Ecclestone: Haas one of two new teams for Formula 1 (UPDATED)

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UPDATE (4:56 p.m. ET): After Bernie Ecclestone’s proclamation that Gene Haas’ Formula 1 application had been accepted, the NASCAR team owner has said that he has not yet been notified by the FIA of an official decision.

Haas also told the Associated Press that he’d need to know within the month to be ready to field an F1 program for next year.

“We’ve actually done quite a bit of planning,” he said to the AP. “We’ve actually got a lot of things in the works. But you really can’t sign any contracts until we have a license, and that’s issued by the FIA.

“I have no doubt that even if Mr. Ecclestone says that he’s OK with it, there’s probably still another few weeks of legal paperwork going back and forth before they would actually issue you one.”

Ecclestone has said that two new teams have been accepted into Formula 1 by the FIA for the 2015 season, and one of the berths has gone to the American project led by Haas.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Haas’ project had been given the nod on the condition that the funding was in place for the team to run in the next four seasons of Formula 1.

The FIA’s initial tender suggested that just one team was required, but now Ecclestone has said that a second team will also be welcomed into the fold.

“They will be accepted,” Ecclestone explained to the media in Bahrain when asked about the Haas project. “We’ve also accepted another team as well. Whether they make it or not is another story.

“We’re happy to have another couple of teams. I’ve spoken to Jean Todt about it. We agreed yesterday, if two teams want to come in, we’ll let them in.”

The second team is thought to be a Romanian entry led by former team principal Colin Kolles. The third and final proposed project, led by Serbian businessman Zoran Stefanovic, is expected to be rejected due to a lack of resources in place unlike the Haas and Kolles projects. Interestingly, this would mark the fourth occasion that Stefan GP has been denied entry into Formula 1.

Although the FIA is yet to release an official statement regarding the new teams, Ecclestone’s comments certainly make for good reading for those at Haas, and also Formula 1’s standing in the United States.

Should both teams get accepted and make the grid, we would have 26 cars and drivers racing in Formula 1, but it remains to be seen if some of the pre-existing teams will remain in the sport.

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.”