HAAS have become the first team to reveal their halo-equipped 2018 F1 car, with images of the new VF-18 unexpectedly released online.
The American outfit had kept their launch plans under wraps but released computer-generated images of their new car and revised livery in a video on social media.
In a Formula 1 first, all cars must be fitted with the halo head protection device – something that has not been popular with drivers – and Haas are the first team to show how it has been incorporated into their new design. The device has been painted black in line with the team’s three-colour livery, which has been tweaked for 2018.
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“The biggest part of the car’s evolution was the addition of the halo,” said Haas team boss Guenther Steiner.
“It took quite a bit of study by the aerodynamicists, but the designers had to work hard to modify the chassis so the halo could survive the mandated loads.
“The total minimum weight of the car increased because of the halo, and there’s a higher centre of gravity simply because of the halo’s position. But, everyone is in the same boat.”
Haas backed up their impressive debut season by scoring 18 more points in 2017, and have opted for stability with their driver line-up this year.
Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were one of the more closely-matched pairings on the grid last season and both have contracts for 2018, while Haas will also be powered by Ferrari once again.
The launch images of the VF-18 reveal new aerodynamic winglets around the sidepod area.
“The regulations stayed pretty stable between 2017 and 2018, so the VF-18 is an evolution of our car from last year. It’s less about reinvention and more about refinement. You see elements we had from last year on the car this year,” added Steiner.
“Our 2017 car was actually pretty good, but we didn’t always get the best out of it, and that’s what we aimed to change in 2018. We got the car as light as possible to carry more ballast. We were able to do a better job of putting the weight where we wanted it.”
Haas will have direct competition in fellow customer team Sauber this year, with the Swiss outfit set to be supplied by up-to-date power units as opposed to last year, when they ran 2016 engines.
Haas switched their focus to the 2018 car early last year, abandoning their 2017 project – which hampered performance towards the back of the season. Indeed, the team only secured one points finish in the last four races.
But Steiner will hope that many more top-10 appearances will be on the horizon this year, with the team anticipating a tight midfield battle with Force India, Williams, Renault, and possibly McLaren.
“We eliminated a lot of the variables where we knew we were weak,” said owner Gene Haas. “We’ve focused on what it’s going to take to get our car to be consistent and close that gap to the top teams.”
Most teams are set to launch their own 2018 cars next week, with winter testing at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya beginning on February 26.
2018 CAR UNVEILINGS & LAUNCH DATES
Haas: February 14, Online
Red Bull: February 19, Online
Renault: February 20, Online
Sauber: February 20, Online
Mercedes: February 22, Silverstone
Ferrari: February 22, Online
McLaren: February 23, TBC
Toro Rosso: February 26, Barcelona
Williams: To be confirmed*
Force India: To be confirmed
*Williams are hosting a ‘2018 season launch event’ on Thursday February 15, although they are not expected to unveil their new car at the event