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.