Max Yamabiko: How Haas has broken the 'new team' curse

Haas has perfectly interpreted the rules to its advantage and, despite 'sour grapes' from rivals it could set a future standard, reckons Max Yamabiko.
Max Yamabiko: How Haas has broken the 'new team' curse

It is perhaps fairly typical of F1 that a positive story can be spun into a negative one as newcomers Haas are discovering very early on in burgeoning tenure.

So while the entire paddock applauded Haas' remarkable top six finish on its debut in Australia, its run to the top five in the following Bahrain Grand Prix was viewed with rather more cynicism. Indeed, if Haas' form seems unexpected for those looking in - particularly after the struggles of recent ground-up newcomers like Super Aguri, HRT and Manor -, for rivals there has been less surprise as they speculate where the Haas stops and the Ferrari begins.

I have previously noted with interest on a lot of discussion about the design of the Haas VF-16, or rather how much of the design is down to its technical collaborator and engine supplier Ferrari and how much is down to Haas itself. Bottom line, however, is whether you consider to have created the VF-16 against the 'spirit' of the what defines a constructor, its car is well within the actual regulations. And that is all that really matters.

Though not too widely reported, ahead of the 2015 F1 season the definition of what is classified as a Formula 1 constructor was revised in the regulations.

In its basic form, Formula 1 constructor must design and build all of the components which are listed in an appendix at the end of the rulebook. In the past the listed parts included the monocoque, front impact structure, suspension, suspension geometry, radiators, bodywork, steering system, brakes, floor and fuel tank. The actual manufacture of these parts could be outsourced - for example, all but one car on the grid use fuel tanks made by ATL, most outsource the radiators and dampers, while many others outsource composites work.

However, today that has changed the list of parts is now much, much shorter. Indeed a constructor only needs to build the monocoque itself and the 'wetted surfaces' which basically means the bodywork and the coolers. Everything else can simply be purchased from outside, including other teams.

Haas has pushed this to the absolute limit - which it is well within its right to do so - by buying absolutely everything it can from Ferrari. The result is that under the skin the VF-16 is very similar to the red cars. So perhaps it comes as no great shock that the new team was competitive from the outset and has prompted a few furrowed brows from rivals in the paddock.

In late 2015 suspicion arose that Haas and Ferrari were sharing a huge amount of technical data, especially in terms of aerodynamic development. As a Formula 1 entrant, Ferrari must comply with in-season strict CFD and wind tunnel usage restrictions. Haas on the other hand did not have any limitations as it wasn't at the time classified as an entry.

As such, Haas would have been free to pass all of its data to Ferrari and Ferrari could have passed all of its data to Haas, which would have accelerated the development of both cars substantially. This would have been made a lot easier when you consider the fact that Haas is using the Ferrari wind tunnel and the head of aero at the American team was a key part of Ferrari's aerodynamic operation.

Incidentally, from the moment the aerodynamic testing restrictions were introduced there was the possibility for such an exploitation to take place. Companies like Lola (now defunct), Dallara and Dome all had the capabilities to design F1 cars and had someone funded it they too could have been used to increase aerodynamic development time. However, as far as I know nobody took advantage of this.

Up until a ruling made at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year the data sharing between Haas and Ferrari was totally legal, but now it was forbidden. I asked some Haas engineers about this recently and they told me that it made no difference to them at all as the team had received no aerodynamic data at all from Ferrari. It had though of course received substantial mechanical data from the Italian team, because the two designs share almost all of their mechanical parts.

Looking at the car though I do have a few doubts about the claims that no data was passed between the two. The monocoque is clearly quite different, you can see that instantly just by looking at the roll hoop design and the shape of the top of the chassis in front of the cockpit. The rear face of the tub revealed in a television documentary about the team is very similar to that of the Ferrari as it houses the same fuel tank and has to accommodate the same battery and front face of the V6 engine. The design of the tub was a joint effort by Haas engineers and Dallara staff so you could argue that it is a Haas-Dallara, but it is certainly not a Ferrari.

But in aerodynamic terms some areas are extremely similar between the Ferrari and the Haas, the front wing is near identical in concept and only has a few detail differences, the same is true of the rear wing and the diffuser. It does look to me like data was shared between the two because the concepts and dimensions are just so similar but when I put this to the Haas staff they again denied it.

"Of course the two are similar - they have the same power unit, same gearbox, same suspension geometry and components and we are developing the car to the same rule book using the same wind tunnel, but it's all our own work," the team contests.

I take them at their word though. If it did ever take place, since data sharing was not against the rules, there is little reason to deny it.

The man whose name is above the door - Gene Haas - has also aired his frustration at the cynicism being angled towards his eponymous team. During an interview at the Chinese Grand Prix, he pulled out a sheet of paper outlining the list of components it can and has acquired, going on to refer to rivals as 'whiners'.

"Let's just set the record straight here," he said. "First of all there are only two constructors in this whole series, that is Ferrari and Mercedes. They design their own cars, they design their own engines and for the most part they probably make 90% of the parts in-house or with their designs. Everybody else gets the major component - the engine - from another supplier.

"So those other nine teams are basically just like us. We have a bigger percentage than they have but they are getting a major component - that engine - from an outside supplier. We get that engine and transmission from an outside supplier, so quite frankly I think that's just little bit of sour grapes."

The rules as written are there for all teams to exploit and I have heard a rumour that at least one other team and another all new team are looking at adopting the same approach with other big teams.

The task of the racing car designer is to maximise the opportunities in the rules as they are written and Haas has done just this, and it is now beating those teams who have not maximised the rules. It seems to me that those complaining about Haas are simply the ones with the most to lose from being beaten by them and that is as Gene says 'a case of sour grapes'.

By Max YamabikoAdditional reporting by Ollie Barstow

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