(GMM) Haas’ new team boss Ayao Komatsu can handle the big step up from engineering to running a Formula 1 team.
That is the view of Vitaly Petrov, who was race-engineered by the 47-year-old Japanese at Renault in 2011. Komatsu then followed Romain Grosjean to the brand-new Haas team for 2016, and there worked his way up the engineering ranks.
Team owner Gene Haas decided to oust Gunther Steiner for 2024, with Komatsu named as his surprise successor.
“I spent a lot of time with Ayao,” Russian driver Petrov told SMP Racing.
“At that time, he was still learning and getting the experience to be promoted to race engineer, but he already knew a lot. And it was very easy to work with him. I always saw great potential in Ayao.”
Petrov, now 39, says it was always clear to him that Komatsu had the potential to rise the ranks in F1.
“It was obvious to me that he would not stay in the position of a race engineer. It was obvious that he had a great future,” he said.
“He sees and understands a lot and is not afraid to express his opinion. Yes, difficult work awaits him now. Many more people will report to him now compared to before.
“But, on the other hand, you shouldn’t think that a race engineer works only with those who go to the races, or is focused solely on setting up the car. Outside of race weekends, he works with the entire team and is actively involved in the process of improving the car.
“So I think Ayao has everything he needs for his new role,” Petrov said. “I am sure that a great future awaits him and I am happy for him.”
As for Komatsu, he reveals that one of his first priorities as Haas’ new team boss is to improve the way the unique American team operates between its two facilities in the UK and Italy.
“If you could start a team now, you wouldn’t have two factories in England and Italy, but that’s just the structure,” he says. “In 2016 to 2018, it was very helpful to get us started. Then the rules changed, and the team has to develop accordingly.”
However, he says Haas’ multiple facilities is not the reason Haas finished dead last in 2023 with an apparently flawed development program.
“Can we already do better? Yes, absolutely,” said Komatsu. “In 2023 we were not where we should be, and that is why the decision to change something followed.
“But you can’t change things too drastically because then 2024 will be a complete disaster,” he added. “We have to improve the team in 2024, but I see it as a gradual process.
“What we learn in 2024 will help us know how to do things in five, eight, ten years’ time.”