The Inside Line: Haas building American-based F1 team

The Sports NetworkApril 14, 2014 

(SportsNetwork.com) - Gene Haas is not only determined to have an American- based Formula One team ready to compete within the next two years but also a team that "can beat the Europeans at their own game."

Haas, the founder of Haas-Automation and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, held a press conference on Monday to formally introduce his startup F1 team, Haas Formula. He was joined by Guenther Steiner, who will serve as team principal. Steiner is a former technical director at Red Bull and Jaguar.

Three days ago, F1's governing body, the FIA, announced it had accepted an application from Haas to enter a new team in the sport as early as the 2015 season.

If Haas is successful in his attempt, he will establish the first American- based F1 team in four decades. Parnelli Jones, the 1963 Indianapolis 500 winner, owned an F1 team based in the United States from 1974-76. Mario Andretti drove for the team.

Haas hopes to have his team ready for the 2015 F1 season, but it could be on hold until 2016, depending on several factors.

One of the those factors is entering into a partnership with one of the three engine suppliers in F1 -- Ferrari, Mercedes or Renault. Haas thinks he will have an agreement with one of the engine suppliers within the next month or two.

"I would say we like 2015, but depending upon who we select as our (technical) partner, I don't know if they can provide all of the infrastructure and technology that we need," Haas said. "I think it's one of those things where we are going to have to find out in the next few weeks. Hopefully within four weeks, we should have an idea of which year we're going to pursue."

Haas Formula will have its main office (factory) in Kannapolis, N.C., the same location as Stewart-Haas Racing's headquarters. A satellite office is possible in a European nation in the future.

"We were in an expansion mode at the Stewart-Haas Racing campus in Kannapolis, where we were adding buildings, so what we're going to do there is take a portion of that building and make it our Formula One headquarters," Haas said. "That's the first thing we're working on. As a matter of fact, they're just putting up the roof on the building now. So we figure that's another few months away."

Haas Automation, founded in 1983 and based in Oxnard, Calif., is the largest CNC machine took builder in the western world. Haas also founded Windshear, a 180 mph rolling-road wind tunnel in Concord, N.C.

Since 2002, Haas has been a team owner in NASCAR's premier series, beginning with Haas CNC Racing. He joined forces with Tony Stewart in 2008 to form Stewart-Haas Racing, which began competition in Sprint Cup at the start of the 2009 season. Stewart gave the team its first series championship in 2011.

SHR is now a four-car operation this season, fielding Chevrolets for Stewart, Danica Patrick, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick, who became the first repeat winner in Cup this season with a victory in last Saturday night's race at Darlington Raceway.

"I went to a few (Formula One) races, and I'll tell you, it was interesting, because I've been in the Cup garage for a long time, and they got wheels and tires and engines and lots of computers, and guess what, that's what they have in Formula One," Haas said. "I think there's a lot of magic and mystique to that.

"Let's just say that if you were an ordinary businessman going into this thing, you could easily be misled into how to do this. I came back with it, thinking it will be a challenge and it's definitely difficult to do, but it's very similar to what we do now (in NASCAR).

"So I don't imagine that this challenge is going to be impossible. We do this every day. We bring four Cup cars to the races almost every week. They show up and compete."

Haas knows he has a big challenge ahead of him in F1, but he's quite confident his team will be competitive in the future.

"We're new at this, and there's going to be a long learning curve," he said. "So to sit there and say we can understand what's going on with these cars in a year or two is not reasonable. It's going to take us a while to learn, and we're going to lean heavily on a technical partner to help us."

As far as driver plans for Haas Formula, Haas said he hasn't narrowed it down to a select number of candidates yet. He would like to have an experienced F1 driver, particularly one who is familiar with the new technical rules. Haas did note that he would like to have an American driver going forward.

Costs also will be a major factor for Haas' team. It's much more expensive to compete in F1 than it is in NASCAR or IndyCar. Ferrari had an estimated budget of nearly $500 million last year.

When Haas was asked if it would cost him $1 billion in F1 over the next four years, he jokingly replied, "It's going to be billions and billions. Every week, it goes up another billion."

In 2009, the FIA granted entry to USF1, a Charlotte-based team led by racing veterans Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson, but USF1 was unsuccessful in its attempts to compete in F1 due to financial issues.

Haas believes he won't encounter the same types of problems that USF1 did.

"Things have changed a lot since the last Americans have been involved in it," he said. "I think that you get the impression that sometimes people think that the European way of racing is so much more advanced than the Americans, but we're the most advanced country on the planet. So I can't imagine why we can't do this. I don't see any reasons why we can't. It's just basically racing."

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