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Haas wary of taking on Ferrari F1 juniors in race seats

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Gene Haas is wary of hiring a junior driver from a larger Formula 1 operation for his eponymous team, believing it “doesn’t really make a lot of sense” from a business perspective to do so.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas hit the F1 grid in 2016 with Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez in seats, the latter being replaced by Kevin Magnussen for 2017.

Haas F1 Team enjoys close ties with Ferrari, and has given track time to its two leading juniors – Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi (pictured) – in the past, leading to speculation they could take a full-time race seat in the future.

Haas has already confirmed that Grosjean and Magnussen will continue through 2018, and explained his caution over hiring a junior from another team on business grounds.

“I don’t think we rule it out, but from a business model it doesn’t really make a lot of sense,” Haas said.

“There’s no secret that it costs $60 million to put a car on the track for the season and if someone gives you a driver and not just from Ferrari, from anybody, and they’re going to pay you five or six million dollars, there’s $55 million deficit there somewhere.

“So it doesn’t really make sense to want to run let’s say a partner or a paid driver for compensation. I think our point of view has always been that we need to obtain points and that’s how we generate moving forward and making money.

“So that’s our business model. I think Ferrari respects that and based on that, if there’s some mutual agreement that we could come to we probably would be more open to that.”

Haas to question F1 future if sport doesn’t become more competitive

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Gene Haas will consider the future of his eponymous Formula 1 team if steps are not made to make the sport more competitive and fix the “almost unsolvable” problem of how to cut the gap between teams.

Since Lotus won the 2013 Australian Grand Prix with Kimi Raikkonen, just three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – have won every Grand Prix since, starting with round two of that season in Malaysia. The close-knit midfield teams have rarely had a chance to fight at the front of the pack, and podiums for other teams beyond those three have been sparse.

Following its takeover of F1 in January, Liberty Media has been tasked with finding ways to make the sport more competitive and give the midfielders more of a fighting chance instead of making up the numbers – something Haas is keen to see.

“They’ve very patiently listened to us and they’ve talked to all the teams, and they’re formulating a strategy that they’re going to release later this year,” Haas told NBCSN.

“We’re all anticipating how they’re going to solve that problem, because it sounds like it’s a problem that’s almost unsolvable.

“In last practice [on Friday at Monza], the first three cars were all within a second, and the next 10 cars were all within a second.

“There’s a big gap. There’s definitely a big racing gap between the front-runners and the team at the back.”

F1’s youngest team, Haas F1 Team has impressed since making its debut at the start of 2016, but has not finished a race any higher than fifth, the result coming in just its second grand prix.

A number of options to reduce costs and narrow the gap between teams throughout the field have been suggested, including spec parts or a budget cap.

While Haas doubts anything can be done to reduce the gap, he stressed the need for some kind of unpredictability in F1.

“If anything, my point of view is that it’s a gap we can’t reduce. With what our current resources are and what we know, it seems an impossible gap to reduce,” Haas said.

“I think some of it is that the top three teams are maybe quasi-manufacturers, and since they run the whole car and make the whole car, they understand it a lot better.

“So we’re always going to be at somewhat of a disadvantage to the manufacturers who understand the car better than we do.

“But I think there needs to be some kind of a randomness in the sport where even a team in the back has some possibility of winning once in a while.

“Not every race, but if you can never win in this sport, it’s really not going to be much of a sport.”

When asked if he was considering his team’s future in F1, Haas said: “Well we’re certainly committed to Formula 1.

“But if we never have a chance to win, I’d really have to question why we’re here.

“I think every team should have at least some possibility of winning a race once in a while, through a fuel strategy or some alternative.

“But the gap’s so big now that I just don’t see how we can possibly close it.”

Haas currently sits seventh in F1’s constructors’ championship on 35 points after 12 rounds, having already exceeded its score from 2016 thanks to contributions from drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen.

By comparison, Mercedes sits on top of the teams’ table on 392 points ahead of Ferrari on 348 and Red Bull on 199.

Keeping Grosjean, Magnussen for 2018 ‘a given’ in Gene Haas’ eyes

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Gene Haas is planning to field an unchanged line-up for his Formula 1 team in 2018, believing it to be “a given” that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen will continue beyond the end of the season.

NASCAR team co-owner Haas took his eponymous F1 operation onto the grid in 2016, pairing Grosjean with Esteban Gutierrez.

While Grosjean scored a fifth-place finish in Haas F1 Team’s second race and picked up 29 points across the course of the season, Gutierrez failed to record a single top-10 result.

The Mexican was replaced by Magnussen for 2017, with the Dane taking 11 points through the first 10 races of the season.

Despite the fluidity of the driver market for 2018, Haas revealed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is planning to race with Grosjean and Magnussen together once again next year.

“We will run with the same drivers that we have this year again next year. That is a given,” Haas said.

“And given the other continuity aspects, we should be better racers next season.”

Haas had been tipped to take on a Ferrari junior such as Antonio Giovinazzi or Charles Leclerc for 2018 given its technical ties to the Italian marque.

Grosjean is understood to be a target for Renault should it miss out on re-signing Fernando Alonso, while Magnussen penned a multi-year deal upon arrival at Haas at the start of the season.

Reflecting on Magnussen’s contribution, Haas believes the team has benefitted from his greater race performance that has allowed it to match its debut season points total in just 10 races in 2017.

“Esteban was a good driver. He was as fast as Romain in practice, but I think that Kevin has an edge in terms of race experience,” Haas said.

“He can score points and that was the key for bringing him on board. Kevin can grab points and Romain can too.

“We now have 29 points. Last year around this time we also had 29 points, but did not score for the rest of the season.

“So now if we can score another 29 points by Abu Dhabi, that would be a great position.”

Gene Haas against ‘socialist’ pay-out structure in F1

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Gene Haas does not believe that Formula 1 should employ a “socialist” pay-out structure to teams, believing that the front-runners should be rewarded with a bigger slice of the sport’s revenue.

F1’s prize money distribution has been widely debated for a number of years, with new owner Liberty Media set to review how much of the sport’s revenue is paid back to teams upon the expiration of the current commercial agreement in 2020.

Smaller privateer teams have long craved a greater pay-out that is more comparable to what the bigger manufacturer operations receive.

Despite not being entitled to any prize money pay-out until his team’s third season, Haas is wary of making things too even through the grid, saying that top-line squads should still be rewarded for their success on-track.

“I think we just have to be very very careful in how you redistribute the wealth because there are some teams at the top that have spent 50 years doing this, that have earned some entitlement to how the costs are distributed,” Haas said.

“I’m not saying that the teams at the bottom don’t deserve more, but I’m still saying teams at the top deserve more. You can’t just arbitrarily redistribute that because quite frankly winning races should come with rewards and it should not be a socialistic type structure.”

Haas went on to draw comparison to financial challenges that are being faced across global motorsports, including in NASCAR, where he is co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing.

“Other than that, everything else is open to negotiation but I think in racing, even in NASCAR we’re having struggles with that,” Haas said.

“The team owners are typically on the bottom rung of the income stream and they’re struggling. It’s been very very difficult in NASCAR.

“I think to some degree that teams that rely on sponsorship are starting to find it’s very very difficult to attract a major sponsor. A $25m sponsor is a huge sponsor. Today, that is practically non-existent.

“Most of the sponsors – at least I know from NASCAR, they’re more in the $5m to $10m range and you have to have multiple sponsors on your cars at different races. There’s some adaptability to that but at the same time there’s a lot of demand from media.

“So how that money gets redistributed seems to be the question, but unfortunately the teams don’t have a real strong position there to speak up about how it will get distributed, because we don’t own Formula 1.”

Formula 1 2017 team preview: Haas

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NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous Formula 1 operation onto the grid last year amid an air of skepticism in the paddock.

In an era where new teams in F1 just weren’t a thing, to spring up an operation from thin air – and, admittedly, a good slice of investment – was a tough task that most would shy away from.

Yet Haas and his team produced one of the finest debut campaigns in the history of F1. While form was patchy through the year, there were some big, big highlights, and the charge to eighth in the constructors’ championship was beyond the expectation of most.

DRIVERS

8. Romain Grosjean (France)
20. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark)

CAR

Haas VF-17

ENGINE

Ferrari 062

TEAM CHIEFS

Gene Haas (team founder/owner)
Guenther Steiner (team principal)

MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Kevin Magnussen of Denmark and Haas F1 and Romain Grosjean of France and Haas F1 at the roll out of the Haas-Ferrari VF-17 in the Pitlane during day one of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 27, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)

What went right in 2016: A good deal. Few expected Haas to score points on debut, if at all through its first year, but it finished P6 at the first attempt with Romain Grosjean in Australia. Grosjean followed it up with a fifth-place finish in Bahrain, acting as a huge result. To have not only beaten F1’s backmarkers but also a manufacturer of Renault’s magnitude proved that Haas has done things the right way upon entering F1. The myths about new teams have been busted.

What went wrong in 2016: It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Haas. The team still only scored points on five occasions. Esteban Gutierrez didn’t score any. Brake issues blighted the VF-16 car for the entire season. Operational issues still slipped in. The exit of strategist guru Ruth Buscombe – largely responsible for Grosjean’s results in the opening two rounds – was a massive setback for Haas. By the end of the year, Haas didn’t look like a threat to the midfield runners.

What’s changed for 2017: Kevin Magnussen has arrived from Renault to replace Gutierrez, eager for a chance to prove himself after some tough years in F1. Otherwise, things are pretty similar at Haas.

What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: Building on its 29-point haul from 2016 should be the first target. With the arrival of Magnussen, a driver who has proven himself in junior series, Haas is looking to double its tally. A 60-plus point haul should be enough to give the team at least one more place in the standings. The top five is still a way off for Haas, partiucuarly with its brake problems still a nuisance. But the bottom line is that so long as the team avoids second-season-syndrome and doesn’t drop like a stone, it’ll be proof that Haas is ‘not just another new F1 team’.

MONTMELO, SPAIN – MARCH 02: Romain Grosjean of France driving the (8) Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-17 Ferrari on track during day four of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 2, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

MST PREDICTIONS

Luke Smith: Haas had a funny debut season in F1. While it was massively impressive in Australia and Bahrain, the remainder of the campaign lacked the same kind of gusto. So for that reason, I’m uneasy about getting too giddy about what the team can do this year. Grosjean and Magnussen offer a mix of great talent and experience, and could be a potent partnership. If Haas can get on top of the brake issues, then it may be in good stead to score regular points this year – but that is a big if…

Tony DiZinno: The tidy looking VF-17 chassis needs more points finishes in a second year and has to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. The blessing and curse for Haas 2017 is that there are high expectations; last year they overachieved out of the gate and set sail for the rest of the year, but inevitably hit the pitfalls that make it hard to sustain success. If the braking issues can be sorted, the reliability should be there for Romain Grosjean and new recruit Kevin Magnussen to score consistent points finishes.

Kyle Lavigne:  The VF17 appears quick enough to score points, but the question of reliability remains, particularly in regards to brake issues that continue to plague the team’s efforts. Grosjean in fact experienced brake problems on the final day of testing that sent him into a gravel trap. If the package proves reliable, the car appears more than quick enough to fight for several finishes inside the points.