Editor’s Note: The North Carolina-based Haas F1 Team kicks off its first Formula One season this weekend in Australia. The team was profiled in the March issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine. Here’s an excerpt from that story.
Reality set in for Gene Haas in late January.
He’d dreamed of owning an American Formula One team and his aspiration was no longer limited to a collection of blueprints. The Haas F1 Team had drivers, crew members and technical partners in place. The car was being put together and Haas was finally ready to compete. Haas smiled as he recalled how his project had evolved from a dream to a reality.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Haas said in a conversation with SPEED SPORT. “I’ve actually gotten to the point where we’ve waited too long, I think. We need to go race.”
They’ll do just that in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Haas had an ambition — develop an American F-1 challenger and find enough spending money to make it happen.
Hordes of other wealthy Americans with big dreams and seemingly bottomless bank accounts wanted to do the same, but no one stepped up like 63-year-old Haas, a Californian with a renowned CNC machine tool business.
When Haas announced plans to start a team in January 2014, he didn’t want to burst on the scene and flame out within a couple of years. Many teams don’t get that far. USF1, the last American outfit to give F-1 a go in 2010, barely got out of first gear before shutting down. No American constructor made an F-1 race start from 1987 to 2015. The three-decade dry spell made skeptics out of millions, but Haas doesn’t mind. He saw where his predecessors failed and he believes his team will have more staying power than previous American F-1 teams.
USF1’s bid to join the F-1 grid piqued Haas’ interest in the first place, so he kept a watchful eye on their progress — or lack thereof. USF1 gained the FIA’s approval to compete; it signed a driver, Argentinean Jose Maria Lopez; and hoped its cash flow shortage would stabilize with extra support. One problem: Only money talks in F-1. The team folded before the 2010 season began.
The Haas F1 Team is not a run-of-the-mill newcomer. In addition to a considerable operating budget, Haas’ driver lineup far exceeds that of an average debutant. Along with world-class No. 1 driver Romain Grosjean, the team has former Sauber driver Esteban Gutierrez under contract for its first season.
Haas looks at F-1 as a venue to win races and gain a larger share of the market for his machine-tool business. Haas knew better than to rush his team to the grid. It’s why he deferred his entry until this season, despite being given the option to compete last year. Hurrying an operation doesn’t make a team more legitimate.
Partnering with the iconic Scuderia Ferrari, signing a driver like Grosjean and farming out Dallara for a chassis, can work wonders.
Haas also hired a well-qualified team principal in Guenther Steiner, which lent more validity to a project Haas said was right on schedule two months prior to the first race. Haas’ chassis passed its FIA crash test on Jan. 8. The team’s trucks were packed and ready for Australia before February.
Haas’ first Ferrari power units were scheduled for delivery in early February. The car’s paint scheme was slated for release the same month. The team’s mechanics planned to finish building a car in late January, then disassemble it and rebuild it to make sure it was acceptable.