Lando Norris reckons Haas will be a much-improved team this season compared to their dire 2021 campaign following the events of pre-season testing.
It has been a difficult period for Haas since 2020. They managed just two points finishes between Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen that year, and the picture was not about to get any prettier a year on.
They signed Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher as rookies, and frequent mistakes coupled with an obscene lack of pace for the Russian made for a challenging season, and the Banbury side spent much of 2021 plunging as many resources as they could into 2022.
The reason for this is well documented – Formula 1 is entering a totally unprecedented era this season, and the cars have undergone some of the biggest changes even the most experienced members of the paddock have ever seen.
Ground effect has made a return, leading to a huge aerodynamic swing, and as a result, there could be a monumental change to the pecking order.
The winter has not been particularly kind to Haas either, and they lost the funding of Uralkali due to the war Russia has started on Ukraine, leaving Mazepin out of a drive as his father Dmitry – part owner of the Russia-based firm – paid for his seat.
This saw the return of Magnussen and, after a not entirely glistening first test in Spain during which Schumacher and Mazepin managed just 160 laps between them, delayed freight shipping to Bahrain made it look as though it was going to be another one of those seasons for Guenther Steiner’s squad.
However, they looked sharper and more reliable than in Spain, completing 202 laps with the Dane going top on day two and the 22-year-old slotting into second on day three.
Conversely, McLaren appeared to go backwards during the second test. They suffered from brake troubles for much of the three days, and Lando Norris had to contest all of them by virtue of team-mate Daniel Ricciardo falling ill with Covid-19.
He put 199 laps into the car, and doubts linger as to whether the Australian will make it to the first race of the season in Bahrain this week.
Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari look as though they’ll be largely contesting the first three rows of the grid in 2022, and Norris reckons there is going to be a particularly immersive midfield dogfight this year involving Haas.
“The three teams there are looking the fastest at the minute and I would say everyone else is looking pretty close, from us, down to Haas,” he said.
“Even Haas looked very quick, [which is] surprising considering how far off they were last year and impressed to see the progress they look like they’ve made so far.
“I think even we need to be prepared to be racing against them and qualifying against them so we’ll see next week.”
Should Ricciardo be unfit to race, Nyck de Vries and Oscar Piastri have both been made available to replace him, while Stoffel Vandoorne is contesting the thousand miles of Sebring.