How long before Formula 1's midfield teams attack Haas F1 over Ferrari link-up?
Guenther Steiner says any Formula 1 teams who criticise Haas F1’s new approach to racing had the opportunity to follow a similar business model, ...
Guenther Steiner says any Formula 1 teams who criticise Haas F1’s new approach to racing had the opportunity to follow a similar business model, as the team braces for a potential backlash from independent outfits after massive initial success.
Haas has made a sensational start to the 2016 season, with Romain Grosjean coming sixth in Australia and then going one better yesterday in Bahrain, where he finished fifth.
The Frenchman was aided by the red flag in Melbourne, which was the result of Fernando Alonso’s huge crash with his teammate Esteban Gutierrez, but in context, Haas F1 has already scored more points than the other previous new teams (Manor, Caterham and HRT) managed in five years. And it will be worth tens of millions of dollars in years to come in prize money as Haas vaults the back markers.
Haas F1’s business model is that it uses as much of Ferrari’s technical DNA as the sport’s regulations allow, which includes the power unit, suspension and transmission systems, while its chassis is built by Italian company Dallara.
This approach was made possible by F1’s so-called “Listed Parts” – the monocoque, survival cell, front-impact and roll-over structures, bodywork, wings, the floor and diffuser – being reduced to those eight elements.
Haas F1 makes the listed parts and buys in everything else from Ferrari.
This arrangement, as well as the advantage taken over a gap in the regulations (now closed) which allowed Ferrari to work on their behalf without constraint in the wind tunnel, has contributed to the American team’s instant success. And F1 being what it is, this has angered many of F1’s independent teams who produce their own equipment in-house and view Haas F1’s relationship with Ferrari as a threat to their existence.
Suddenly their model looks outdated and inefficient.
Grumblings have started, but this will no doubt develop into antipathy. But speaking after the race in Bahrain, Steiner, who is Haas F1’s team principal, explained that all teams had the same opportunity to partner with a manufacturer and should worry about their own problems before attacking his team.
He said: “I don’t know what other people are thinking but I think in the first place, everybody has to look at themselves [about] why they are where they are before speaking [about] other people.
“The regulations are the same for everybody. We didn’t do anything different than anybody else can do so I feel completely at peace with ourselves. What we did, everybody knew.
“I think a lot of people didn’t expect it and they are now [saying] ‘wow, it really happened. And now sometimes you have to get over things, you know.”
Haas F1 is yet to sign a commercial agreement with Bernie Ecclestone, and there are some hoops to go through over the next two seasons before it can receive its share of the sport’s $890 million prize fund.
The team’s current points haul means it could well finish ahead of teams like Manor, Sauber, Renault and even Force India at the end of the season. They will become entitled to a significant share of the prize pot, pending the deal it can strike with Ecclestone. The real money kicks in after two seasons of finishing in the Top Ten of the Constructor's Championship. That will net them in excess of $60m.
With Haas' model based on using F1 as a platform for selling his machine tools, the plan is for the F1 programme, which costs around $100m a season, to break even after a couple of years and any additional sponsorship and prize money after that is pure profit.
Steiner reckons that the situation for 2017 will become clearer as negotiations continue.
He said: “We have got 18 points now but I don’t know where that takes us. I always said we don’t want to be last, I don’t think we are going to end up last, that’s a good point. How much money we get we will see next year. We count that one when we get it.”
Fifth place unexpected
Grosjean’s Bahrain result was boosted by the team’s decision to run the supersoft tyre as much as possible during the race, but Steiner reckons it would be too much to expect the new team to finish so high up at every Grand Prix.
He said: “We didn’t expect fifth. I always said we can end up in the points if we do a good job, that’s what we are working for. To end up fifth is pretty good.
“I think fifth is too ask to much for, but I think we now want to try to get points [at] every race, that is the objective. If we reach it or not I don’t know, but we know the car well enough [to know] what we can do and everybody has seen the pace over two races.
“I think it is possible to make the points and we always have only had one car at the finish. If you have two cars the chances are doubled, so yeah we want to try and get points every time. [But] to try and always be fifth is getting a little bit greedy and we don’t want to do that.”
Two-car finish objective
Gutierrez is yet to finish a race after his return to F1 with Haas at the start of 2016. Steiner revealed that a suspected brake problem had forced the Mexican out of yesterday’s event and explained that getting both cars to the finish in the Chinese Grand Prix was its first priority.
He said: “[We’re] not so pleased about Esteban, [it’s] the second race in a row he doesn’t finish. We have to investigate what it is, we had a problem on the front left. We think it is something in the brake, [but] we don’t know exactly.
“Our aim should be to get two cars to the finish that will be [the target] for China.”
Tech analysis: Williams' updated low-speed package
Gene Haas "ecstatic" over Grosjean's stunning F1 results