NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Gene Haas, shown at right with team driver Kurt Busch, may learn as early as today whether his bid for a Formula One license has been approved.

NASCAR team owner Gene Haas still hopeful of building U.S.-based F1 team


CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Gene Haas is serious, he puts his money – and with an estimated worth of $250 million, he has plenty of it – where his mouth is.

Haas recently paid $5,000 as part of the first phase of the application process for a Formula One license.

“I’ve had interest for a number of years,” Haas said of owning an F1 team. “I think it’s an incredibly difficult challenge, it’s nothing to be taken lightly, it’s filled with peril and there’s a million ways to fail. For all those reasons is why you do it, to see if it’s something you can do. … I think it would be a great honor as an American to participate in that type of racing.

The second phase of the application process is due by February 10, Haas said during Monday’s opening of the 32nd annual NASCAR Media Tour. And if F1 officials look with favor upon Haas’ bid, they could award him an ownership license by March.

Perhaps he’s playing his cards close to the vest, but as eager as Haas is to own an F1 team, he’s melancholy about his overall chances.

“We have a shot,” Haas said, before conceding, “I don’t think it’s a great shot. It could go either way. I think (F1 chairman Bernie Ecclestone) is a little skeptical whether we can actually do it. He’s seen teams make these applications and then fail, and I don’t think he really wants to do that again.”

Haas can understand if Ecclestone has some reluctance at an American F1 team. The last attempt to get a U.S.-based team off the ground, a highly publicized operation also based in the Charlotte area (where Stewart Haas Racing is based), fizzled out before ever getting on a racetrack.

“If I were Mr. Ecclestone, I’d probably be saying, ‘We’ve tried this before and it didn’t work. What makes these guys different?'” Haas said. “But it’s like individuals, you never know who can get things done and who can’t. I can see Formula One being gun shy about putting another American team out there since the last one did not get to the grid. That was not good at all.

“It’s a formidable challenge. It’s not easy to do and it’s not 100 percent guaranteed that we’ll succeed at it. It’s daunting, as far as I’m concerned.”

Equally daunting is that F1 controls how many ownership licenses will be available to be issued when a final decision is made just over a month from now.

“(F1 officials have) has said there will anywhere from none to one (new license granted),” Haas said. “They might not issue a license at all if they don’t feel any teams are qualified.”

Still, there are several upsides to a U.S.-based team, Haas said.

First is the uniqueness of an American team.

“We’re American and I think we have a different way of doing things and can be a lot more efficient at what we do,” Haas said. “When you see the number of people building a Formula One car, you have to scratch your head and say, ‘Wow, are all these people really necessary?’

“The Europeans have their way of doing things and we as Americans have our way of doing things, and I think we can be competitive and successful. I don’t want to do things the way the Europeans do, and they would never do things the way we do. That’s what makes it an interesting series, you’d bring different perspectives on how you’d run these teams.

Another plus is Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, which held a very successful F1 event in November.

“(Formula One is) going to have the Austin race, they’re looking at New Jersey either next year or the year after, they’ve talked about going back to Mexico City and then you have the race in (Montreal),” Haas said. “So you could have four or five races in North America, which I think would be great.”

If F1 officials approve Haas’ application, it’s questionable whether he could form a team in time for the 2015 season. To do it right, he may push back a potential team’s debut until 2016.

“I don’t know. It seems like every time we deal with it, the process takes a little longer than you think,” Haas said. “If the process drags on into June or July, we probably wouldn’t be able to do it. If we had known back in December (that a license would be approved), we probably could do it. We’re getting into this grey area of what we could do and also depends on what we could partner with as far as engines and chassis and all that other stuff. Those are questions that haven’t been answered yet.”

Co-owner of Stewart Haas Racing and NASCAR star Tony Stewart would not be part of the F1 operation, which Haas would run separately from the four-team NASCAR operation he and Stewart currently have.

“I’m excited for Gene, I think it’s a great opportunity,” Stewart said. “It’s not something that you can just go make the decision and go do it. There’s a lot of processes that I’ve learned through Gene how this all works. Gene’s had the ability to build a championship-caliber team in NASCAR, and now he’s ambitious to expand on that and go to a world-wide scenario.

“We’re all real supportive of his aspirations to be in Formula One. Gene’s the kind of person that when he puts his mind to doing something, he can make it happen and stays focused on it. It’s going to be exciting to watch him do the same thing in Formula One.”

Here are your Russian Grand Prix air times on NBCSN, Live Extra

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The Russian Grand Prix airs this weekend on NBCSN, marking the second time for Formula 1 to hit the streets of Sochi after its debut at the new track last year.

Here’s your TV times breakdown:


Formula One returns to Sochi for its second race in Russia in as many years, following the first running of the Russian Grand Prix in a century last year. Mercedes enjoyed success at last year’s Russian GP, as Lewis Hamilton led Mercedes to a 1-2 finish and the team clinched its first-ever constructors’ championship. Mercedes is on the brink of winning its second straight constructors’ championship, and needs to outscore Ferrari by just three points this weekend in Sochi to secure the title.

Hamilton dominated the most recent race on the F1 calendar, the Japanese Grand Prix on Sept. 27, as he led all 53 laps to claim his eighth win of the 2015 campaign. Hamilton leads teammate Nico Rosberg by 48 points with just five races remaining in the season.

Live coverage from the Sochi Autodrom begins Friday morning with Practice 1 at 3 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Live Extra, followed by Practice 2 at 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN. Live Extra will stream Practice 3 on Saturday at 5 a.m. ET, prior to live qualifying at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

Live Russian Grand Prix coverage begins Sunday at 6:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by F1 Extra at 9 a.m. ET. NBCSN will air an encore presentation of the Russian Grand Prix at noon ET on Sunday.

Lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey will call the Russian Grand Prix, and will be joined by veteran analyst and former racecar driverDavid Hobbs, and analyst and former race mechanic for the Benetton F1 team Steve Matchett. F1 insider Will Buxton will serve as the team’s on-site reporter from the Sochi Autodrom. Alex Jacques will call the GP2 race in Sochi airing Sunday at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

F1 Motorsports Coverage This Week on NBCSN & NBC Sports Live Extra (subject to change):

Date Program Time (ET) Network
Fri., October 9 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 1 3 a.m. NBC Sports Live Extra
F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 2 7 a.m. NBCSN
/DRIVE on NBC Sports 8:30 a.m. NBCSN
Sat., October 10 F1 Russian Grand Prix – Practice 3 5 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Russia Grand Prix – Qualifying 8 a.m. NBCSN
Sun., October 11 F1 Russian Grand Prix 6:30 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Extra 9 a.m. NBCSN
F1 Russia Grand Prix (Encore) 12 p.m. NBCSN
GP2 – Russia* 10:30 p.m. NBCSN

Rosberg: F1 title race is not over yet

xxxx during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Suzuka, Japan.
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Nico Rosberg is refusing to back down in the fight for the 2015 Formula 1 drivers’ championship despite trailing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 48 points with five races remaining.

F1 arrives in Sochi this weekend for the Russian Grand Prix, and Rosberg knows that failing to score any points would leave Hamilton just one victory away from a third world title.

Rosberg has failed to put up the same kind of fight to his teammate this year as he did in 2014 when the championship was only decided at the final race in Abu Dhabi.

However, he is refusing to back down and write off his title hopes yet, despite not having won a race since June.

“Once I got back from Japan, I was able to focus on the positive elements from my weekend in Suzuka: pole position, the on-track pass on [Valtteri] Bottas and then having the speed to undercut [Sebastian] Vettel’s Ferrari at the second pit-stop,” Rosberg said, reflecting on his fightback to second place at Suzuka two weeks ago.

“I’m not backing down in my fight for the championship and gaining those positions back fair and square showed that. We have five races to go and, although the championship gap to Lewis is quite big, in my mind it’s definitely not over yet.

“The way the whole team has performed this year – from the factories to the garage – has been just incredible and I have the car I need to get back to the top step.”

Sochi was the site of Mercedes’ first constructors’ championship victory in 2014, and Rosberg is hoping to aid its bid to clinch a second title on Sunday.

“I really enjoyed our first trip to Russia last year and it was an awesome weekend for the team – one that I will always remember after seeing all the hard work they’ve put in during my time here,” Rosberg said.

“So, I’m aiming to put all those tools they’ve given me to good use and bring home a top result.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend.