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.”

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “