Why Haas's impressive F1 testing form has even Hamilton surprised

The best sign of the Haas Formula 1 team's impressive pre-season is reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton labelling the American team a "shock"

Why Haas's impressive F1 testing form has even Hamilton surprised

Kevin Magnussen was sixth fastest in pre-season testing despite only using supersoft tyres, as those ahead of him set their quickest times on hypersofts, which are two steps softer in Pirelli's 2018 range.

Magnussen's 1m18.360s, set on the penultimate day of testing, was less than 1.2 seconds slower than Ferrari's Barcelona pacesetter Sebastian Vettel.

Fastest testing times

Pos Team Time Tyre
1 Ferrari 01m17.182s Hypersoft
2 McLaren 01m17.784s Hypersoft
3 Red Bull 01m18.047s Hypersoft
4 Renault 01m18.092s Hypersoft
5 Haas 01m18.360s Supersoft
6 Toro Rosso 01m18.363s Hypersoft
7 Mercedes 01m18.400s Ultrasoft
8 Force India 01m18.967s Hypersoft
9 Sauber 01m19.118s Hypersoft
10 Williams 01m19.189s Soft

Pirelli's estimated performance steps between compounds cannot factor in things like fuel loads and teams' programmes as accurately as the tyre supplier would like, but it is unlikely Haas would have been 1.3s quicker and outpaced Ferrari on supposed tyre-corrected times.

However, that does not make Haas's testing performance unimpressive.

Magnussen's time came on the second of three flying laps, each separated by a 'cool down' to prepare the tyres, during a nine-lap run.

That compares to Vettel's 1m17.182s on the second of two flying laps in a six-lap run just 15 minutes after Magnussen's best. So, fuel loads did not necessarily flatter Haas and track conditions were not a defining factor.

How each team set its fastest lap

The length of the stint each team set its fastest lap in

Magnussen proved it was not a one-off with four more laps within a couple of tenths of his best. He never hooked up his best sectors either: his perfect lap would have been an even faster 1m18.114s.

This reinforces why Hamilton described Haas as "very, very fast", although his claim that "I think you're going to see Haas up there this year" requires further scrutiny.

What "up there" means exactly, only Hamilton knows, but Autosport's analysis of each team's race simulations roughly places Haas at the sharp end of the midfield, 1.3s a lap slower than the benchmark Mercedes drivers.

That means a repeat of Romain Grosjean's excellent sixth place in qualifying in Australia last year is possible and could be backed up in the race.

Haas has put itself in a strong position considering recovering giants McLaren and Renault and last year's best-of-the-rest Force India are the favourites to win a tight midfield battle.

Updates are expected for all three of those teams in Melbourne, whereas team boss Gunther Steiner has said "nothing big" will come for Haas, so the midfield picture may yet change from testing.

However, the suggestion Haas is only trying to make hay while others misfire early on may prove to be unfair.

Grosjean is adamant Haas has benefitted from its early switch of focus to the 2018 car, which he feels much more in control of.

He enjoyed a confidence that was evidently missing last year, and insisted the brake problems that have dominated his time with Haas have been solved thanks to a permanent switch to Carbone Industrie.

Team-mate Magnussen said building a good car is not the question mark over Haas now, execution is, and the indication from testing is Haas does know how to make this package work.

Now comes the harder task of doing it when it counts.

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