The Haas F1 team started their debut campaign strongly in 2016, and remained a threat to the points throughout the season. This was an impressive feat for a debut team and diametrically opposed to their lengthy climb up the order in NASCAR under the Stewart-Haas banner.
Fifteen years ago, Gene Haas founded a NASCAR team that has since collected two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championships and 36 victories. Haas had to wait for success in NASCAR, as Gene Haas reveals:
“Well, our first year in NASCAR was a really arduous task. We always ran at the back and we did it for like six years straight and we never had much luck. We started in NASCAR in 2002 and the competition for drivers and crew chiefs was intense and we just struggled.
Everything we learned that we did wrong in NASCAR we avoided in Formula One, and the most important thing was immediately seeing what works and what doesn’t work. We learned that the hard way in NASCAR, so when we went to Formula One our focus was not so much on how we did things, but who we did things with.”
– Gene Haas
Expectations stemmed from Haas F1’s impressive eighth place finish in the Constructors standings is counterbalanced by an uprooting of regulations, meaning that the relative newcomers to the sport haven’t had time to settle. Gene Haas was asked whether or not he thought the 2017 regulations would offer a greater challenge to the team.
“I think it has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, we’re not trying to put the whole pit crew together. We don’t have to worry about getting trucks and other infrastructure. We have all that in place.
The negative side is that there’s less time to do all these things again and there are a lot of rule changes, so you have to be prepared. On the other hand, we have stronger relationships with a lot of our suppliers, so that should make it easier. It’s kind of give and take. It’ll be just as challenging as it was last year, but I think with the knowledge we have, we should actually perform a little bit better this year.
If we can do a little bit better because our business model in Formula One allows us to operate more efficiently, we might be able to move up a position or two.”
– Gene Haas
Incoming driver Kevin Magnussen still has a lot to prove in F1, but the Danish driver seems to be genuinely valued in his new team and it looks like the environment will be more stable for him. Gene Haas was very happy to get his signature on a Haas contract.
“Magnussen was actually one of our original candidates. We talked to Magnussen and thoroughly went through his racing resume and we were very impressed. Near the end of the season, we asked Kevin if he might be available and he said he was. On the second to last race weekend of the season, we made our decision and brought him to Haas F1 Team.”
– Gene Haas
One of the biggest changes from a race team’s perspective is the return of in-season testing. Teams have been given a free reign on what they are permitted to test and the first of these arrives at a crucial point in the season, just after the second Grand Prix in Bahrain. It will take place on the Tuesday/Wednesday following the race around the Sakhir circuit, and will give teams a much needed window to assess and amend what has and hasn’t worked on their 2017 challengers so far. It’s an early enough window to have big connotations on the Constructors standings, with the next opportunity to test coming at the Hungaroring on August 1/2. Given Gene Haas’ systemic philosophy for being quick to react to what’s is and isn’t working on the car, the Haas mindset might provide an extra boost in the new era.