French driver Romain Grosjean was recently announced as the primary driver for Haas F1, the newest entrant to Formula 1. The only American team currently in the sport, they were one of three teams to submit a proposal to motorsport governing body FIA earlier this year, and the only ones approved.
Grosjean, who was associated with Lotus, was considering being part of the works team due to be formed by Renault following its takeover of the team in September. However, the driver says protracted negotations with the team and an encouraging approach by Haas led him to sign with the American outfit instead.
They will be Formula One’s first American outfit in 30 years – the last team from the country folded in 1986, and were coincidentally also called Haas. That team is entirely unrelated to this one, although there are several parallels between the two.
That team, Haas Lola, was owned by Carl Haas, of no relation to Gene Haas, who is the founder of this team. Carl co-owned IndyCar series team Newman/Haas/Lanigan with late Hollywood actor Paul Newman, while Gene Haas owns and runs Nascar SprintCup series team Stewart-Haas Racing with former NASCAR racer and 3-time Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart.
The beginnings of Haas
Founder Gene Haas studied business despite the fact that his real interests lay in engineering, but eventually returned to his passion as he began working as a machinist, programming numerically controlled machines.
He would go on to secure a U.S. patent with his partner, and eventually became the biggest machine tool manufacturer in the U.S.A.
Haas’ tryst with motorsport would begin in 2002, when he first formed Haas Racing, his NASCAR team. It did not have much success for a long time, however, until driver Tony Stewart joined the team as driver and co-owner in 2008. The team was renamed Stewart-Haas, winning four races with him to finish sixth in the points that year.
They are currently active in NASCAR, although Stewart announced his retirement as a driver this year. As co-owner, however, he will still contnue to be primarily involved in the team.
Introduction to F1
Gene Haas first submitted a proposal to enter Formula 1 in 2014, and was granted a Formula One license by the FIA that same year. The initial aim had been to get the team up and running for the 2015 season, but the team announced a month after they were granted the license that they would delay their debut by a year.
Towards the end of the year, Haas bought and took over the headquarters of the now-defunct Marussia Racing, located at Banbury in the United Kingdom - but that wasn’t all he bought. He acquired several of the team’s assets, among them team data and designs for their new car. Although the team went into administration, it had well-developed plans for the car, along with a scale wind-tunnel model for testing.
This was ideal for Haas, who owns his own wind tunnel via an arm of his firm, Haas Automation. The Wind Shear wind tunnel, located in Concord, North Carolina, is used by several teams in stock car racing, IndyCar, NASCAR, Le Mans and Formula One and is owned solely by Haas.
Big names on the team
Romain Grosjean has already been confirmed as the team’s primary driver. The Frenchman has been with the outfit since 2011, when it was Lotus Renault GP, prior to its majority buyout by the Genii Group.
Although the Frenchman had a strong 2013 season – with 12 points finishes, of which 6 were on the podium, 2014, and now 2015 have both been decidedly lackluster for a driver who has shown he has the pace to finish high on some of the longer circuits on the grid.
Grosjean has had one podium this year, at the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, this was in part due to 3rd place shoo-in Sebastian Vettel suffering a massive tyre blowout; the Lotus driver had been in P4 a significant pace behind Vettel before the tyre error granted him the podium.
The second driver for the team has not yet been announced, but it is likely to be Ferrari test and reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez.
Also on the team is former Jaguar chief Guenther Steiner, who, although his name is German, was born and brought up in Italy and speaks fluent Italian.
The Ferrari connect
The team have a very special connect to Ferrari. They have confirmed they will be on Ferrari’s homologated engines for the season with chassis manufactured by Italian makers Dallara, but they are widely considered the b-team to Scuderia Ferrari, as Toro Rosso are to Red Bull. It is then intuitive that Gutierrez, who previously had a first string seat for Sauber from 2011 to 2014, but lost that drive at the end of that year and took on the Ferrari role in 2015, would take that seat.
Come next year, Gutierrez will race against his former GP3 teammate Alexander Rossi, who will be racing for team Manor.
The team have said they are ‘confident’ of high points in the coming year, and they will look to prove their mettle as the first new F1 team in a number of years.