Haas leading the race to join Formula 1 in 2015

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Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said that the bid from Gene Haas to join the sport in 2015 is currently leading the way, and is largely dependent on the team’s plans for the next few years should it get the nod.

The FIA confirmed at the end of last season that there was a free spot open on the grid for the 2015 season, sparking interest from NASCAR team owner Haas (pictured left), former team principal Colin Kolles, and Zoran Stefanovich in his fourth bid to have an F1 team.

Of the three, Haas’ project was the most viable from the go as a racing team with facilities is already in place. However, following the demise of the US F1 project back in 2009, there was a great deal of skepticism. Now though, Ecclestone has dropped the biggest hint yet that there will be an American team on the grid next year.

“I think Haas will be accepted,” Ecclestone explained to The Independent. “They have got the money but it’s a question of whether they are going to spend it.”

Following HRT’s exit at the end of 2012, a 12th place has been available on the grid. However, the FIA chose to bide its time and missed the initial date of February 28th to announce who would be taking the place.

Haas spent some time with the FIA last month putting forward his proposal, and said: “They’re pretty intense. They had a lot of good questions. I think what they do is they take that information, evaluate it, make their recommendations to I think it’s the Formula One’s owners association or next group of people, and the process goes on.”

Of course, much of the FIA’s decision depends on the viability of the project. One of the Formula 1’s biggest challenges in the United States is the time zone, given that it is largely Euro-centric sport.

However, what sets Haas’ project aside from the failed US F1 bid is that much of the facilities and finance is already in place. It is not a ‘new’ racing operation, but instead an extended one from his current interest in NASCAR with the Stewart-Haas team.

As a side note, the domain name www.haasf1.com has been registered by Haas Automation.

Although no final decision has been made, Ecclestone’s comments will certainly be encouraging. It is worth taking them with a pinch of salt, though, as the FIA does not have to welcome a 12th team for 2015. If none of the projects are deemed viable, we will remain with 11 teams next year.

Haas certainly seems determined to make it happen, though, and it could work wonders for the sport in the United States as Ecclestone also pushes for a second grand prix to complement the race at the Circuit of the Americas.

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
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At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

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