Haas leading the race to join Formula 1 in 2015

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Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has said that the bid from Gene Haas to join the sport in 2015 is currently leading the way, and is largely dependent on the team’s plans for the next few years should it get the nod.

The FIA confirmed at the end of last season that there was a free spot open on the grid for the 2015 season, sparking interest from NASCAR team owner Haas (pictured left), former team principal Colin Kolles, and Zoran Stefanovich in his fourth bid to have an F1 team.

Of the three, Haas’ project was the most viable from the go as a racing team with facilities is already in place. However, following the demise of the US F1 project back in 2009, there was a great deal of skepticism. Now though, Ecclestone has dropped the biggest hint yet that there will be an American team on the grid next year.

“I think Haas will be accepted,” Ecclestone explained to The Independent. “They have got the money but it’s a question of whether they are going to spend it.”

Following HRT’s exit at the end of 2012, a 12th place has been available on the grid. However, the FIA chose to bide its time and missed the initial date of February 28th to announce who would be taking the place.

Haas spent some time with the FIA last month putting forward his proposal, and said: “They’re pretty intense. They had a lot of good questions. I think what they do is they take that information, evaluate it, make their recommendations to I think it’s the Formula One’s owners association or next group of people, and the process goes on.”

Of course, much of the FIA’s decision depends on the viability of the project. One of the Formula 1’s biggest challenges in the United States is the time zone, given that it is largely Euro-centric sport.

However, what sets Haas’ project aside from the failed US F1 bid is that much of the facilities and finance is already in place. It is not a ‘new’ racing operation, but instead an extended one from his current interest in NASCAR with the Stewart-Haas team.

As a side note, the domain name www.haasf1.com has been registered by Haas Automation.

Although no final decision has been made, Ecclestone’s comments will certainly be encouraging. It is worth taking them with a pinch of salt, though, as the FIA does not have to welcome a 12th team for 2015. If none of the projects are deemed viable, we will remain with 11 teams next year.

Haas certainly seems determined to make it happen, though, and it could work wonders for the sport in the United States as Ecclestone also pushes for a second grand prix to complement the race at the Circuit of the Americas.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”