Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Kevin Magnussen believes that Renault are currently at the head of the midfield battle, and the Dane is hoping Haas can challenge them in Baku.
Behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, the battle to lead the ‘best of the rest’ competition is a hotly-contested one.
Following some fortuitous results, McLaren currently occupy the coveted fourth place ahead of Renault, Toro Rosso and Haas.
Renault have been consistent top ten runners in both qualifying and race trim, whilst Haas could’ve found themselves higher up in the championship had they not have been denied a sizeable points haul through their pit stop errors in Australia.
Speaking ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Magnussen believes that the VF18 can “easily” match the pace of the Renault.
“Our car balance should be fine in Baku. It’s true that we do have a very good car this year – it’s very well balanced,” said Magnussen, “but it’s going to be very difficult to predict how we’re going to be in Baku, as we don’t know what other people are going to bring in terms of special packages for that circuit.
“We’re going to try and get the most out of the car, but it’s going to be interesting to see what other people do.
“At the moment, I think we are very even with Renault and perhaps a little faster than McLaren, at least in qualifying.
“The rest of the midfield, perhaps, seems a little more inconsistent, but they can definitely be up there with the rest of us on occasions. Renault is probably the strongest competitor in the midfield, but I think we have a car that can easily match them, and when we do well, beat them also.
“That should be our aim at the moment – to be fighting those guys. Obviously, we want to improve on last year’s result, which was eighth, and I think that’s a feasible target.
Haas team principal Guenther Steiner added that Haas have brought car updates to Baku and that they will take a more aggressive approach to development in 2018.
“We showed in the first three races that we can be competitive at the high end of the midfield, and we’re very confident we can be there in Baku, as well,” said Steiner.
“We need to keep on doing what we’re doing. Every race we learn more about the tires and we build up our knowledge base of the tires from this year, and we have planned for upgrades on the car. Our whole plan this year is different from last year.
“Last year, we knew we wouldn’t have many upgrades because we decided early in the season that we wouldn’t bring that many updates as we turned our focus to next year’s car. But this year, we made the decision early in the season that we will bring more updates.
“So, it’s down to how good are our updates, but also how good are the updates of the opposition?”