On Monday, Gene Haas took some time to talk more in depth about his plans to enter Formula One as the twelfth team on the grid.
CONCORD, N.C. – Gene Haas did not mince words on Monday.
He’s determined to prove that a Formula One team made in America cannot only survive but thrive in the most competitive motorsports arena in the world.
The motivation for the 61-year-old industrialist is two-fold. Primarily, Haas, who owns one the largest CNC tool manufacturing operations, wants to market his products globally and F1 will allow him to “enhance his branding” on a greater scale than NASCAR, which is limited to North America.
“The ultimate goal is to take the image of Haas Automation and turn it into a brand that is desired and high-quality and known throughout the world,” Haas said. “The ultimate goal would be to double our sales for Haas Automation.
“I think it’s going to be positive. As an indicator, I’m using the relationship with NASCAR that we have here including the brands we have in the United States. We have a very good market share, good market penetration and it’s as simple as to replicate that overseas.”
Secondly, despite short-lived effort of the USF1 team, Haas is convinced that an American-based team can compete against the established F1 juggernauts of Europe. Haas feels that with the current F1 rules packages, the timing is right for an aspiring team to enter the series and dispel the notion that “Americans can’t do it”.
“I'm here to prove that we can do it, and we can do it with a budget and we can be efficient at it and we can win at it,” Haas said. “That's what I'm going to try. I'm not saying that I'm better than anybody else. I just have a different way of doing it, and people that I work with think differently. That, I guess, is going to be the secret to our success in this business.
“We're going to spend our money wisely. We're going to do it with an American flair for design and efficiencies, and that's how we're going to control our costs. I don't ‑‑ we're not going to be a European‑led team. We're going to be an American‑led team and we'll do it the way we think is the most efficient.”
Yes, this is an ambitious undertaking for Haas. He wasn’t joking when asked about his budget that “it’s going to be billions and billions” to be operational. And he has just over a month to inform the FIA as to whether Haas Formula intends to race in 2015 or 2016.
“We will announce in the next weeks, four to six, I would say, what we are doing,” said Formula Haas team principal Guenther Steiner. “Then it's only eight months to go. So we need to do it rather soon.
“But we want to make the right decision. We don't want to jump and say wow, we got this one wrong and then fade.”
Certainly, Haas’ timetable will depend on the support of his technical partners. Similar to his introduction to NASCAR where he relied on Hendrick Motorsports to get up to speed, Haas will rely on the relationship of his potential F1 partners as well.
Formula Haas’ home base will be in Kannapolis, N.C. adjacent to the existing Stewart-Haas Racing shop. The company is currently adding 150,000 sq. ft. With Haas Automation satellites in Brussels and Shanghai, there is already a global base, but Haas expects to have a secondary shop in either Germany or Italy likely dependent on whether he partners with Mercedes or Ferrari. Haas will likely use Dallara for his chassis, but his eventual goal is to develop the components to compete for the Constructors championship.
As for prospective drivers, in the beginning Haas would like to use racers that are already familiar with the current engine rules package then eventually phase in American talent. Steiner would prefer not entertainment drivers searching for buy rides but rely on racers with raw talent.
For now, Haas intends on maintaining a clean car free of sponsorship outside of the Haas brand. He believes that any additional support would “dilute” his marketing strategy. However, a five-year plan is in place to “make this a profitable enterprise” and that will involve additional sponsors in order “to make money and compete”.
“I wouldn't be doing it if I thought I was going to fail,” Haas said. “But I'll try it even if I do fail, but that's the challenge of it all. The challenge of it all is proving other people wrong. That would be the greatest satisfaction is being able to go out there and do what other Americans haven't done, which is, I guess, the definition of success.”