Gene Haas' NASCAR team only took off after Tony Stewart joined the organization and took partial control, so can he really make it in the world of Formula One?
He may co-own a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship-winning team with Tony Stewart, but Gene Haas hasn’t been the most successful figure in motorsports during his career.
When Haas formed Haas CNC Racing in 2003 with Jack Sprague as a rookie driver, he had no way of knowing how his team would fare. The No. 0 NetZero Pontiac floundered, with Sprague being replaced by John Andretti and Jason Leffler before being taken over by Ward Burton for the 2004 season.
What followed was a series of lower-tier drivers filling the seat from 2005 to 2008, with Mike Bliss, Jeff Green, Jeremy Mayfield, Johnny Sauter and Scott Riggs also taking swings at taking Haas CNC Racing to the front, with no avail. It wasn’t until 2009 when Stewart came on board that the renamed Stewart-Haas Racing became relevant in motorsports.
Now Haas is planning on joining F1 with his new team, Haas Formula. Now, it’s a noble effort on his behalf to try and take part in the world’s most popular form of motorsport. But ultimately, it will be a futile effort.
There will be a few bright points to come out of this. For one, Haas Formula will be the first American team to compete in Formula One since the unrelated Haas Lola team that raced in 1985 and 1986. However, Haas needs to be aware of the last US-based entry that attempted an F1 effort, the US F1 team in 2010.
US F1, backed by former Haas CNC technical director Ken Anderson and former Ferrari manager Peter Windsor, was going to be based in Charlotte, North Carolina in a plan to promote American drivers and technology in the world of F1.
However, the organization faced a myriad of problems, such as the withdrawal of one of the team’s backers, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. The issues prompted F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone to comment on the issue, stating that he doubted the team would compete in 2010.
Windsor vehemently denied this, yet when all was said and done US F1 ultimately collapsed. Accusations of team mismanagement flew freely against Anderson and Windsor while the sanctioning body, the FIA, revealed that the team wasn’t able to compete for the 2010 season. The team was subsequently fined €309,000 plus the costs of the ensuing disciplinary hearing, and was banned from competing by the FIA.
Now, that’s not to say Haas isn’t entering without a fair bit of business savvy, and truth be told, he may be well aware of the issues that were faced by the doomed US F1 team. For one, he plans on backing from an existing F1 organization, and unlike US F1 he plans to employ a veteran F1 pilot along with an American F1 driver as well.
It’s hardly the full-speed “America” approach that US F1 originally intended for, but there are a few things Haas also needs to consider. If he is to receive a fair amount of backing from an established F1 team, like how Hendrick Motorsports supplies engines to Stewart-Haas Racing, then he’ll need to find a way to bridge the gap between Kannapolis, North Carolina and Europe. North Carolina is stock car country, not F1 country. Keeping that in mind, the highest quality F1 staff won’t be American but European.
Haas will have to manage to bring in a strong, intelligent, capable European staff to America from Europe, and that will be no easy feat. On top of that, being the only American team will have plenty of disadvantages, considering that the Haas Formula crew will have to constantly be flying to-and-from from American to the other side of the planet, which no doubt would have an effect on the health of the crew.
To paraphrase Juan Pablo Montoya, Haas is mad if he thinks he’d be able to maintain a competitive F1 venture. Meanwhile, Haas is approaching the matter with the single-minded insistence of Ricky Bobby, claiming that Haas Formula will be able to beat the Europeans at their own game, among other things. Considering that F1 is much more sophisticated than NASCAR, especially in technology, it is a safe bet to say that Haas should stick to NASCAR.