Did Haas/Fer­rari tie-up cre­ate un­fair ad­van­tage?

F1 Racing - - INSIDER -

The im­pres­sive new US team have put ri­vals’ noses out of joint, and the loop­hole that's helped them do so well has been closed

The new US-based Haas team have im­pressed might­ily at the start of their de­but sea­son, which has led to claims that they could have changed the model for new teams in the sport. But the ad­van­tages they had in pre­par­ing for their en­try into For­mula 1 will never be re­peated, as a re­sult of a rule change.

Haas have a close tech­ni­cal part­ner­ship with Fer­rari, buy­ing ev­ery sin­gle part they are per­mit­ted to buy from the Scud­e­ria. This means that ev­ery­thing bar the mono­coque and the car’s aero­dy­namic sur­faces is Fer­rari’s.

This is a con­sid­er­able step be­yond the tech­ni­cal part­ner­ships that many smaller teams have with big­ger ones – such as Manor buy­ing their rear end from Wil­liams, and Sauber and Force In­dia buy­ing en­gines and gear­boxes from Fer­rari and Mer­cedes. Force In­dia deputy team prin­ci­pal Bob Fern­ley was crit­i­cal of the Haas/ Fer­rari sit­u­a­tion, and said: “The prin­ci­ples of how they got here and what it did for Fer­rari as well, ob­vi­ously they are ques­tion­able.” Team owner Gene Haas re­sponded by say­ing F1 was full of “whin­ers”, adding that any other team could fol­low the same ap­proach and that ev­ery­thing was above board.

Fern­ley’s re­marks can be taken as a ref­er­ence to a wide­spread con­cern that ex­isted among all teams last year that both Fer­rari and Haas were both gain­ing an un­fair ad­van­tage from their ar­range­ment. Un­der last year’s rules, any team pre­par­ing to en­ter For­mula 1 were not bound by the usual re­stric­tions on re­search and devel­op­ment – such as wind­tun­nel hours and com­puter de­sign data – as the teams who were al­ready com­pet­ing.

This led to a two-fold com­plaint: that Haas had an un­fair ad­van­tage in the de­sign of their car; and that since Haas were us­ing the Fer­rari wind­tun­nel, the ap­proach was open to abuse. There were also claims that Fer­rari used Haas wind­tun­nel time to de­sign their own car. And many con­tinue to ques­tion the de­gree of help Haas have had from Fer­rari with the de­sign.

Haas and Fer­rari were cleared of any wrong­do­ing late last year – but the loop­hole in the rules that had given them free use of re­sources has been closed. From now on, any team due to en­ter in a sub­se­quent year will be gov­erned by the same de­sign re­stric­tions as the cur­rent com­peti­tors.

Haas’s ap­proach has meant they have been able to en­ter F1 with very low staff lev­els com­pared with ri­vals. They started this year with about 125 staff, which is less than a quar­ter of the num­bers em­ployed by Wil­liams. Force In­dia em­ploys around 380.

Fern­ley, who de­scribes this year’s Haas as “a turn-key car”, says that the mea­sure of the team is not their cur­rent per­for­mance but how they move for­ward in devel­op­ment this year, and with their new car in 2017 now that they have to go it alone.

Haas, who are still us­ing the Fer­rari wind­tun­nel, are un­der­tak­ing a re­cruit­ment drive to be in a bet­ter po­si­tion for 2017, but team boss Guen­ther Steiner says that while staff num­bers will go up, it will be “not by a lot”.

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