Haas wants to beat the Europeans at their own game
According to our feature article by Pete McCole, Gene Haas is not sure if they will be ready to race in 2015, but his goal is to someday beat the Europeans at their own game of F1.
The latest American effort to field a Formula One team faces an uphill struggle to be ready by next year. Called Haas Formula, it will be headquartered both in North Carolina and Europe using a crew and support personnel from both sides of the Atlantic. It will have a “technical partnership” with Ferrari or Mercedes, but beyond that its design is a work in progress. Its two drivers -- perhaps Americans, but not necessarily -- likely won't be selected for several months.
Those were some of the details outlined on Monday by team principal Gene Haas, owner of Haas Automation and co-owner of NASCAR-focused Stewart-Haas Racing. The 61-year-old Californian met with the media in Charlotte Monday, five days after the FIA approved his application to become a team owner. He was joined at the briefing by co-principal Guenther Steiner, an Italian with extensive F1 experience as technical director for Jaguar and Red Bull.
Haas is a longtime F1 fan with (reportedly) enough money to build a team from scratch. According to F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, “[Haas] has the money, but it's a question of whether he's going to spend it. A billion would last a new team owner four years.” To that, Haas said, “We have a budget and the numbers I've seen are reasonable. We're not going to just throw money at it, which is the European style. We'll control our costs and apply the same parameters to this as we do with the [Haas Automation] machine parts business. We'll bring in a more rational way of doing things.”
Haas and Steiner touched on almost every imaginable F1 topic during the session:
"We should know within the next four weeks whether it'll be 2015 or 2016,” Steiner said. “We need to pick a technical partner and go from there. We don't want to jump in and then say, 'Hey, this is wrong.' If it's not doable with a good, professional team by '15, we'll go for '16. We can't do it all ourselves; we'll rely heavily on our partner."
Said Haas, "It would be insurmountable for us to hire the right people and build the chassis and be prepared to race to win in nine months. Our first goal is to arrive at the first race and race the car… that's our main focus. But we have to depend on partners for the chassis and drivetrain and engines. At first, our cars will come from them, but my ultimate goal is to be a constructor. I want to evolve the cars so we can beat the Europeans at their own game."
"We'd like an experienced Formula One driver to start with, maybe someone familiar with the current rules,” Haas said. “And it would be ideal to have a young American driver, too. At the moment, we haven't done anything about that. We'd like an experienced driver who'll be available (out of his current ride) in six months."
"The FIA told us to elect which year we want to come in," Haas said. “We'll have to do that by next month. To me, '15 is too close and '16 is too far. If we delay until '16, we'll spend more money just getting ready. It's a tough decision that we have to make in the next few weeks. I'd like to beg, borrow or steal a car to arrive with at the first race next year and compete. But that might depend on which technical partner we use. FIA made us commit to at least two years and would like us to be there until 2020. … So we committed for six years."