Danica Patrick driving for Gene Haas’ F1 team? Don’t bet on it

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Today’s press conference that formally unveiled Gene Haas’ new Formula One franchise was relatively light on details.

Outside of the mentioning of preliminary talks with Dallara on a chassis partnership, there was no idea given of which engine supplier the new Haas Formula squad would align with.

Furthermore, neither Haas or team principal Guenther Steiner made any indications on who was going to drive for them in 2015 – or 2016, if the team opts for more time to build themselves up.

Shortly after Haas received entry into the Formula One World Championship, rumors began to swirl in some circles about the possibility of Danica Patrick jumping to the globe-trotting series.

Before shifting full-time to stock cars in 2012, Patrick raced in the Verizon IndyCar Series from 2005 to 2011, earning one win and seven podium finishes in that span.

But if Haas’ comments this morning from North Carolina are any indication, we can probably assume that Patrick will continue her NASCAR exploits for the foreseeable future.

When asked if he would consider putting Patrick in an F1 car with enough sponsor interest, Haas said he didn’t see how she or any of his other Sprint Cup drivers – Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, and Tony Stewart – could make such a prospect work.

“I don’t know too many drivers that could be successful from going between NASCAR [and F1], and I wouldn’t expect any of our current lineup of drivers to want to be able to do that,” he said. “That would just be almost – it would be impossible to really accomplish that and survive.”

Noting the “grueling schedule” that NASCAR has and the different sets of disciplines, Haas feels that Formula One drivers would have a tough time driving a Sprint Cup machine and that the inverse would be true as well without lots of preparation.

He gave special notice to the high-tech steering wheels of an F1 car as an obstacle for any NASCAR driver that’d be willing to go to F1.

“What intimidates me the most is the [F1] steering wheel,” Haas said. “On a Cup car, you’ve got a round wheel with a button on it. In a Formula One car, you’ve got buttons on the front, on the side, in the back, paddle shifters – you don’t learn that in a day. So I think the thought of just jumping into a F1 car to a Cup car would be very difficult.”

For his part, Busch has said that having reached his mid-30s, he’s long past the point of being a competitive driver in F1 himself.

However, the Outlaw – who will race for Andretti Autosport in the Indianapolis 500 as part of an attempt to run both that and the NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 on the same day – has said he’d be up for an F1 test session.

The night-and-day differences between NASCAR and F1 have also led to questions about how Haas’ effort on the stock car side would benefit from his F1 project.

In touching on that subject, Haas noted that there would be a lot for Stewart-Haas Racing to learn from Haas Formula, particularly in aerodynamics.

“Formula One teams are much more into the aero packages, especially when it comes down to the things that you wouldn’t think about like brake ducting and radiator intakes and how the air comes out the back of the wing and so forth,” he said.

“These are things that NASCAR teams are just starting to touch on now that the bodies have been very much regulated in terms of how the air goes over them.”

Haas also said that many of the Stewart-Haas crew members would likely use Haas Formula as an opportunity to gain new ideas.

“We have a lot of team members that work on the NASCAR side that have an interest: ‘How does Formula One work?,'” he said. “They’ve never even seen a Formula One car. So I would think that this is gonna spark an interest – ‘Yeah, look at how they do things, there’s gotta be something I can learn.'”

“We’ve got a lot of smart people at Stewart-Haas Racing that are constantly looking for new ways to beat our competitors and I can’t think of anything in Formula One that would detract from that.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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