Haas F1 has no intention of bringing up the rear as it makes its debut on next year's grand prix schedule, and believes that its route into the sport gives it every chance of gaining a foothold where others have failed.
Since the grand expansion plan of 2010 led to the arrival of Caterham (then Team Lotus), Manor (then Virgin Racing) and HRT (initially know as Campos Meta 1) – as well as witnessing the stillborn USF1 project – the state of the global economy has made life difficult for more than just the newcomers. Caterham left the sport after the 2014 season, two years after HRT's demise, while Manor only survived to compete in 2015 after an unstinting resurrection effort led by John Booth and Graeme Lowdon, both of whom have now left the squad. But even the likes of Lotus have run into financial problems this season, notably being shut out of their own hospitality units and experiencing logistical issues as they struggled to pay the bills, so why is Haas so confident that it can succeed where others have failed?
“[Team owner Gene Haas] is not trying to be a genius and more clever than anybody,” team principal Gunther Steiner told USA TODAY Sports
, “He listens to people and we try to keep all the unnecessary stuff out. Keep it simple. Keep focused on going racing and not all that other stuff.”
While the newcomer's technical relationship with Ferrari was limited by recent tweaks to the rules that prevent data flowing in both directions, Haas makes no apology for the fact that he is taking advantage of being able to link up with the sport's grandee
instead of spending millions of dollars to forge its own path.
“If you can buy a team which goes under, there's usually a problem with it,” Steiner said, “You know there's a problem, but you don't really know what the problem is. We still have to prove that our way works, but we believe in it otherwise we wouldn't be doing it. We haven't shown anything, but we believe in it. If someone is willing to supply it to us, it would be foolish to try and do it yourself. It would take too many years. It would be impossible. I think that's what tripped up some other teams.”
Being frugal helped Haas not only survive in NASCAR, but move to the front of the field, winning titles with both co-owner Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick after forging a technical alliance with a rival, and the American outfit is happy to follow the same route for its introduction to top flight open-wheel racing.
“We're not here to prove we can out-fancy [anyone] in terms of our colours or equipment,” Steiner confirmed, “And we are not here to be last. I don't want to be arrogant, but we will not [be] happy being last. Just participating is not what Gene or the team wants to do. We've been planning this now for 18 months and the sense of urgency is definitely to the point of 'we need to get racing'.”
While those who have tried and failed, or been involved in the trying and failing, have issued their own warnings to the US start-up – with former HRT team principal Colin Kolles and BAR boss David Richards both telling television interviews that Haas may have under-estimated the financial cost of competing in F1 – the American tool magnate remains optimistic of being in for the long haul, starting in 2016 with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez behind the wheel.
“For every success we've had, we missed out on a bunch of things, [but] I think NASCAR has been an incredible run [and] F1 brings that excitement again, that we could do this all over again,” the team owner concluded, “I think anything more than ten years is about as far as I go out, so I got the next ten years covered. Hopefully, we'll win a couple more NASCAR championships in between and that'll keep me busy.”