Haas’ F1 interest piqued by Anderson’s USF1 project

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Some six years after USF1’s false start, as it never even made it to the 2010 Formula 1 season opener, Haas F1 Team remains on target, on schedule and with full focus on preparing not just for Melbourne, but the season’s first test in Barcelona.

The origins of Gene Haas’ squad, however, date back to the USF1 era, when Haas was a supplier of some USF1 machinery and had talks with his former Haas CNC Racing technical director, Ken Anderson.

The tale of Haas F1 Team, then, in a sense almost comes full circle to the USF1 project, as Haas told assembled reporters today during this week’s NASCAR Media Tour in Charlotte.

“Everything in F1 is a long process. Guenther (Steiner), actually, approached Joe (Custer) and myself at dinner one night,” Haas said. “We’d been involved with Ken Anderson in his project. He said, ‘Hey, are you guys interested in some F1?’ He preached customer cars, which were on the table at the time.

“We spent time dillying and dallying when the customer car concept was around. Like we could think, ‘We’d just get a car from Ferrari, I know the guys over there.’ Then it came to B, ‘We can do this and be cost effective.’ But like everything else, you put these things out on the table, and hardly anything actually gets approved. So customer cars never happened, and a couple years wasted there.

“Then Guenther said, ‘What do you want to do?’ We talked to Bernie a bit, and he was a bit standoffish. It was like, ‘If you want to be serious … you’re welcome to take a shot.’ But I don’t think he took us serious. He was kind of, well, ‘I have people ask all the time. But of 100 people, hardly anyone makes it.’

“After three years, if you’re serious, we put forth a tender. And it went from there.”

Haas expanded on the Anderson/USF1 partnership later in the media session, noting that Anderson and USF1’s progress – regardless of them not actually making the grid – still piqued his interest.

“I found it rather intriguing. It was a whole different racing venue. I thought it was interesting,” Haas said.

“If anything, Ken Anderson left a taste in my mouth for Formula 1. I liked the Formula 1 format. Formula 1 has a lot of history, great racetracks. And so being able to participate in that is very gratifying.

“We supplied USF1’s CNC machines, and they had a handful of machines. I went to that shop maybe twice. He showed me how they were doing things. It was different.”

Much of Haas F1 Team’s program is different – the several location-effort between the U.S., England and Italy and the combination of two veteran manufacturers (Dallara and Ferrari) to produce the chassis and power unit.

But again, and we’ve written this before, Gene Haas didn’t get to where he is in business and racing by being status quo.

And being different is one of several reasons why Haas F1 Team is so damn intriguing heading into this F1 season.

The key is that it’s different enough from USF1, where the idea entered Haas’ mind.