27 April 2014
F1 'insiders' doubt wisdom of Haas’ US-based bid
Questions raised over Haas Formula's desire to operate from the USA, as F1's newest team continues to determine its preferred technical partner.
Gene Haas should abandon plans to base his nascent F1 team in the USA and instead relocate to the sport's European heartland.
That is the belief of two men who, while never in charge of running a team, have seen previous attempts to operate from the other side of the Atlantic founder. The most recent American-based F1 hopeful, USF1, failed to even reach the starting grid when supposed to join Virgin, Lotus and HRT in the 2010 line-up, and Haas is being warned to reconsider if he wants to make a serious impression on the category.
The NASCAR team owner and automotive tooling entrepreneur was awarded an F1 licence by the FIA earlier this month, and has until June to make a definite decision on whether he intends to begin his quest in either 2015 or '16. While he ponders that decision, however, Haas remains intent on taking on the Europeans from his US base, despite admitting that the team will be working with Dallara and one of the existing engine manufacturers.
“Ideally, going forward, the main office for the F1 [team] would be here in Kannapolis, with maybe a smaller office somewhere in either Germany or Italy for assembly and disassembly of cars,” he stated during the press conference announcing the operation's F1 involvement.
But both John Watson and Johnny Herbert have expressed reservations about Haas' plans, believing that the distance could be problematical.
“For me, it's the wrong move,” the Irishman told Sky Sports, “He's going to be basing his car around the Dallara, …. so why base yourself in North America when everything has to be flown from Europe to North America to be assembled to be transported back for a European season? I would imagine you're already starting on the back foot by basing your team in North Carolina.”
Watson went on to claim that Haas would be better off buying up one of the existing teams thought to be open to offers, which would provide him with everything he needed to get the programme underway.
“[Buying a team] would be the obvious route to take,” the former Penske driver continued, “There are a number of teams in the marketplace right now that could be available but, so far, [Haas has] chosen this other direction. Maybe that might change before the end of the season….”
With the decision over when to enter the fray uppermost in his mind, the team admits that the recent upheaval at Ferrari has caused a delay in the vital process of pinpointing a technical partner.
“We have to identify our technical partner,” Haas Formula GM Joe Custer confirmed to motorsport.com, “However long that takes is how long it takes. We have to get it right. You only get one shot at it. We have to give both [Ferrari and Mercedes] a solid evaluation, and that's what we plan to do.
“They're good people [and] we've had several meeting with them. Like in any form of racing, they're in the middle of their season, so you have to give people room to sort through issues. We have to be patient and not try to force something through too quickly when all parties haven't had a chance to review all the opportunities involved and candidly, from our end, what all of our needs are. We're still determining what all of our needs are and what the partners supply. What comes along with that, is what we're trying to understand.”
However, even though Stefano Domenicali is now 'on the market' after stepping down as Ferrari team principal, Custer played down the possibility of adding an early link to the Scuderia just yet.
“Never say never,” he stated, “I personally think a lot of Stefano Domenicali - there's no doubt about that - but that's not what we're trying to accomplish right now and we haven't had any discussions to further that. People like Stefano Domenicali are hard to find - people that are in the fight right now. Whether he's a fit or not, we haven't explored that yet.”
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