While team owner Gene Haas is zeroing in on technical partners, time is running out to make the 2015 F1 grid
INDIANAPOLIS – Gene Haas is edging closer to announcing a technical partner for Haas Formula and it’s apparent that Ferrari is his top choice.
“We haven’t exactly signed a formal contract but we’re pretty close,” Haas told Motorsport.com prior to Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. “We’re leaning towards Ferrari. They’re more open to what we need to do.
“It’s not that Mercedes isn’t right for us, it’s just that we need more help than Mercedes would want to do at this time.”
Haas, who was granted a Formula One license last month, was in Indy to support his NASCAR driver Kurt Busch on his Double quest. Haas also visited with chassis builder Dallara during his trip to Indy and acknowledged that the meeting “went good”.
“They all can do it, they all want to do it, they’re all very interested in helping us,” Haas said. “I think they’re looking at it as a good long-time partnership but it just comes down to you have to order things and it takes time to order things and get things scheduled. It just seems that it’s taking longer to accomplish what we wanted to do than we thought.
“So, it’s taken a couple of weeks but in another week then we’ll definitely know.”
After Haas establishes his technical partners, his focus will shift to driver and designer candidates in hopes of testing come January. However, at this point of the season Haas is accepting the reality that his current schedule of making it to the grid in 2015 is ambitious.
“It’s already June so it’s just seven months away and the timing issues are starting to get real crazy,” Haas said. “We have a list of names, but the problem is a lot of times they’re already working for somebody and they can’t get out of their contracts for three to six months so there’s a lot of those contractual issues that have to be resolved before someone can come over.
“Maybe that’s why they thought we were going to buy a team, because if you buy a team you get a lot of that in place. But for us, buying a team causes a lot of other problems because then you’re geographically bound to where that team is – and we really want that team to be based in Kannapolis.”
Pundits have questioned Haas’ decision to be based in the U.S. when all of the other F1 teams are overseas. Kannapolis doesn't have the same ring as say, 'Maranello'.
“That’s what they say, I don’t know,” Haas said. “They have (F1) teams in Switzerland, there have been teams in Spain – you have Ferrari in Italy – Toro Rosso. But I think ultimately the intellectual property being based in Kannapolis and maybe some of the cars and parts are built in Kannapolis and then some will be built in Italy and depending upon where the drivetrain comes from, that will likely come from Italy.
“I don’t think it’s a really big issue. You’re just talking eight hours on a plane. It’s more a question of getting it to the airport and getting it done.”
Juan Pablo Montoya, who held residences in Monaco and Madrid while racing in F1 Williams and McLaren, says trying to compete from North Carolina “could be disconcerting”. He’s also concerned about Haas Formula taking the “customer cars” route.
“I don’t want to disrespect Haas or anybody,” Montoya told Motorsport.com. “This is just my point of view without being rude about it…If you’re going to get started and hire someone to build the car for you and building your technology…nowadays it’s harder because not only do you need all the technology for gear box, differentials, suspensions…it’s very easy and cheap when you’re welding things but the top (NASCAR) teams still spend $20-30 million a year – and that’s nothing over there (in F1) because you’re not welding things. You’re doing things in carbon and carbon structures.
“I’ve seen what it takes to build a Formula One car. Even at McLaren, we had our struggles there and they had 600 people. And they had the nicest most amazing place that you could think of for a race team. If you do customer cars, then when are you going to start doing your own? How much are you getting behind? If Dallara is going to do it, Dallara probably is going to want to make some money off it. So how much money are you really spending that at the end of the day is not your own technology but somebody else’s?
“Unless you go with Dallara and say, ‘this is our team. You are part of our team. You are in charge of our chassis and we’re in this together’. That would be the only other way I would look at it.”