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British F1 legends have concerns about Haas Formula

Apr 26, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

Gene Haas Formula One Press Conference Getty Images

British Formula 1 legends Johnny Herbert and John Watson have reservations about Gene Haas’ proposed entry into Formula 1, believing that running the team from the United States will be too great a challenge to be competitive.

NASCAR team owner Haas has been granted a berth on the grid for either 2015 or 2016 (depending on what is best for the team) and formally unveiled Haas Formula at a press conference earlier this month. Former Red Bull technical director Gunther Steiner is set to be team principal, whilst it is thought that there will be a sub-base in Italy that will work in tandem with the core operations in North Carolina.

However, Watson, who finished third in the 1982 world championship with McLaren, believes that the sheer geographical challenge could be too great for Haas.

“For me it’s the wrong move,” he said when asked about running the team from the United States on Sky Sports. “He’s going to be basing his car around the Dallara, I believe, made in Italy. So why base yourself in North America when everything has to be flown from Europe to North America to be assembled to be transported back for a European season?

“I would imagine you’re already starting on the back foot by basing your team in North Carolina.”

Watson believes that Haas would be better off buying one of the existing Formula 1 teams. Caterham, Marussia and Lotus are all rumored to be available to a buyer, and this would give Haas a pre-existing base and team to work with.

“[Buying a team] would be the obvious route to take,” Watson said. “There are a number of teams in the marketplace right now that could be available, but so far they’ve chosen this other direction. Maybe that might change before the end of the season.”

Herbert, who raced alongside Michael Schumacher at Benetton in the mid-90s, also has his doubts.

“I agree with John,” he said. “You’ve got to base it in Europe, you cannot go in American down in the south and then expect when there’s testing, for example, to ship the updates.

“The updates are a big part of what Formula 1 is about, and that’s something they’ve really got to think long and hard because I think it would be a miscalculation basing in America.”

Of course, the geographical challenge of running a team from the United States has not been lost on Haas, and the plans for an Italian operation will go a long way to easing this. With the right preparation and work from those at the team, it is certainly a challenge that can be overcome, despite what the naysayers may think.

  1. adamlucas9999 - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:27 PM

    shut your pie holes you two old has beens, F1 is all about the $$$$$ today, this man has money, nuff said!!!!!

  2. kitnamania13 - Apr 26, 2014 at 4:54 PM

    It’s hard enough to succeed in F1 with a team based outside of England, let alone outside of Europe. Regardless of what national anthem they play after the race, the cars are almost all made in England.

    Let’s also not forget that Honda and Toyota came in with a lot more money than Haas, set up shop in England and Germany, respectively, and still couldn’t pull it off.

  3. techmeister1 - Apr 26, 2014 at 6:29 PM

    The U.S. fanbois don’t seem to get it that no one is knocking Haas for trying. What Haas and many other’s who have tried F1 do not understand is the resources required and that means 300+ experienced, successful, top notch engineers and support staff – which money can’t actually buy. Then when you look at the logistics involved which is what Herbert and Watson are discussing, it’s pretty obvious that Haas is setting himeself up for failure with all of the F1 vendors being in the U.K.

    If you’ve never been involved with prototype manufacturing that needs to be accomplished yesterday… you have no idea of the technical challenges with an F1 team being based in the U.S. This however will soon be demonstrated to the world if Haas doesn’t set up shop in the UK.

    • imajoebob - May 20, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      What the Eurotrash doesn’t seem to get is that in less than ten years Haas went from a 1-car losing operation to the top of NASCAR, where EVERY race has 43 different cars from 27 competing teams. He’s gone through multiple completely new iterations of chassis and engines, and has to build at least 3 completely different cars to compete in all the races (and if you win the Daytona 500 you actually have to surrender that car to the museum!). So your “prototype testing” isn’t just old-hat to him, it’s child’s play. His NASCAR teams can get more horsepower out of a creaking old pushrod V8 than your vaunted UK engineers ever got out of their hothouse orchid powerplants that implode if the barometric pressure changes by half a millibar.

      As for those “braintrusts” of engineers in the UK, why do you think he’s staying in North Carolina? He’s already GOT hundreds of engineers there, with as much or more experience than most other teams, so he doesn’t have to buy them (but can if he wants to). He runs teams in two different series, with 5 drivers, PLUS he operates one of the largest machine tool businesses in the world. I expect he’s got a better grasp of logistics than you (constantly) do of your private bits. Then there’s owning perhaps the most advanced wind tunnel in the entire world – which race teams from all over the world come to HIM to use.

      Hop back into your British engineered Austin Princess, have your mates give you a push start, and roll on out of here.

      • dougeller - Jun 21, 2014 at 1:17 PM

        So…..Haas (or Zeus in your world apparently) has the power to magically translate NASCAR success into F1 success without need to look beyond Kannapolis (errr…I meant Olympus). Wow. I had no idea.

        Anyway, back to reality. @Imajoebob, as much as you might not like it, Haas F1 is already multinational. The chassis will be Italian. The engine will probably be German. And the principal is an Italian with a German name! So, telling the Brits to “roll on out of here” and calling the Europeans “Euro-trash” just makes you sound ridiculous.

        F1 is fundamentally different from NASCAR and bringing in F1 domain experts is just smart. By extension, it would also be smart to set up the team base where the domain experts are. You just can’t argue with that.

        As @techmeister1 said, no one is knocking Haas for trying. But, it is legitimate to question a business decision that intentionally places the team at a disadvantage. Namely, to rely on a NASCAR-centric complex as the sole local support structure for an F1 venture. Not to mention the unavoidable issues brought on by having to ship cars, parts and people back and forth from Kannapolis under tight prototyping constraints. You can’t just waive aside these problems by citing Haas’s previous experience in a NASCAR environment that doesn’t involve intercontinental logistics.

        (Oh, before you bash me as Euro-trash, I’m a southern boy. Born and bred in Georgia.)

      • ascendantlogic - Jun 22, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        As an American who actually has some common sense, let me state that this idiot doesn’t speak for all of us. I completely understand the reasons they are stating. Just like most of NASCAR is based in North Carolina, most of Formula 1 is based in England. Don’t make things harder on yourself than they already are. Just get a plot of land in England and build your team facilities there.

  4. uknownothingatall - Apr 26, 2014 at 10:37 PM

    When did Johnny Herbert become a “legend”?

    • redrock81 - Apr 28, 2014 at 2:55 AM

      that was exactly my reaction!

      but I would have to agree with both drivers, i’m afraid.

      Most of the teams are based in Europe. Haas would probably have been better off buying a team rather than building it from the ground up. Take Red Bull for example, they purchased Minardi for what would become Scuderia Toro Rosso and even then they still struggled.

      • imajoebob - May 20, 2014 at 12:32 PM

        Which is why you don’t buy another team. If you wanted to get into automobile manufacturing, would you start fresh or would you buy Yugo? Would you open a new shop on High Street or buy Woolworths?

        Why would anyone buy a losing enterprise with all the baggage and all the tribal knowledge that got them nowhere?

        Haas is expanding his brand, and will build on his current success.

  5. twosco2 - Apr 27, 2014 at 1:48 AM

    Honda has been in and out of F1 since the 60’s. Winning and losing along with everyone else. There is no reason to think that they can’t be competitive again. I’m also thrilled that Hass is willing to put his money where his mouth is. I hope he builds a fan base in the US and maybe even find an American driver worth his salt. I’m happy that England has upheld F1 tradition, but you lads are not the center of the universe, and had better hope that Bernie beats the rap. If he doesn’t, then F1 is up for grabs.

  6. manik56 - Apr 29, 2014 at 12:16 AM

    It probably would make the most sense geographically to base the team in Asia since that is where all the races are going. If Haas fails, it will not be because he is based near Charlotte.

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