British F1 legends have concerns about Haas Formula

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British Formula 1 legends Johnny Herbert and John Watson have reservations about Gene Haas’ proposed entry into Formula 1, believing that running the team from the United States will be too great a challenge to be competitive.

NASCAR team owner Haas has been granted a berth on the grid for either 2015 or 2016 (depending on what is best for the team) and formally unveiled Haas Formula at a press conference earlier this month. Former Red Bull technical director Gunther Steiner is set to be team principal, whilst it is thought that there will be a sub-base in Italy that will work in tandem with the core operations in North Carolina.

However, Watson, who finished third in the 1982 world championship with McLaren, believes that the sheer geographical challenge could be too great for Haas.

“For me it’s the wrong move,” he said when asked about running the team from the United States on Sky Sports. “He’s going to be basing his car around the Dallara, I believe, made in Italy. So why base yourself in North America when everything has to be flown from Europe to North America to be assembled to be transported back for a European season?

“I would imagine you’re already starting on the back foot by basing your team in North Carolina.”

Watson believes that Haas would be better off buying one of the existing Formula 1 teams. Caterham, Marussia and Lotus are all rumored to be available to a buyer, and this would give Haas a pre-existing base and team to work with.

“[Buying a team] would be the obvious route to take,” Watson said. “There are a number of teams in the marketplace right now that could be available, but so far they’ve chosen this other direction. Maybe that might change before the end of the season.”

Herbert, who raced alongside Michael Schumacher at Benetton in the mid-90s, also has his doubts.

“I agree with John,” he said. “You’ve got to base it in Europe, you cannot go in American down in the south and then expect when there’s testing, for example, to ship the updates.

“The updates are a big part of what Formula 1 is about, and that’s something they’ve really got to think long and hard because I think it would be a miscalculation basing in America.”

Of course, the geographical challenge of running a team from the United States has not been lost on Haas, and the plans for an Italian operation will go a long way to easing this. With the right preparation and work from those at the team, it is certainly a challenge that can be overcome, despite what the naysayers may think.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.