppliers for a handful of teams could shake up the pecking order.
“There are some changes now with Toro Rosso going from Renault to Ferrari, also Renault coming into Formula 1 again as a manufacturer team,” Gutierrez said.
“There are a lot of changes that are difficult to put a precise expectation, but that’s part of the beauty of Formula 1. You need to work as hard as possible and then compete with what you have.”