Gene Haas says that lessons learned from his NASCAR team’s early struggles helped him enjoy a successful arrival in Formula 1 last year with his eponymous operation.
The Haas team made its F1 debut in 2016 and ended the year eighth in the constructors’ championship, exceeding expectations and claiming a stand-out sixth-place finish at its very first race in Australia.
The immediate success of Haas’ F1 operation was in contrast to his early days in NASCAR, where his team regularly ran as a backmarker for a number of years.
“Our first year in NASCAR was a really arduous task. We always ran at the back and we did it for like six years straight and we never had much luck,” Haas said.
“We started in NASCAR in 2002 and the competition for drivers and crew chiefs was intense and we just struggled.”
Haas said that the lessons learned from his early NASCAR struggles put his F1 team in good stead for its entry last year.
“Everything we learned that we did wrong in NASCAR we avoided in Formula 1, and the most important thing was immediately seeing what works and what doesn’t work,” Haas said.
“We learned that the hard way in NASCAR, so when we went to Formula One our focus was not so much on how we did things, but who we did things with.”
Part of this learning process saw Haas move away from the plan to build everything in-house, instead preferring to strike a technical partnership with Ferrari.
“There’s no doubt about that because when we first started in Formula 1, the whole idea was that we were going to make everything ourselves,” Haas said.
“We were going to be the traditional constructor where we were going to make our own chassis, suspension, components and aero.
“But it was a massive undertaking, so we reversed course a bit and said: ‘OK, who could we partner with?,’ because this is such a monumental task there’s no way that we can accomplish this in the eight or nine months we had to do it.
“So we had a complete change in strategy. That’s when we ended up partnering with Ferrari.”