Who’s making those Haas F1 strategy calls anyway?

We often say, or at least the conventional notion is, that Formula 1’s return to Europe is the first load of serious development upgrades for the cars. Although I will say that Mercedes and Ferrari have been doing a darn good job of it already during the fly-away races this season.

As the teams head toward the Spanish Grand Prix, Haas F1 will try to capitalize on its form by taking on board the new spec Ferrari engine. Ferrari brought the new 3-token developed engine to Russia and now Haas will try to make hay with the new power unit.

If they get the shove they’re looking for and the reliability they need, they may be able to make another run at a top 10 finish or better. That’s because they have a person at the helm of their race strategy that’s been doing a yeoman’s job of it lately.

Haas F1 has scored 22 points in the 2016 season so far and entered F1 scoring points and currently sits 5th in the constructor’s championship. Their strategy has been a large part of their race results and in the hands of a tidy and quick driver like Romain Grosjean, the team could do even better in Spain.

Ayao Komatsu may not be an unknown in the paddock these days but for fans who are wondering just how this team has managed to make the right strategy calls even when Williams F1 has got it wrong and blamed a lack of systems to make real-time calls, then perhaps this is part of the reason. Komatsu told Autoweek:

“We’ve only done four races this year, and all of them turned out to be as we expected before the race,” he says. “So, in that sense, we did not have nasty surprises. Having said that, we had to make a decision to start on the soft tire in Melbourne purely based on what we saw in 2015, as Friday was wet and no meaningful running was done. The call was made not based on the facts we knew, but it was based on the fact that we had very little data to go by. Therefore, the important thing was to leave the strategy option open in the race to be able to react to the actual tire behavior once the race had started.

“Starting on the soft tire gave us this freedom and left the door open for a one-stop strategy. Also, in that race, the decision to stay out under the safety car was marginal. Of course, we benefited massively from the subsequent red flag because we stayed out under the safety car. Obviously, the way the red flag worked for us was good luck, but you still need to be there to capitalize when the luck is on your side.”

Racing, like life, is about timing and being in the right place at the right time. I’ve never mastered that skill but clearly Komatsu has and does on a weekly basis. The team don’t juggle refueling anymore but they do have tires to deal with and this year, they have three sets to choose from for each race weekend. Two compounds must be ran but the team can choose two from three or three from three if they wanted to I guess. The tires made the difference, especially in Bahrain:

“I would say Bahrain was the best because we achieved that result not just because of the strategy decisions made during the race itself, but also because of all the preparation or planning, and we ran the car reliably to get good data on Friday. This allowed us to make a correct decision on Friday night. If we had got this decision wrong, we wouldn’t have had correct race tires.”

Haas F1 continues their run of success and defying the the expectations of fans as the last three teams new to F1 never gained the immediate traction Haas has and all three filing for bankruptcy. Haas F1 also defies logic as F1 pundits say they act and operate as if they’ve been in the sport for some time now and perhaps that shouldn’t be a surprise as they have hired veterans of the sport like Guenther Steiner and the head boss, Gene Haas, is no stranger to racing himself.

I will say that I am a fan of Ruth Buscombe though and I know she’s been an important part of the team’s strategy as well.  Great job Ruth!

Hat Tip: Autoweek