Gene Haas has tasked his Formula One team with closing its gap in performance to Ferrari to just 0.5s per lap this year.

The Haas F1 team is entering its third season in Formula One after finishing its first two years eighth in the constructors’ championship. Its technical partnership with Ferrari — which sees the Haas car share as many common parts as the regulations allow with Ferrari’s design — has helped the team avoid many of the pitfalls faced by other new F1 outfits in the past decade.

However, given the amount of shared parts between the two cars, Haas wants his team to up its game in its third year of competition and close the gap to Ferrari.

“It looks like everyone is going to be better [in 2018],” he said. “We identified our weak spots and Guenther [Steiner, team principal] and I had a good heart-to-heart talk on that one in Mexico City about what direction we were going to take and how we were going to improve.

“It’s no secret we use a lot of Ferrari equipment, so we’re using them as our baseline. We need to be within a half-second of the Ferraris in order for us to be competitive. We weren’t last year. I would say we were a second to a second-and-a-half slower than the Ferraris. Overall, we were maybe two seconds off the pole qualifiers, so we need to knock a second off that if we really want to be competitive.”

Last year Ferrari became the first team in four years to challenge reigning champions Mercedes for the title, and being 0.5s off last year’s Ferrari SF70H would have consistently put Haas in the top ten. Gene Haas says his team has to gain a better understanding of how to use Pirelli’s tyres in order to close the gap.

“We want to solve these technical issues that are holding us back. Tyres are the toughest issue we have because you have to keep the tires in a certain temperature range, but how you keep the tyres in that temperature range is how you handle your downforce and your drag and how you handle sliding the tyres.

“The tyres are very sensitive to downforce, overheating and sliding, but in order to get the tyres right you have to have the right chassis and the right aero. Without all of that working right, the cars become very difficult for the drivers and you can’t expect them to make up for a car that just doesn’t have the capability of holding the track.”

At the centre of Haas’ technical partnership with Ferrari is the use of Maranello’s turbo-hybrid engines, which are considered to be on a similar level to Mercedes’ class leading V6. Haas thinks the gap between the top three engine manufacturers will continue to narrow in 2018, putting more emphasis on the chassis and drivers.

“They are getting about as much performance out of the current dimensional package [of the engine regulations] as you can. I don’t think Mercedes or Renault is going to be that much farther ahead or behind Ferrari. I think they are all within a half-a-percent of one other.”

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