The Haas F1 Team made their Grand Prix debut in Australia last weekend and while many sections of the Formula One media thought this won’t work when team founder and Chairman Gene Haas confirmed in 2014 that he had won the contract to field a Formula One team, the American has show how not only can it be done but there can be success.
In the team’s first race last weekend in Australia their drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez started the Grand Prix from 19th and 20th place respectively and although Gutierrez retired on the 17th lap, Grosjean drove a fantastic race and thanks to brilliant strategy from the pit-wall he came home in sixth place.
The result has been huge news throughout the motorsport world with many of Haas’ rivals in the NASCAR Series in America very impressed with what he has done. One such person in racing legend Roger ‘The Captain’ Penske who ran the last all American Formula One team back in 1980.
Gene Haas is an extremely smart businessman and has done a fantastic job with the team firstly as he postponed his entry into F1 by a year he was able to look at what was going on in the sport at the time ans when the Marussia Formula One Team folded at the end of the 2014 season he immediately set a plan in action by purchasing the team’s old Banbury HQ.
Haas also struck up a technical partnership with Ferrari and with his engine supplier based in Italy he went in search of a company who have experience in designing racing chassis and struck a deal with Dallara who design and build the chassis for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The team are based primarily out of two locations, the first being in Kannapolis in the United States behind the Stewart Haas Racing NASCAR operation and the second being in Banbury, Oxfordshire as having a European base is essential for logistical purposes and Banbury is where the race team is located.
Once Haas had the infrastructure in place he than went about hiring personnel from established teams, and his first big appointment was former Red Bull and Jaguar employee Guenther Steiner as Team Principal.
When launching his team at a press event in the US in January 2014, Haas stated that he wanted if he could to try and hire two established and experienced drivers and that is exactly what he managed to do.
At the 2015 Italian Grand Prix, Steiner sat down with Romain Grosjean who at the time was driving for the Lotus F1 Team and after hearing what Steiner had to say Grosjean traveled to the US to meet with Haas and from their a deal was done very quickly.
Pat Symonds, the Chief Technical Officer at Williams Martini Racing has been highly critical of the Haas model, speaking to Motorsport.com he said:
I think that the status of being a constructor is being gradually eroded, And some would like it completely eroded. I think what Haas has done is good for him, but I don’t know if that’s the way F1 should be going. It is totally legal, but is it really what F1 wants? I’m not sure.
While Symonds is entitled to his opinion, it in my opinion is unfair because Gene Haas won the contract to be in Formula One and firstly has vast experience in motorsport and although is new to the sport he has done his research with his team and has invested well in all the right areas which firstly not only allowed the team to go racing but also to be competitive.
Although it is very early days in the season the team have laid the foundations do well and showed last Sunday that they could be a force to be reckoned with.
Haas had the option of buying an existing team but felt that he wanted to do something different and he has made the right decision and is funding the team in such a way that there appear to be very few sponsors on the car however when you look at his Haas Automotive operation it is one of the of the biggest machine tool producers in North America and with his success in NASCAR with business partner Tony Stewart, I, for one am not surprised that the team did so well in Melbourne and I am hopeful that it continues.