Team owner Gene Haas is close to revealing F1 technical partnership and when Haas Formula will be on the grid
CONCORD, N.C. – Gene Haas could decide on a technical partnership for his Formula One team as early as this week.
As for a Formula Haas debut, all indications are that the newest F1 licensee is leaning toward a 2015 start which could inevitably determine the entrant’s supplier based on availability.
Haas met with his team principals over the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway to hash out their plans.
“We’re still finalizing the numbers, so I don’t want to say anything wrong,” Haas told Motorsport.com. “We should know something in the next week or so what year we’re going to go with and everything else. We really only got a license a month ago, so there’s been a lot of going back and forth.
“There’s just a lot of things to cover. Obviously, we want to partner with a partner that can help us the most because we don’t have much time – and that’s a little bit of it, too. One partner might be saying 2016. One partner might be saying 2015. My thing is, no matter what year it is, it’s going to be a tough year that first year, so I’d like to get it over with myself.”
With the current race season nearly reaching the halfway point, Haas is concerned that “schedules have to be met” for both Ferrari and Mercedes that could affect which manufacturer would best be able to accommodate an additional team.
“Whether they could put all the pieces together and have it ready for us next year, they have to have time to plan ahead, too,” Haas said. “That’s probably what the biggest problem is, ‘Can we get all the parts and pieces we need in time for next year?’ Otherwise, I’d rather go next year myself.
“That’s really what it comes down to. They might come back and say they can’t do it, because we can’t meet the schedule of delivering all that stuff because of the logistics of planning ahead. They would probably like a whole year, because six months is really cutting it short. Anything less than that probably isn’t possible.”
With a seven-to-10-year initial commitment, Formula Haas is considering partners for the long run. So it’s understandable that the team will not take the decision lightly to align with their chosen constructor. But the timing of the decision is equally important. Ferrari could partner with Haas Formula immediately while Mercedes transitions from four teams to three with McLaren’s return to Honda.
“Keep in mind that, right now, Renault has four customers, Mercedes has four customers, Ferrari has three customers,” Haas said. “According to the technology-sharing rules, they have to share technology with up to four customers, so basically Renault and Mercedes are out of the picture.
“Mercedes will have an opening next year when McLaren goes to Honda, but right now Ferrari is at three (teams) so it’s really the only one that has, theoretically, a position available currently, and Mercedes will potentially have one next year.
“There’s not a lot of room for any errors. Next year with Honda, it’s going to be the same situation. You’re going to have three manufacturers. Two will be at four and one will be at three and then you have Honda. That will give you 12 teams, so it’s very tight. That will probably be more of a factor of who you partner up with – just the limitations of what’s available.”
When Haas entered NASCAR in 2002, he relied on Hendrick Motorsports as a supplier for his single-car Sprint Cup team. The first two seasons, the drivers failed to post a top 10, let alone a podium finish. In 2004, performance picked up as Haas CNC Racing expanded with a Busch Series team. Four years later, Haas added a second Cup team.
While Haas failed to post a victory over the first seven seasons, things changed once he aligned with NASCAR champion Tony Stewart in 2009. Together, Stewart-Haas Racing won 13 races and a Cup title in the first three years.
After 12 seasons, four full-time drivers, 22 wins and a championship, Haas understands the importance of getting off to a fast start with the right technical partner.
“We’re kind of looking almost at a very similar package to what we have here in NASCAR where we basically rely on Hendrick for the componentry and engines and everything, and that works extremely well,” Haas said. “I’m not in this to prove that we can build the best engine or whatever. We’re here to race cars and that’s really our primary purpose.
“What we’re going to focus on the first few years is finishing races, because that’s what hurts teams the most--most of them just don’t finish the race. Having the highest-performance engine or aero package doesn’t do you any good if you can’t finish the race. So our goal is really to get the logistics down, getting to the races, getting the right equipment there, having the right spares, being able to qualify the cars properly… that’s going to be really what our goal is."
While the choice of a technical partner is still in the works, the applications are pouring from potential drivers—roughly 25 of them at this point. Haas said they’ve already had 200 to 300 aspiring employees looking to join Formula Haas, but prior to obtaining a F1 license, perusing the submissions was impractical.
“We have a stack of them,” Haas said. “We’re trying to look at every single one of them, because we know that, out of that stack, there’s the right combination of people that will make it all work.
“Like I’ve said before, we’d really like to have a current F1 driver that has driven this year’s car, because I think that’s just so critical to understanding the balance and everything else that we would need to know about. Even finding a F1 driver from a few years ago really might not help that much, because the chassis today is so much different from last year.
“Keep in mind you can’t start up one of these deals in a couple of months. Some of these teams have three, four hundred people. We have to gradually work ourselves into this. We have to bite off the minimum amount we can, we have to get partners to help us with the rest of it and then focus on getting to the races. That’s what the challenge is.”
Despite reports to the contrary, Haas returned on Saturday from overseas where he was opening Haas Automation factory outlets in the Baltic States, not shopping for existing F1 teams. Haas insisted his trip “was planned months ago.
“We had no idea that we were in negotiations with Lotus or anybody else for that matter,” Haas said with a laugh.