Good luck Haas – you’ll need it!
Bold, crazy, certifiable? These and many other adjectives could be (and have been) applied to new Formula 1 team entrants over the decades. And now more than ever we must reach for superlatives to describe the scale of the undertaking involved in launching a new F1 team from scratch. For that’s what Haas F1 have done in pitching their entry for 2016, evolving it from smart idea to a fully fledged team in the space of just 18 months or so.
Sure, they’ve been exceptionally pragmatic in their approach: a chassis from Dallara; an engine, transmission and a host of other permitted parts direct from Ferrari; control tyres; and a UK base previously used by Marussia. Each of these elements make the genesis of a Formula 1 team somewhat easier than it would be for any start-up launching truly from nought.
Yet the challenge ahead for Haas is daunting. There’s that 21-race odyssey for starters. Then the tricky business of moulding several hundred staff into a team. Haas also face their own unique logistical challenges in coordinating operations from their Banbury HQ when neither engine nor chassis supplier are on site.
And that’s before any mention of the dire recent record of new F1 entrants: HRT and Caterham, both now defunct; Manor (née Virgin) battling on after six turbulent seasons – although their performance trajectory is happily beginning to turn upwards.
Indeed, the last genuinely successful Formula 1 newcomers were Red Bull, in 2005, who, as history records, bought a thinly resourced Jaguar Racing, pumped in cash and a whole heap of racing savvy, and then added some of F1’s finest technical minds to the mix as they went about building layers of excellence to achieve domination from 2010-13.
Perhaps that’s where Haas should train their gaze as they undertake their epic adventure: aiming to be the best, even as they have to frame their ambition within the limits of the available resource. Running a titlechallenging F1 team costs somewhere in the region of £300m per season, and while Haas have not set their bar that high initially, nor are they a fly-by-night operation thrown together on the whim of a rich benefactor. Haas Automation, the company behind Haas F1, are “the largest CNC machine tool builder in the Western World” as their website proudly proclaims and in 2014 they enjoyed their best ever year, with revenues topping $1bn. With lavish funding potentially on tap, there’s every reason to take Haas F1 seriously, even as they work through the inevitable early-season teething troubles. No one really knew what to make of Red Bull Racing, after all, when they brought their own brand of fizz to the F1 paddock more than a decade ago. But Formula 1 found out soon enough.
So, as the good ship F1 prepares to embark once more on a round-the-world voyage, we wish the very best of sporting fortune to all who sail in her – and especially to those brave souls taking the plunge in uncharted, though surely piranha-filled, shark-infested, waters.
Follow Anthony on Twitter: @Rowlinson_f1