In F1, many fear what they cannot see and this is no more apparent than when a new competitor joins the ranks. However, when that competitor happens to be entering having forged a technical partnership with Ferrari, it is perhaps little surprise Haas have raised a few eyebrows in the paddock.

For many of the teams, the relationship between Haas and Ferrari is 'ambiguous', a word used more than once when Mercedes approached the FIA to clarify a number of sporting regulations in a thinly veiled reference to the incoming American team and its main rivals.

The queries raised by Mercedes in October over the Haas collaboration with Ferrari on aerodynamic testing were just a hint of how differently the American team is doing things compared with previous newcomers.

In the case of aerodynamic work it seems that Haas has not only been using the Ferrari wind tunnel to develop its car but has also been using Ferrari engineers to accelerate the car's design. They could do this because Haas is not a Formula 1 team until the start of 2016, so the various restrictions on testing do not apply to the newcomers until the new year - or at least they didn't until Abu Dhabi.

What it seems that Haas was doing was sharing wind tunnel data with Ferrari in order to allow both to improve their 2016 cars. But Haas is sharing a huge amount of data with Ferrari as Ferrari is building most of the car for the new team.

Much of what makes the paddock wary over Haas and Ferrari's relationship comes down to a matter of definitions - in other words, what is a 'constructor'? The meaning of this has been redefined extensively in recent years, and in a rather quiet fashion.

Until very recently, the definition of a constructor was an organisation that would design bespoke monocoque, front and rear crash boxes, brakes, suspension, cooling system, bodywork (including the floor), steering system and fuel tank. But about two years ago that was changed, and a 'constructor' would only have to make the chassis, front crash box, suspension, brake ducts and bodywork. The rules were further softened ahead of the 2015 season so that a 'constructor' would only need to make the chassis and bodywork. Everything else can be customer parts, and that is exactly what Haas is doing.

Ferrari will supply Haas with absolutely everything on the car apart from the monocoque - which is being built as a joint project between Haas and Dallara - and the bodywork, which it seems has until now been a joint project with Ferrari. This is about as close to a customer car as Formula 1 can get without going to the extremes of Super Aguri in 2008 (F1's last customer car).

Indeed very little of the 2016 Haas will be made by Haas; most of the car will come from Dallara or Ferrari. But I'm told that the Haas building in the USA is huge, and that they have great plans to build the car there in future. Other teams such as Sauber, Manor or Force India could adopt the same approach as Haas but none of them seem keen to do so at the moment.

In short, the only difference between the 2016 Ferrari and the 2016 Haas will be the tub and the body panels hung off it - all within the regulations -, although with the collaboration at Maranello don't expect those to be that different.

Haas is not going to simply copy the Ferrari bodywork - it has been working on its design since 2014, and has a totally separate CFD programme using the former Marussia cluster in Banbury. That cluster was actually quite new as the original caught fire in 2013, but oddly it is operated remotely from North Carolina, where the Haas engineers working on the CFD project are based.

None of this is to say that Haas or Ferrari have done anything wrong: they have pushed the rules to the limit and exploited a grey area. Mercedes thought perhaps the rules had been pushed too far, asked for a clarification and got it. Now Haas can no longer share data with Ferrari and some of the people who had been working on both projects will now have to commit to one or the other as they can no longer be shared between the two. The rulings of the stewards at Abu Dhabi now stand for the whole of 2016, but another similar ruling or a rule change would be required for 2017.

This is unlikely to be the last time that Haas manage to upset the establishment, but then that is rather the company ethos as I understand it.

Footnote:
As an aside, I noticed a few interesting details in the letter written by Paddy Lowe to Charlie Whiting asking to clarify the situation with Haas and Ferrari. Some of them need further investigation, but one I would like to highlight regards Mercedes customer teams in future.

Lowe asked Whiting twice about whether teams who have taken a year's sabbatical could re-enter F1 having avoided the aerodynamic test restrictions. It may be that Lowe was exploring the limits of the rules or could it be that perhaps he expects one of Mercedes' customer teams to sit out a season of F1 before returning in some new form?

Max Yamabiko

Max Yamabiko will bring you a closer look at the technical side of F1 and motorsport in 2015, from the latest developments and solutions employed to keep you ahead of the game

 

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