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Season start may decide the future of Haas

NEWS STORY
04/03/2020

If, as many fear, Gene Haas decides to pull the plug on his F1 adventure later this year, it will be difficult to discern when exactly he made the decision.

Will it have been his team's disastrous 2019 season, the Rich Energy fiasco, the sheer cost (despite the impending budget cap) or the feeling that despite next year's rules overhaul it will remain a question of the big three and Formula B, Gene Haas's own description of those teams outside the Mercedes/Ferrari/Red Bull bubble.

Following the high of 2018, when the American team was unlucky not to claim fourth from Renault, it was back to earth with a bang a year later. Following a promising season opener – at least for Kevin Magnussen - things rapidly began to fall apart, the biggest points haul coming in the lottery that was Hockenheim.

Disappointing in pre-season testing, Gene Haas admits that the early phase of the coming season will influence whether he decides to remain in F1 or move on.

"I'm kind of waiting to see how this season starts off," he tells Motorsport.com. "If we have another bad year, then it would not be that favourable.

"We did five years," he continues. "That was really the test; 'we're going to do this for five years, see how it goes and evaluate it and then we'll decide whether to go forward'.

"I'm not saying we won't be back," he insists. "It has to be evaluated. But to do it for another five years, though, that would be a big commitment."

Rich Energy branding aside, Haas used his F1 team to promote his CNC machine tool business, and in that respect the project has been a success.

"It's helped quite a bit," he says, "it gave us a lot of recognition in the European market and also a lot of the Asian markets. We've brought a lot of customers to the races. It's all worked out well.

"But..." he adds, "with the new regulations coming in 2021, the big question is how much is that going to cost? There's so much change going on in Formula 1, you really have to ask yourself is it really going to be worth the expense to try to implement all these changes? I know everyone thinks the changes are good, but, boy, they're expensive.

"It's similar to what is going on here," he continues, referring to NASCAR. "The Gen 7 is a real departure from what has done in the past. It's like anything else, they've changed so many aspects of the car, you just know there's going to be a lot of troubleshooting to get it right. It's difficult for the teams.

"These changes that they implement, I think they do it with the best of intentions but when you are on the other side of the equation trying to implement them, economically it's extremely difficult."

Asked if the return is worth the huge investment, the American is in no doubt. "It's definitely not financially worth it," he says, "I can tell you that.

"The business model does not favour the smaller teams. As everybody knows with the way the money has been distributed 70 percent of it goes to the top three teams and 30 percent of it goes to the other seven teams. It's not a good economic model.

"At least in our condition, you're only paid about a third of what it actually costs to run a team in Formula 1. So, from a business model it doesn't do that well.

"Obviously, every team has a different nature as to why they do it. Some of it is primary sponsorship. Ferrari is that they've been doing it for 60 years. But they take home enough money to actually make the $175 million cap, but a lot of the other teams operate on a quarter of that. So, how can you really run a race team with that kind of disparity?"

Referring to last week's test and the coming season, he says: "Our car certainly wasn't the fastest out there, we were midfield.

"Several years ago, the midfield was like five seconds apart," he continues. "This year they were about two seconds from each other, maybe even closer than that. I think really the only good news was that we weren't really that much slower than the Ferraris, but the Ferraris weren't at the top of the scoreboards every day, either.

"It's just a challenge," he admits. "It's a difficult sport. It's extremely expensive. It's time consuming and it puts a huge amount of stress on the teams to compete. It's not really beneficial to the teams that aren't in the top four or five."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by F1 Yank, 05/03/2020 17:23

"All good comments posted to this point. I don't think Gene should have his expectations set so high, especially since his car is an assembly of customer parts from suppliers (As Fambank stated). This is similar to Indycar in a way. I would think a realistic benchmark would be around 6/7 in the constructors championship. Any other type of expectation would be a "pipe dream". In regards to the driver lineup, I would have dumped Grosjean and at least put in Hulkenberg in his spot! Also securing additional sponsorship to cover additional cost makes sense, however the Rich Energy Drink fiasco of the logo ripoff and them pulling out didn't help. GH has to conclude if that didn't happen it would have been a better situation."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Barslug, 05/03/2020 6:35

"They retain Grosjean again and wonder why they can’t succeed? Whoever made the call to retain him should be sacked! "

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3. Posted by C5, 04/03/2020 21:46

"Haas, Steiner, Grosjean, Magnussen. All a bunch of first class whiners. Which doesn't mean much; it really just makes them fit right in with at least half the F1 field.

I really wanted to like them, but it's just impossible. As mentioned, while whining is par for the course in F1 these days, I think what make this team stand out is their sheer inability to see and acknowledge their own faults. Whether that's buying a faulty design, bumbling their strategy or pit stops, the hilarious Rich Energy saga, or persistently driving like they were in bumper cars after a few pints too many. Nothing. No acknowledgement that any of that might not be everyone else's fault.

Other prime whiners, such as Horner (anytime), Verstappen (when driving, or not driving, or having just watched Netflix), Vettel (when not being in front of the other team car), Alonso (when driving a McLaren), Raikonnen (when driving a Ferrari), Hamilton (when there's even a 1% risk he might not win the race with at least a lap to spare), they all have redeeming and likable - in many cases even endearing - traits. Yes, even Verstappen on occasion have some. But the Haas crowd? Just nothing these days. Not saying everyone can be like Ricciardo. Or even Ocon, Bottas, Leclerc, Kvyat, or Russel. Just give me something to like!

So, I for one can't say I'd miss them a lot if they just decided to not show up. Unfortunately.
"

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4. Posted by Fambank, 04/03/2020 21:07

"When you entered the worlds most expensive form of motorsport, which burns money at the same
rate as if you would throw it into a burning fireplace, when you entered, what did you expect ?

You "cheat" using off the shelf parts.
At least one of your drivers, has "special abilities", but not the ones you would want in a driver.
But hey, you extended his contract.
You failed to spot the fraud that is Rich Energy. Even someone in the most remote part of the galaxy
with the slowest dial-up account, would have been able to do research on the internet, and place
serious questionmarks about them.

So again, what did you expect ? "

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5. Posted by USA1, 04/03/2020 17:00

"Well the top 4 teams didn’t start at that position either so it’s pretty equal for all the teams to get to that point, it’s top of the line racing and it’s expensive for sure but I think everyone going into it is aware of this!"

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6. Posted by The edge, 04/03/2020 16:06

"I really do not understand these comments. With the equal share of prize money coming what difference does it make whether you come first or you come last? Surely this really is a case of ‘its the taking part that counts’ because coming 2nd to 10th you are still receiving more or less the same amount of advertising potential for sponsors

Surely Gene Haas can’t ever of imagined his team winning?"

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