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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Should Haas Formula be taken seriously?

It is easy to write off an American Formula 1 effort. Since Mario Andretti's world championship, the track record hasn't been stellar. Haas Lola, Michael Andretti, Eddie Cheever, Scott Speed and the aborted USF1 pretty much sums up the last 30 years.

So why will Gene Haas (no relation to Carl of Haas Lola) be different? Just another cousin trying to break into the old boys club, right? NASCAR comes to F1.

Make that mistake at your own risk.

  1. Firstly, Haas has the money. Haas owns Haas Automation, Inc, one of the largest machine tool builders in the world.
  2. He has motivation. He wants to use F1 as a platform to promote worldwide growth of Haas Automation, which happens to have offices in Belgium, China and India, all countries F1 visits.
  3. There is a structure in place. Haas co-owns the enormously successful Stewart-Haas Racing, which runs/has run cars in multiple stock series. The team will be based at the team's Kannapolis, North Carolina headquarters. He also owns the world-renown Windshear wind tunnel.
  4. He has teamed up with Guenther Steiner, late of Jaguar and Red Bull, so this won't be an outsider trying to come in and do it his way, he has an accomplished insider to help make the project work.
  5. He recognizes the need to have a European base.
  6. He's made the wise decision to go with a Dallara chassis to start, rather than try to tackle that alone.
  7. He's got the ability to begin racing in 2015 or 2016, which is huge, considering the FIA took so long making its decision that 2015 has become a tall order.

Is it a done deal? No, a million things could go wrong in the next year or two. But does it have a decent chance of succeeding? Yes, definitely.

“Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA. It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One. Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid. I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.” -- Gene Haas

Exciting times? Oh, yes!

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Fan's rant: Don't build a winner, just change the rules

For years, people have asked me what I like about F1 compared to other race series. Part of the appeal has always been the politics. What goes on behind the scenes keeps it interesting.

But everything has its limit, and this weekend in Bahrain, I reached it. The continued cry to change the regulations because Mercedes did a better job than everyone else, masked in phony-baloney public outcry about the sound of the engines, is the straw that broke the camel's back.

Here are some key points all parties need to consider:

  • These rules exist in part to placate Carlos Goshn and keep Renault in F1. 
  • The new rules wooed Honda back Red Bull is supposed to have the greatest designer on the planet. Design.  
  • Stefano couldn't deliver a Red Bull beater the last for years under the last formula, either. 
  • The racing this year has been better than ever, and Bahrain may have been the best racing I have watched in my 20 years of watching the sport. 
  • No one cared about the trackside experience until it suited them, it was all about TV. So don't pretend you care about me now. 
  • The TV show is better than ever. F1 is supposed to be about cutting edge technology. 

I'll grant you one thing in the new regs truly needs to be revisited. Pastor Maldonado proved what any kid who played demolition derby with Matchbox cars already knew: you want to flip a car, get a low-nosed scooper. Yes, the new noses are ugly, they also present a predictable danger. T-boning isn't good either, so the engineers have another problem to work on.

Otherwise, shut up and get on with it. The regulations are what they are. There are no surprises here. You knew what the regulations were going to be all along. You are supposed to be the best in the world. Prove it. Don't punish one manufacturer because they did a better job.

No one likes the kid who picks up all his toys and goes home crying "No fair!"

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