British F1 legends have concerns about Haas Formula

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British Formula 1 legends Johnny Herbert and John Watson have reservations about Gene Haas’ proposed entry into Formula 1, believing that running the team from the United States will be too great a challenge to be competitive.

NASCAR team owner Haas has been granted a berth on the grid for either 2015 or 2016 (depending on what is best for the team) and formally unveiled Haas Formula at a press conference earlier this month. Former Red Bull technical director Gunther Steiner is set to be team principal, whilst it is thought that there will be a sub-base in Italy that will work in tandem with the core operations in North Carolina.

However, Watson, who finished third in the 1982 world championship with McLaren, believes that the sheer geographical challenge could be too great for Haas.

“For me it’s the wrong move,” he said when asked about running the team from the United States on Sky Sports. “He’s going to be basing his car around the Dallara, I believe, made in Italy. So why base yourself in North America when everything has to be flown from Europe to North America to be assembled to be transported back for a European season?

“I would imagine you’re already starting on the back foot by basing your team in North Carolina.”

Watson believes that Haas would be better off buying one of the existing Formula 1 teams. Caterham, Marussia and Lotus are all rumored to be available to a buyer, and this would give Haas a pre-existing base and team to work with.

“[Buying a team] would be the obvious route to take,” Watson said. “There are a number of teams in the marketplace right now that could be available, but so far they’ve chosen this other direction. Maybe that might change before the end of the season.”

Herbert, who raced alongside Michael Schumacher at Benetton in the mid-90s, also has his doubts.

“I agree with John,” he said. “You’ve got to base it in Europe, you cannot go in American down in the south and then expect when there’s testing, for example, to ship the updates.

“The updates are a big part of what Formula 1 is about, and that’s something they’ve really got to think long and hard because I think it would be a miscalculation basing in America.”

Of course, the geographical challenge of running a team from the United States has not been lost on Haas, and the plans for an Italian operation will go a long way to easing this. With the right preparation and work from those at the team, it is certainly a challenge that can be overcome, despite what the naysayers may think.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).