Haas: 'I Don't See Why We Can't Do This'
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on April 14, 2014 | 1:56 P.M. EST
Gene Haas says that he's ready for the challenge of owning a Formula One team. (Photo: Getty Images)
CONCORD, N.C. - Maybe Gene Haas should be called "The Outlaw" instead of Kurt Busch.
Or at least be called it in Formula One.
Haas acknowledges the gargantuan task he faces with his new Formula One team - called Haas Formula - but says he wants "to beat the Europeans at their own game."
Although many might question Haas’ effort and look at the lack of U.S. participation in the sport - a U.S.-based team folded before getting to the grid in 2010, Haas isn’t daunted by such history.
"You get the impression that sometimes, people think the European way of racing is so much more advanced than the Americans, but we’re the most advanced country on the planet so I don’t see why we can’t do this," Haas said Monday, the first time he’s talked to the media since being granted an FIA license for his team last week. "It’s just basically racing. The parts are more expensive and the coffee is a lot more expensive, but I think we can bring a more rational way of doing this."
What about failure?
"I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought it would fail," Haas said.
Haas was joined Monday by Guenther Steiner, the team’s principal - the equivalent of a NASCAR team's competition director. They said they would need to inform the FIA by June whether they would debut in 2015 or 2016. Among the many tasks ahead is signing an engine and technical partner. That also would impact the decision on when to begin racing.
"That’s a very important part of this, figuring out who can provide us with the technical expertise that we’re going to need," Haas said. "We’re new at this. There’s going to be a long learning curve, and to sit there and say we can understand what's going on with these cars in a year or two is not reasonable. We're going to lean heavily on a technical partner to help us."
Haas admitted that 2015 is too soon but 2016 too long to wait to go racing. Haas said he’d prefer his team debuts next season.
"I think the first year is going to be a difficult year no matter what happens," Haas said. "Part of that learning curve is simply getting to the track and sorting out the logistics of going race to race. The sooner we do that, the sooner we’re done with that."
The team will be based in Kannapolis, N.C., next to Stewart-Haas Racing’s NASCAR operation for drivers Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Busch. Haas said that the Formula One team likely would have a satellite facility in either Germany or Italy ... adding that he’d like to have an experienced, current Formula One driver and "going forward, we would certainly like to have a young American driver."
Going to Formula One, Haas will face significantly larger budgets than he does in NASCAR. Forbes reported that budgets for Formula One teams hit an estimated $211 million in 2013. Asked if it would cost at least $1 billion within the next four years, Haas said, smiling, "billions and billions."
Haas Automation, which also sponsors Busch’s Sprint Cup car, will sponsor the Formula One team.
Haas Automation, founded by Haas in 1983, is one of the world’s largest machine tool builders and does $1 billion in sales. Haas also operates Windshear, one of the world’s most sophisticated wind tunnels.
Haas said the wind tunnel and his company’s product, along with his knowledge of racing, gives him a better background to enter Formula One than others who have tried.
"Our job is not to reinvent the wheel," he said. "Our job is to race cars and win races. The numbers I’ve seen are reasonable. Yes, it is expensive. We’re going to have our own way of doing things. Too many teams, I think, just go out there and throw money at it.
"We’re not going to be foolish like that. This is not going to be a European-style 'just throw money at things and go racing.' This is going to be a well-run, efficient American organization."
Haas also is confident that his Formula One effort would benefit the NASCAR operation, which he started in 2002. The buildings will be next to each other.
"Probably one of the biggest things we can take from Formula One is what we can take from aero," Haas said. "Formula One teams are much more into aero packages, especially when it comes down to things you would never think about ... like brake ducting, radiator intakes, and so on and so forth. These are things the NASCAR teams are just starting to touch on now that the bodies have been very much regulated. I’m hoping that knowledge from one side can transfer to the other."