As 2016 approaches, the subject of
drivers at Haas F1 will come more
into focus, and don’t be surprised if it
hires a pair of established names.
Given its Ferrari support, Haas
should be an attractive option from
the start. But team principal Guenther
Steiner is wary of hiring too big a
name: “You have to be careful not to
put too much pressure on yourself,
but someone with experience is key.
We need a driver who knows F1 and
the cars and can help us to develop
our team, because everything is new.”
Since Haas F1’s inception, speculation
has been on whether it would hire an
American driver. Steiner doesn’t rule it
out entirely, but stresses that nationality
would not be a defining factor.
“We’re looking at Americans, but being
American doesn’t give you an automatic
drive,” he says. “If you pick a driver just
because he’s American and then you’re
not successful, it’s not good for the driver,
or the team and program in general, and
it’s not good for the country because
it’s like, ‘Oh, they can’t get it done.’”
American Alexander Rossi, who
drives for Racing Engineering in the
GP2 feeder series, has F1 experience,
having run in Friday practice sessions
for Caterham and Marussia.
“I’m well aware of Haas coming in next
year,” he says. “More than me saying
anything, it’s just going out and winning
races and being on the podium as much
as possible. I know I’m ready, but they
need the proof, so I’m more than happy
to work toward that and to deliver.”
Alexander Rossi was slated to be reserve
driver for the stillborn US F1 team in 2010.
He is the only American to currently hold
a Formula 1-eligible FIA Super License.
2016 DRIVER PLANS
Haas F1’s chief
began his F1 career
with McLaren in
1994. He joined
Haas from Scuderia
Ferrari, where he
upgrade of the
team’s wind tunnel
year he set to commit to a facility near
Oxford when the Marussia factory in
nearby Banbury became available. The
deal included the CFD supercomputer.
“We saved time and money,” says
Steiner, “and we have less work. The CFD
cluster, the supercomputer was in there,
so we now have our CFD people in the
USA running the calculations in England.”
For garage and factory equipment,
Steiner’s generally preferred to order
new, and the same goes for the trucks.
Logistics aside, the key area is people.
Steiner knew chief aerodynamicist Ben
Agathangelou and chief designer Rob
Taylor from his Jaguar/Red Bull days,
so there are established relationships.
Formerly with Dallara, Agathangelou had
been at Maranello, helping to set up the
wind tunnel, so he knows it inside out.
Taylor’s role might seem limited, given
that so much will be sourced from
Ferrari, but Steiner says he will be busy.
“Bodywork and chassis is a lot of work,
and to coordinate it is a job in itself. We’re
not drawing a suspension system or
designing an upright, but still these cars
are beasts. Is it more coordinating than
inventing? Yes. We need an experienced
guy who knows what’s going on.”
Next step is staffing the race team,
and that’s now ramping up with the
acquisition of the UK building.
On finance, Gene Haas is confident of
his business model and has stated that
outside sponsorship is not essential.
“Sure, if somebody comes with money,
you then decide if you take it or not,” says
Steiner. “A lot of teams say, ‘Hey if we
don’t find a sponsor by February, what are
we going to do?’ But Gene knows that if
there’s no sponsor the program’s secure.”
Meanwhile, the looming deadline is
the start of testing on Feb. 1, 2016. So
what is the biggest challenge the team
faces in the coming months?
“It’s getting the right people,” says
Steiner. “It’s a big challenge to make the
right decisions. Some people do it in a
rush, and they make decisions they’ll
regret the day after. At the moment,
the good thing is we gave ourselves
enough time to do it right.”
“We’re not drawing a
suspension system or
designing an upright, but
still these cars are beasts”
fields NASCAR Sprint
for Kurt Busch
champ Kevin Harvick,
Danica Patrick and
Stewart, who brought
the team its first
championship in 2011.