Haas heads to this week’s Japanese GP with momentum at its back, but also bracing for a tough time around Suzuka’s highly technical layout where its fastest sectors will prove “hugely challenging” for its VF-24.

The American team has clawed its way back into the points picture in F1 this season, starting with a top-10 finish in Saudi Arabia.

This was further solidified with a double top-ten finish in Australia, where both Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen secured crucial points in a tight midfield fight.

Haas is now looking to capitalize on this positive trend and continue its climb up the grid in Japan.

“Having done three races this year on very different circuits, I’m really pleased that we’ve scored twice out of three events, with one point in Jeddah and three points in Melbourne,” commented Haas team principal Ayao Komatsu.

“We’ve shown our race pace is better than our qualifying pace, especially in Melbourne, so that’s clearly a strength.”

However, past performance is no guarantee of future results. While Komatsu is encouraged by Haas’ performance year-to-date, the Japanese engineer is now also very much aware of its car’s specific weakness in high speed corners, a prominent feature at Suzuka.

“Qualifying in Melbourne showed the weakness of the VF-24 and it will be a bit similar in Suzuka unfortunately in terms of circuit requirement, as Suzuka has sector one with high-speed corners,” added the Japanese engineer.

“When we saw those high-speed corners in Bahrain, at Jeddah in sector 1, and in Melbourne, we saw our car is not quite there in the high-speed areas, so sector 1 in Suzuka is going to be a huge challenge for us.

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How we’re going to manage that lack of high speed, grip and balance needed to perform in qualifying in Suzuka will be important, as it’s not an easy circuit to overtake.

That’s going to be a challenge for us, but we’ve got a couple of ideas, so we’ll be looking to do a few experiments on Friday to improve that side.

Regarding race pace, like in Melbourne, I think it will be stronger than our qualifying pace, so thinking about our race strategy we’ll need to look at how we can capitalize on that, having a better race strategy in Suzuka.”

Another challenge potentially facing Haas in Japan will be tyre degradation, as noted by Nico Hulkenberg.

The team appears to have significantly mitigated the issues that impacted its car in the past two seasons, but Suzuka might revive some bad memories for the US outfit.

“I think Suzuka is a mixture of low-, medium-, and high-speed, and it’s maybe the first time this year that we’ll be going to a high-degradation circuit, so it will be interesting for us to really learn and see where we stand regarding that,” said the Hulk.

“It’s a challenging circuit and historically a high-degradation race, so it’s going to be important for us to learn for the year ahead. This season there are definitely positive signs and it feels better from inside the car compared to six months ago, but still, it’s early days.”

Kevin Magnussen, who put his first point of the season on the board in Australia, is also approaching next weekend’s round of racing with a dose of cautious optimism.

“On paper, Suzuka doesn’t look like it’s going to suit us that well but I still think we have a better foundation in the car than we did last year,” said the Dane.

“Hopefully, even if we can’t qualify as well there, we’ll still be able to race well and that’s certainly the hope.”

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