F1 team owner Gene Haas says Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen played a big part in the outfit's improvement last year, admitting both drivers were sometimes better than their car.
Haas completed its sophomore year with another P8 finish in the Constructors' standings, but the mid-field tussle was unrelenting all season long.
Haas is looking at another tough campaign in 2018, with its rivals projected to move forward. The US entrepreneur knows what performance level shall be required to be competitive, although getting there will be another challenge altogether.
"It looks like everyone is going to be better," Haas said in a preview of the 2018 season..
"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."
Haas has pinpointed tyre exploitation as a crucial area of focus and improvement this season.
Progress will ensue only if the team succeeds in striking the right overall balance between chassis, aero and the rubber that meets the road.
"We want to solve these technical issues that are holding us back," adds Haas.
"Tyres are the toughest issue we have because you have to keep the tyres 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 tires 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.
"I felt like there were times last year where our drivers were better than our cars. So, we need to step up, but we know where we need to improve thanks in large part to the experience of our drivers."
Last year, the solid pairing of Grosjean and Magnussen brought 18 more championship points to the team than in 2016. In addition to their experience, the emulation between the two men has clearly been a benefit for the US outfit.
"Our drivers’ competitiveness works well, and it’s not a negative because they work well together," says Haas.
"They know what they’re doing, so I think that they kind of help each other, but they are competing against each other.
"It’s pretty amazing how the two cars are almost always close to each other in qualifying and practice, so you know the drivers are extremely capable.
"If we give them fast cars, they’ll move right up the ladder."