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Gene Haas targets moving ‘a position or two’ up F1 field in 2017

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Gene Haas believes that his eponymous Formula 1 operation can build on its successful debut campaign and move “a position or two” up the constructors’ table in 2017.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas entered F1 in 2016 with the first American team in over 30 years, and saw Haas F1 Team finish an impressive eighth in the teams’ standings.

Given the struggles of the most recent batch of new teams in F1, most were skeptical about what Haas could achieve, but the American businessman is pleased to have proved his critics wrong.

“There was a huge amount of skepticism at first. I think a lot of people certainly thought we’d run in the back the entire season,” Haas said.

“We did have a lot of support from NBC Sports and all the guys on the broadcast. I think by the end of the season we silenced the critics and, by now, most people see us as a serious competitor.”

Haas has now set his sights on lifting the team closer to the top five in 2017: “If we can do a little bit better because our business model in Formula 1 allows us to operate more efficiently, we might be able to move up a position or two.”

Haas will field a changed driver line-up for 2017, with the retained Romain Grosjean now being joined by ex-McLaren and Renault racer Kevin Magnussen.

Magnussen was targeted by the team for a seat in 2016, only for Haas to sign Ferrari reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez instead.

“Magnussen was actually one of our original candidates. We talked to Magnussen and thoroughly went through his racing resume and we were very impressed,” Haas said.

“Near the end of the [2016] season, we asked Kevin if he might be available and he said he was. On the second to last race weekend of the season, we made our decision and brought him to Haas F1 Team.”

Haas’ new F1 car, set to be called the VF-17, will make its public on-track debut on February 27 during the first pre-season test in Barcelona.

FIA returns Manor’s F1 entry fee for 2017

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Good news: Manor Grand Prix Racing Limited got a refund of an entry fee it paid to the FIA to run in this year’s F1 season.

Bad news: Manor still hasn’t run this year, and won’t be for the foreseeable future (especially as Manor’s former leadership staff is moving that team into FIA WEC’s new-look LMP1 class in addition to its LMP2 program).

Manor Group’s receivership outfit, Just Racing Services Limited, went into administration earlier this year. As there was no new buyer for the F1 team, Manor dropped from the 2017 grid before the season.

The FIA said it would return its entry fee to help Manor Group pay off outstanding debts.

It basically means nothing in the grand scheme of things since Manor missed out on 10th place in the constructor’s standings in 2016 and fell from the F1 grid as a result, but hey, it’s a goodwill gesture going into Thanksgiving this week.