Gene Haas

As if launch­ing an F1 team wasn’t tough enough, Gene Haas’s new squad will be part-based in the USA

F1 Racing - - BAKU - IN­TER­VIEW AN­THONY ROWL­IN­SON POR­TRAIT CHARLES COATES/LAT

Why are you set­ting up an F1 team for 2016?

In the United States I have com­bined my pri­mary business – ma­chine tools – with race cars, and I’ve used NASCAR to pro­mote my ma­chine tools. A lot of teams use ma­chine tools to pro­duce their car parts, so I see syn­ergy be­tween the two. I’m ex­tend­ing that to F1 in the same way Red Bull pro­motes en­ergy drinks through their spon­sor­ship.

Is it a good or a bad time for a new team to en­ter F1, given what’s hap­pened with Cater­ham and Marus­sia?

It makes me ner­vous, but if you go back 20 or 30 years there were al­ways is­sues like rules, cars, horse­power, aero­dy­nam­ics. It’s a fast-evolv­ing sport, but it’s been like this for 30 years, so we are just see­ing another vari­a­tion on that. As much as peo­ple say that those teams were weak, they did sur­vive for four years. There have been worse sce­nar­ios in the past and F1 has sur­vived and done well.

How will your re­la­tion­ship with Fer­rari evolve?

It’s a dy­namic re­la­tion­ship. When we rst started out, Fer­rari were mainly just en­gine and trans­mis­sion sup­pli­ers. But then the FIA came out with the rules pack­age and we found out there were more things we could pur­chase from them. We’re go­ing to take as much as we can be­cause we feel that learn­ing from some­one like Fer­rari isn’t some­thing we could get any­where else. You can’t build in a year what some­one has spent 20 years de­vel­op­ing.

How much of the car will you be mak­ing your­selves?

Ini­tially we will be re­spon­si­ble for CFD and de­sign work, but we’ll use sub-con­trac­tors to build the rst chas­sis. We’ve got fa­cil­i­ties at the fac­tory in Kan­napo­lis, North Carolina, to man­u­fac­ture parts, but, at the mo­ment, we will just make scale model parts for the wind­tun­nel. Once we know what we’re do­ing, we’ll start do­ing more of the en­gi­neer­ing in Kan­napo­lis.

What are your aims?

First year, just no DNFs – or a min­i­mal num­ber of DNFs. Show­ing up at the race track pre­pared, go­ing to the rst test ses­sion pre­pared. Hav­ing the car be­fore we go to the test ses­sions, so we can un­der­stand how the parts t to­gether, and so when we go to the rst test we roll off the trans­porter ready to go. The rst year, ba­si­cally, is go­ing to be learn­ing the lo­gis­tics, go­ing to the races, get­ting peo­ple to the races, mak­ing sure the peo­ple are prop­erly trained, that parts don’t fall off and that we can nish.

Is it cor­rect that you’ll also have a Euro­pean op­er­a­tions base for the sea­son?

We’ll have a small op­er­a­tion in the UK for lo­gis­tics, with trans­porters, cars and per­son­nel there, but the main in­tel­lec­tual part of it will be in Kan­napo­lis.

Would you like to have an Amer­i­can drive in your team?

Hav­ing an Amer­i­can driver would be great for F1. It would raise aware­ness of the sport here in the States. If that were pos­si­ble, that’s what we would do. We want to have some cur­rent driv­ers that are fa­mil­iar with the tur­bocharged ERS pack­age be­cause there is a learn­ing curve there. That is prob­a­bly our pri­mary fo­cus, to get ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers to sit in the car and help us sort it out. Later it might be pos­si­ble to bring up an Amer­i­can de­vel­op­ment driver.

The Cir­cuit of The Amer­i­cas has been a big hit. Do you think F1 fi­nally has a launch pad in the States?

Ab­so­lutely. I’m con­vinced F1 could be a real big hit with Amer­i­can fans. Americans like rac­ing cars and car cul­ture, we’ve got mil­lions of cars. Ba­si­cally in the States, rac­ing has come down to two main menus: NASCAR and IndyCar and then a lot of re­gional things like drag rac­ing, but I think Americans would like to have more rac­ing. F1 is in­ter­est­ing be­cause it’s a dif­fer­ent avour, it’s more in­ter­na­tional, the cars are not stock cars but ex­otic, mag­i­cal aero­plane cars that stick to the road. Americans are fas­ci­nated by this kind of tech­nol­ogy, it just needs to be pre­sented in a for­mat they’ll watch.

Has run­ning a suc­cess­ful NASCAR team (Ste­wart-Haas Rac­ing, which won the 2014 Sprint Cup ti­tle with Kevin Har­vick), helped you step up into F1?

Yes – rac­ing is rac­ing, and you have to un­der­stand how that whole sport works. Some­times business peo­ple will try to start an F1 team. They don’t un­der­stand the in­tri­ca­cies, they get lost and lis­ten to other peo­ple and end up spend­ing a for­tune and it ac­com­plishes noth­ing.

You’re about a year away from be­ing ready to go. Is this an ex­cit­ing time?

I think it’s go­ing to be the best year ever, be­cause we’re go­ing to learn how to build a car and that’s go­ing to be the fun part, re­ally start­ing to un­der­stand aero. Aero in Sprint Cup cars is very im­por­tant, but aero in F1 is the lifeblood. Th­ese cars are so fas­ci­nat­ing: you take the cov­ers off and look inside and they’re not like any­thing I’ve ever seen be­fore. See­ing how the parts are tted, how they work to­gether, and how they keep track of stuff – it’s all new to me and I nd that fas­ci­nat­ing.

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