Following the failure of the three most recent start-up teams in Formula 1 – Team Lotus, Virgin and Hispania back in 2010 – there has always been an air of scepticism surrounding Gene Haas’ bid to get a new operation on the grid.
And yet in Australia this weekend, he will achieve exactly that. Haas F1 Team made its official grand prix session debut on Friday in practice, and will line up to start a race for the first time on Sunday.
NASCAR team co-owner Haas has traveled to Australia for this weekend’s race, and featured in the FIA press conference on Friday alongside five other team bosses.
Haas admitted that he felt in awe to be sitting alongside some of the sport’s most influential figures such as Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene and Mercedes’ Toto Wolff.
“Well, I tell you all of a sudden I’m sitting here in awe that I’m sitting among all these team principals from Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault and Honda and Red Bull,” Haas said.
“To be sitting among this group of elite is humbling, I can say that. It’s been a long journey, I’m not sure how I really got here but here I am. I think, if you probably ask everybody here, how you wind up here is somewhat unique. Things in life, I guess you have to grab them.
“This is just part of the process of being able to compete at this level. It’s just awe inspiring. I know there’s some hard times ahead but I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to the challenge.”
Arrivabene, Wolff, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul and McLaren racing director Eric Boullier were asked what advice they would give Haas ahead of his team’s F1 debut.
“I think it’s fantastic to have Haas join Formula 1 as an independent team, as a really credible independent team,” Horner said.
“Formula 1’s a big challenge, it’s great to have an American, and a true American presence in Formula 1.
“Words of advice… get a good lawyer!”
Boullier added: “I think it’s very exciting for Formula 1 to have, as Christian said, a true American team and an American character like Gene joining us who had a deep understanding of racing, who has also useful experience in America with NASCAR, which he could share and I would be very happy to hear sometime.
“I don’t have any advice to give. He knows about racing enough and he is serious about what he had built already and I think it is going to be a nice surprise and maybe a difficult but a nice journey in Formula 1.”
Wolff also said he had no advice to give, believing that Haas’ success in business and NASCAR will have prepared him well for life in F1.
“I think Gene doesn’t need any advice. He has done it very successfully in NASCAR and much more successful than all of us with his own company,” Wolff said.
“If there is advice in Formula 1 it’s to manage expectations – because pressure is going to increase the better the results are and, the way you’ve been doing it, keeping both feet on the ground and staying humble, I think is the right approach.”
Arrivabene said that F1 should focus more on figures such as Haas who are positive about racing in F1 and are committed to the series.
“I think that what I have to say, we are talking most of the time about teams that left or want to leave Formula 1 and not enough about people like Gene,” Arrivabene said.
“He’s a serious person, financially reliable, committed and with a lot of experience. I don’t have to give him any advice – but I have to congratulate people like Gene Haas, that they want to invest in Formula One and they want to take this sport seriously and not as a kind of speculation.
“In terms of a lawyer, he got a good lawyer – but he’s using his lawyer properly.”