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Steiner: Hulkenberg’s F1 experience already paying off for Haas

Haas Formula 1 boss Guenther Steiner says that returnee Nico Hulkenberg’s experience is already paying dividends for the US-owned team.

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

In two years Haas has gone from employing two rookies in Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin to having one of the most experienced line-ups on the grid, with Hulkenberg returning from three years without a full-time drive to partner Kevin Magnussen in 2023.

The German made Q3 and qualified 10th on his debut for the team in Bahrain, and also started 10th in Saudi Arabia after gaining a spot from Charles Leclerc’s penalty.

As a result Hulkenberg has outqualified Magnussen at both venues so far, although in Jeddah the Dane had the stronger race and netted the team's first point of the year in 10th.

“I think he has given us what we were looking for,” said Steiner when asked by Autosport about Hulkenberg.

“And we could see it immediately. I mean, Kevin struggled in qualifying, Nico didn't.

“But Kevin is not upset about it. Actually he is pretty happy that Nico didn't struggle, because he knows he just needs to get there.

“Otherwise, it was like, 'what is wrong here?'. To be qualified 15th and 18th, it's just like a disaster?

“But we got into Q3 pretty, pretty strong [in Bahrain]. So Kevin knows it's there. He just needs to get there.”

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team Nico Hulkenberg, Haas F1 Team

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Many teams have struggled to extract the maximum potential out of their cars thus far this season, with tyres and track temperatures playing a critical role.

And with Haas now nudging up against the cost cap limit, the sort of damage bills incurred by Schumacher in a series of crashes last year would be even more stressful for the team.

Steiner acknowledged that those are areas where Hulkenberg’s experience can help.

“That's why we took him,” he said. “You think I say that with hindsight, but we all know that with this regulation that was the direction everyone is going.

“There are 10 good teams there. Now, they're all working on a very similar budget, they have got all good drivers, they're all solid financially, they're all solid technically.

“So what is happening is that it's getting closer, everything. And little - or rather big! - things like a driver will make a difference, just to get the best out immediately.

“And that is what we wanted, just an experienced driver who can get us in that direction. So obviously, we are pretty happy with what happened.”

After the team experienced problems with previous line-ups, Hulkenberg and Magnussen are under strict orders to be careful when racing each other. It's a ruling both men have accepted, again reflecting their collective maturity.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Kevin Magnussen, Haas VF-23, Nico Hulkenberg, Haas VF-23

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“We have a policy at Haas that we don't block each other, we don't fight each other,” said Magnussen.

“I can push to try and keep him behind, but I can't close the door and stuff like that.

“So it's kind of just being nice to each other and making sure that we are working for the team, and not for ourselves.”

“I think it's a good rule,” said Hulkenberg. “We don't want to make each other's lives harder. We're here to maximise our performance and score as a team.

“So I think we're perfectly fine. No problems there. I overtook him and there were absolutely no problems.”

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