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Haas bemoans Mercedes domination

NEWS STORY
28/02/2021

As his team anticipates (another) tough season, Haas team owner, Gene Haas fears that Mercedes domination of the sport is damaging it.

It's fair to say that the only genuine interest in this Thursday's launch of the Haas contender will be in the drivers standing beside the car.

With the VF-20 little changed from its predecessor and with the team admitting that there will be no development of the car as it focusses on 2022, Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will be the stars of the show.

Of course, it was widely thought that Haas wouldn't remain in F1 beyond 2020, the American team, like Mercedes and Renault, known to be questioning its future.

Though the French and German teams are now committed to remaining, doubt over Haas continues.

There has been no word from the team as to whether Dmitri Mazepin is to follow the example of Lance Stroll and buy a team to further his son's career, though the Russian was certainly keen on purchasing Force India.

The dizzy high of 2018, when his team narrowly missed out on fourth in the standings, must seem a lifetime ago for Haas, whose team has finished ninth for the past two seasons and shows no signs of improvement any time soon.

Last year there was understandable talk of Haas being disillusioned not only with his team but with the sport, and while there had been potential buyers, none was willing to come up with the sort of money the American was looking for.

Having effectively thrown his lot in with Ferrari, Haas is only too aware of the issues that compromised his team's efforts last year, however the American feels that Mercedes total domination of the hybrid era has not only affected his team but is damaging the sport also.

"Up until 2019 we were really doing very well," he tells Racer, "we had plenty of horsepower and the cars were very competitive. But then we wound up doing fuel mileage races where we actually had to do a lot of lift and coasting, so that really hurt us.

"Then in 2019 we were down on horsepower," he continues, "considerably compared to the Ferrari cars, and that hurt. We did really well in qualifying, but when the race came, our horsepower was just off.

"Then in 2020 when Ferrari had a reduction in their horsepower, it was pretty obvious that all of the Ferrari engine cars had horsepower deficits compared to Mercedes, Honda and Renault.

"Our boat's tied to the Ferrari ship, so when they're going slow we're going even slower, I don't think there's much you can do about that. We have no control over the parts that we obtain from Ferrari.

"We have faith that Ferrari can fix the problem," he says, "and not only does Ferrari have this problem, but so does Honda and Renault... everyone's at a deficit to the Mercedes engine. They built an extremely high performance, high fuel efficiency, durable engine that no other team's been able to come close to.

"To me, it's really killed what Formula 1's all about," he insists. "More power to Mercedes for being able to dominate so much of the thing, but who wants to go to a race when you know who's going to win every friggin' race that's out there? That just gets boring."

A shrewd businessman - it was the publicity F1 could give his business that attracted him to F1 - last season, clearly aware that the team had peaked, Haas chose to reduce spending, which hardly helped.

"I've always talked to the drivers," he says, "and I think in 2018 and 2019 we were spending between $20 to 40 million a year for updates, and every time I talked to the drivers it was like ‘Well, that didn't do anything!'.

"So why are we spending all this money on updates?" he continues. "That is one of the things we eliminated pretty quickly, doing all these updates, because I was pretty convinced we weren't going to do any races. I thought at best we would do four or five races, so bringing all these updates for a very short season wouldn't work. But ultimately we got a lot of races in.

"We didn't really bring any updates per se," he adds, "and I'm not really sure who did bring a lot of updates, but from a practical standpoint, they didn't seem like they really improved the car much."

This year, of course, sees the introduction of the long-awaited budget cap, and while the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari will have to make serious cuts in order to meet the $145m cap, the likes of Haas won't reach anywhere near that figure in terms of spending.

Despite the ongoing rumours surrounding his team, Haas insists he has no intention of giving in anytime yet.

"I'm optimistic about the future," he insists. "I know that this year's going to be difficult because we basically have the same car as last year, and the power plant from Ferrari is going to be very similar to last year, so we know that's not going to give us any competitive advantage. So I think that we have the mind-set of realizing our position is always going to be probably three or four positions behind Ferrari.

"It kind of tells us where we're going to be racing," he adds. "And that's OK, this is Formula 1, the pinnacle of motor racing.

"We know we're not going to be beating any of the Mercedes teams, so we just have to take what we have and learn to make the best of what we've got, which isn't bad.

"This whole sport is a lot more than just the engineering challenges and the engine development and all that stuff," he continues, "it's also participating in races and drivers and the whole other aspect of the glory of Formula 1 racing. Which is fun!

"From a business standpoint, being in F1 has been extremely successful as far as promoting our brand name. It's a great sport to be in, because there's no other sport like Formula 1, and there's a lot of excitement.

"We've brought a lot of customers to races, and I hope that Formula 1 can continue to bring that kind of prestige and excitement to races, because let's face it, sports are a big part of a lot of people's lives.

"Auto racing has been around for, like, 120 years, so I think it's something that I would like to see continue, and certainly want to be part of it."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Paul C, 04/03/2021 3:35

"Maybe Gene Haas should consider an F1 adaption of Chevy's Indy Car engines?"

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

2. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 03/03/2021 11:29

"Maybe Mr. Haas should change his philosophy and carry out more in-house design and manufacture. Being tied to another team as major supplier can be a double-edged sword - as he is finding out!"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by kenji, 01/03/2021 6:36

"What absolutely amazes me is how this has happened. We are continually told that F1 engineers /technical people are in the 'genius' class and that these cars are the best/fastest/most complex and efficient engines etc etc ever made. The latest engines were first raced in '14 but were under development for at least two/three years earlier. That's a lifespan to date of 10 years....and none of the 'genius' engineers have been able to produce even an equivalent car/engine combo, let alone a Merc beater!!! So what does that tell you... It's not as if there is only a whisker in it. The winning margins are far greater than that. Red Bull and Ferrari have the financial clout, although not at juggernaut level, to take Mercedes on but they simply haven't lived up to the expectations...why? There has to be more than outright $$$ in this. Or is it simply that the other geniusses aren't as clever as suggested?

@Barslug...I'm not sure that your comparisons are equitable
as the people you have nominated apply their personal skills and only their personal skills in creating a dominating result. In F1, as i'm sure you recognise, a driver does register a result independently of his car. A lesson well demonstrated when GR took over the Mercedes.

Haas were never going to run with the top three teams but his comments are none the less valid...at that level of competition."

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4. Posted by C5, 01/03/2021 6:14

"F1 has always been about the more clever - and usually, but not always - better funded team(s) ruling the roost.

That's what sets F1 apart from single supplier formulas - though more money is never a disadvantage - along with more or less the top run Le Mans and WRC categories."

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5. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 28/02/2021 18:00

"@wokingchap I see your point however there is little risk in Haas or the other Ferrari customer teams getting penalised for any breach of regulation should that happen.
That lack of consequence counts for something...
I also think that Haas was very smart in regard to how they went racing with so many parts from Ferrari (best bang for buck) however as Haas himself has said, the risk there is that should the supplier struggle, so to the customer.
One thing to level the "playing field" would be public disclosure of all IP of all the teams at the conclusion of the season. Even in September of that season, or halfway through.
That would mean the less well resourced teams could pick up on someone else's development ideas and the big teams would naturally temper what they do.
The big gains for the small teams would be in the first year of a scheme like this, which might close the gap, a bit, then after that it might settle down a bit.
Of course I have no idea if this would work or not but its better than penalising the top teams for doing a brilliant job.
It is up to the rest of the pack to catch Mercedes, not for Mercedes to be knobbled.
Otherwise we'll end up back in the era of a certain team having "veto" rights and certain developments such as CVT, the "third pedal" and so on getting approved, developed, manufactured, then scrapped for "unfair competitive advantage"."

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6. Posted by Wokingchap, 28/02/2021 17:40

"Consider changeing engine suppliers, you are always going to be behind the team that cheats and suffer the consequences."

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7. Posted by Barslug, 28/02/2021 17:27

"Saying that someone dominating a sport is bad for it has never heard of people like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan. Yes, you knew there was a high probability that they would win, but you enjoyed watching the mastery in how they did it. It brought new fans to the respective sports and inspired people to raise their own game. Imagine telling Tiger woods (when he was dominant) “well, you’re too good so we are going to make you use shorter clubs” or Michael Jordan “You’re dominating the sport so you now have to wear a lead belt” Don’t bemoan someone for dominating, respect them and raise your game! I’m sure if Hass was dominating, he would think it was great for the sport. "

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8. Posted by Fambank, 28/02/2021 13:09

"Next : Mercedes ridicules Haas driver signings over the past years.

and tomorrow :

Mercedes mocks Haas for not building their car completely themselves."

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