FIA grants Gene Haas Formula 1 entry

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The FIA has granted Gene Haas’ proposed Formula 1 team an entry into the sport for 2015.

Following the governing body’s decision to open up a tender for a 12th team to join the grid, Haas made his intentions clear to try and enter an American team for 2015.

After meeting with the FIA earlier this year and going through a careful selection process, the co-owner of the Stewart-Haas NASCAR team has received the green light for his project to go ahead.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had said that he expected Haas’ project to be approved, fighting off competition from rival proposals from Colin Kolles and Zoran Stefanovic. However, it was not until today that formal confirmation has been given by the FIA.

“The FIA has launched a selection procedure for an additional F1 team(s), and applications of a high standard have been received. In close consultation with the CRH, the FIA has accepted the candidature of Haas Formula LLC and are in the process of conducting further investigations for Forza Rossa”, a statement from the FIA read.

“We’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula 1 licence by the FIA,” Haas said following the news.

“It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula 1.

“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid. I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our licence application come to fruition.”

Ecclestone did suggest earlier this week that there could be a 13th team on the grid, suggesting that Colin Kolles Romanian-backed project could still go ahead relying everything is in place.

The last time an American Formula 1 team was proposed saw US F1 fail to make the grid despite a great deal of fanfare and planning. However, the difference this time around is that Haas has a successful racing team and automation business in place already.

Haas is thought to be looking to use a Dallara built chassis and Ferrari engines, with a European base being located in Italy not too far from the prancing horse’s home in Maranello to work in tandem with operations in the United States.

From what he has said though, it is clear that Haas is aware of the steep challenge that awaits him and his team. Many Formula 1 teams have secured a place on the grid only to never actually make it work, but often they have been privateer projects without enough backing or a racing team in place.

It is likely that there will also be a push for an American driver to become involved in the team. Caterham reserve Alexander Rossi is currently the only US driver to hold an FIA superlicense to race in Formula, but fellow GP2 racer Conor Daly is also a bright prospect that could be an option for the team. Should either driver line up on the grid, they would become the first American to race in Formula 1 since Scott Speed in 2007.

Should the team fail to get ready in time to make the grid in 2015, it is likely that the FIA would be willing to hold the spot until 2016 to give Haas and co. more of a chance to prepare.

The arrival of Haas’ team may not bump the number of teams up to 12 should an existing team leave the sport. Caterham owner Tony Fernandes has suggested that without an upturn in fortunes for his team, he would consider walking away from the sport, whilst Marussia has recently changed hands following the collapse of the motor company.

There is also still a push for a second race in the United States to complement the grand prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The proposed “Grand Prix of America” in New Jersey has been postponed twice, but still has a place on the calendar for 2015. Ecclestone is also keen on taking Formula 1 back to Long Beach after 30 years away.

With the possibility of there being two races, an American team and an American driver, the future is very bright for Formula 1 in the United States.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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