(WOMR file photo)
Gene Haas is well aware of recent efforts by Americans to assemble Formula One teams. He is equally aware of the failures and borderline deceptiveness of those efforts and he thoroughly understands the skepticism that those failures have created among American fans.
So during a lengthy teleconference last Monday, Haas, who last week was granted a Formula One license by the FIA sanctioning body to build a team, issued a message to the skeptics: Haas Formula, as the team will be known, should not be confused with entities like the USF1 effort of just a few years ago, who failed miserably to field an F1 team.
“Well,” Haas said, “there is obviously skepticism in anything that anybody’s trying to do that hasn’t been done before. The only way I can allay it is to go out there and do it.
“I can’t tell you about the other people that fail. I don’t know why they fail. I can’t guarantee that I won’t fail, but you have to try it.”
The fact is, Haas has a lot more than optimism going for him as he begins building his team.
You see, Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner, the team’s principal, are not USF1’s Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson! Haas has at his disposal all the things, and more, that USF1 only hoped it would have. Things like money, FIA rules that have become more friendly to start-ups, and a viable launch and follow-through plan.
Haas said Monday that his goal is to race for a World Championship beginning 2015, and there is every reason to believe that the goal will be met.
Those familiar with NASCAR, and those familiar with world of machine tools, know well the Haas story. He owns Haas Automation, the company which produces CNC machine tools. The company is a monster. It is the biggest machine tool producer in the Western World.
Someone once asked a NASCAR insider about Haas, and his financial situation. The guy laughed and said Haas “has more money than Roger Penske and Rick Hendrick put together.”
Real money. Not on-paper money. From the sound of it, Gene Haas is ready to spend a lot of it on his Formula Haas team. Asked if he had heard it might cost a billion dollars to build a team, Haas said, “It’s going to be billions and billions. So every week it goes up by another billion.”
Haas’ reasons for getting involved are primarily mercenary – as they must be for every owner other than Ferrari. He is doing it to increase the profile and profitability of his company.
“As things evolve,” he said during the teleconference, “eventually I saw a relationship with, obviously, racing and machine tools that I wanted to pursue in Europe. Most of the sales in the world are going to be overseas in the next four or five years, and my basic goal here is to change Haas Automation from just a machine tool builder into a premium brand. I think Formula 1 will provide that, especially in the overseas markets.”
Formula One not only increases visibility in foreign markets, it creates the perception that his tools are of elite quality.
Haas correctly notes that recent FIA rule changes – while they may not be a big hit with traditional fans –make jumping into F1 cheaper and easier and with an increased expectation of success. The rules cover everything from engine leasing to banning some of the more outrageous technological advances.
“The regulations have changed in our favor,” Steiner said. “Appendix 6 of the Sporting Regulations has changed. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, as Gene said, because the wheel is there. We just do what is important to it and that’s how we see it to be efficient, how we go forward.”
Additionally, there is one very important tool that is essential to a F1 team. It just so happens that Haas is also the proud owner of something every F1 team needs in order to be competitive – a wind tunnel. Though recent rule changes have clamped down on the use of full-scale tunnels, the wind tunnel still remains indispensable and an extremely expensive tool.
“I don’t have to go out and buy a wind tunnel, so I don’t have to pay the hundred million dollars because I’ve already got one,” Haas said, “so that’s an advantage right there. I’m already saving money, and I haven’t even started.”
And from the sound of it, he knows that hiring the right kind of driver – one with a recognizable name and F1 experience – will be a key to kick starting the very steep uphill effort he is faced with. Most importantly he has brushed aside any talk about putting Danica Patrick in the car!
Where Haas may be deficient, and which is not joke, is his expectations of how difficult – money, rules and facilities not withstanding – getting rolling, and then getting competitive is going to be.
Haas will find out that F1 is not NASCAR and Europe is not the United States. He will get lessons in politics and elitism and condescension. He will not be welcomed to F1 with cakes and soup by the traditional powers over there.
If Gene Haas has any questions on the subject of politics, elitism, and the view that F1 has of Americans, all he has to do is to ask Michael Andretti about the reception Americans receive in F1! Get the armor plating out to protect your ego, Gene Haas!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!