January 6, 2023

Schumacher’s openness ‘helpful to everyone’, says Haas F1 chief engineer

2020 F2 champion Schumacher graduated to F1 this year with Haas, and has so far led its efforts at the rear of the field, beating teammate Nikita Mazepin in all but two races both drivers have finished.

Schumacher has regularly been heard exchanging feedback with race engineer Gary Gannon on team radio, and has also welcomed advice from four-time F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Komatsu highlighted Schumacher’s openness and willingness to try out different ideas or approaches, taking the team’s feedback on board even if he is personally unsure about it.

“It was clear to all of us from the beginning that he is very, very open to all the ideas,” Komatsu said. “So if we tell him, ‘OK, let’s try this, why don’t we go into this direction?’, even when he doesn’t agree with that, he’s happy to try it. Whether it’s a car setup, or just the management, the driving style, for one lap, for race distance, he will always try it.

“Then that will give us a very good data. Whether it works or not work, either way, he did it, so that we got the data and feedback.

“All that openness and the willingness to try everything, and then be able to be constructive when the situation, like, I think it was Baku, where we had a car problem. His session was so discontinuous. Of course, I’m sure he was frustrated and angry in the car.

“But even then [he stayed] very calm, constructive, gave us amazing feedback. So when you work like that, it’s helpful to everyone.

“He made a big step in all areas, but [in] tyre management, I think he’s made a pretty big step in last few races.”

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Mazepin has been open about his own difficulties with the Haas VF-21 car through his own rookie season, struggling with a slightly heavier chassis than Schumacher and a difficult aero package that has left him feeling “quite lost” on set-up.

Komatsu said that the drivers needed “quite different” things from the Haas car, and that it took the team time to fully understand their varying styles.

“Nikita likes much more stability, especially into high-speed corners, and Mick can deal with it,” Komatsu said.

“But then sometimes to look after the tyres in the race, we need to almost put more focus on having a car that is easy on tyres. So their requirement is actually quite different. It took some time for us to understand that.

“I think we are getting there in that sense. But one thing is to get the performance out for one lap, another thing is for the 300 kilometres on Sunday [with] tyre management.

“Mick is actually doing very well. He took a pretty good step recently. Nikita is getting there as well. He was a bit behind initially. Part of it is for us as well to understand how different, let’s say, a characteristic Nikita needs for him to be comfortable.

“We are still working on that. But then he’s improving as well. We’re just working continuously on that.”

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