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.”
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.
8. Romain Grosjean (France)
20. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark)
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’.
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.
Haas reveals VF-17 ahead of sophomore Formula 1 season
The new car retains a similar livery to the VF-16, with the Haas Automation company colors of grey, red and black all featuring, but the chassis itself sports an aggressive new look following an overhaul of the technical regulations.
“I think the pedal box is the same, but all the rest is very different from last year’s car,” Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said.
“You always try to make a faster car, which is normally a lighter car. Now we can put on more ballast and get better weight distribution. The aero is completely new, as are the tires, so we needed to have some built-in adjustability.
“Aesthetically, the car has a more aggressive look. It’s lighter and more aerodynamically efficient. Everything we learned from our first car has been applied to our new car.”
Grosjean will be joined at Haas this year by Kevin Magnussen, who has previously raced for McLaren and Renault and has signed a multi-year deal with the American team.
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  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.