FIA grants Gene Haas Formula 1 entry

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The FIA has granted Gene Haas’ proposed Formula 1 team an entry into the sport for 2015.

Following the governing body’s decision to open up a tender for a 12th team to join the grid, Haas made his intentions clear to try and enter an American team for 2015.

After meeting with the FIA earlier this year and going through a careful selection process, the co-owner of the Stewart-Haas NASCAR team has received the green light for his project to go ahead.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had said that he expected Haas’ project to be approved, fighting off competition from rival proposals from Colin Kolles and Zoran Stefanovic. However, it was not until today that formal confirmation has been given by the FIA.

“The FIA has launched a selection procedure for an additional F1 team(s), and applications of a high standard have been received. In close consultation with the CRH, the FIA has accepted the candidature of Haas Formula LLC and are in the process of conducting further investigations for Forza Rossa”, a statement from the FIA read.

“We’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula 1 licence by the FIA,” Haas said following the news.

“It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula 1.

“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 licence application come to fruition.”

Ecclestone did suggest earlier this week that there could be a 13th team on the grid, suggesting that Colin Kolles Romanian-backed project could still go ahead relying everything is in place.

The last time an American Formula 1 team was proposed saw US F1 fail to make the grid despite a great deal of fanfare and planning. However, the difference this time around is that Haas has a successful racing team and automation business in place already.

Haas is thought to be looking to use a Dallara built chassis and Ferrari engines, with a European base being located in Italy not too far from the prancing horse’s home in Maranello to work in tandem with operations in the United States.

From what he has said though, it is clear that Haas is aware of the steep challenge that awaits him and his team. Many Formula 1 teams have secured a place on the grid only to never actually make it work, but often they have been privateer projects without enough backing or a racing team in place.

It is likely that there will also be a push for an American driver to become involved in the team. Caterham reserve Alexander Rossi is currently the only US driver to hold an FIA superlicense to race in Formula, but fellow GP2 racer Conor Daly is also a bright prospect that could be an option for the team. Should either driver line up on the grid, they would become the first American to race in Formula 1 since Scott Speed in 2007.

Should the team fail to get ready in time to make the grid in 2015, it is likely that the FIA would be willing to hold the spot until 2016 to give Haas and co. more of a chance to prepare.

The arrival of Haas’ team may not bump the number of teams up to 12 should an existing team leave the sport. Caterham owner Tony Fernandes has suggested that without an upturn in fortunes for his team, he would consider walking away from the sport, whilst Marussia has recently changed hands following the collapse of the motor company.

There is also still a push for a second race in the United States to complement the grand prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The proposed “Grand Prix of America” in New Jersey has been postponed twice, but still has a place on the calendar for 2015. Ecclestone is also keen on taking Formula 1 back to Long Beach after 30 years away.

With the possibility of there being two races, an American team and an American driver, the future is very bright for Formula 1 in the United States.

Neuville wins Rally Australia; Ogier takes FIA WRC title

Sebastien Ogier. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Belgium’s Thierry Neuville won Rally Australia by 22.5 seconds on Sunday as torrential rain added drama to the last day of the last race of the World Rally Championship season.

Neuville entered the final day with an almost 20 second advantage after inheriting the rally lead Saturday when his Hyundai teammate, defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen crashed and was forced to retire for the day.

His lead was halved by Jari-Matti Latvala early Sunday as monsoon-like rain made conditions treacherous on muddy forest stages on the New South Wales coast. The rain stopped on the short Wedding Bells stage where Neuville was almost 5 seconds quicker than his rivals, stretching his lead to 14.7 seconds entering the last stage.

COFFS HARBOUR, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 17: Thierry Neuville of Belgium and Nicolas Gilsoul of Belgium compete in their Hyundai Motorsport WRT Hyundai i20 coupe WRC during Day One of the WRC Australia on November 17, 2017 in COFFS HARBOUR, Australia. (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)

That stage was full of incident. The driver’s door on Neuville’s Hyundai i20 coupe swung open in the middle of the stage and Neuville had to slam it closed as he approached a corner.

Latvala’s Toyota then crashed seconds from the end of the stage, allowing Estonia’s Ott Tanak, in a Ford, to take second place overall and New Zealalnd’s Haydon Paddon, in a Hyundai, to sneak into third.

Sebastian Ogier was fourth after winning the final, power stage but the Frenchman had already clinched his fifth world title before Rally Australia began. Neuville’s win was his fourth of the season, two more than Ogier, and was enough to give him second place in world drivers’ standings for the third time in five years.

Ogier owed his drivers’ title to his consistency: he retired only once and finished no worse than fifth all season.

Neuville admitted the last day was touch and go as the rain made some stages perilous, forcing the cancellation of the second to last stage.

“That was a hell of a ride,” Neuville said. “Really, really tricky conditions.

“I kept the car on the road but it was close sometimes. I knew I could make a difference but I had to be clever. You lose grip, you lose control and the car doesn’t respond to your input.”