Despite what the laws
of probability might
have to say, Haas F1
is preceded by
another American F1
team called Haas.
However, the two
share no link beyond
an unusual name.
The original Haas,
co-founded by Carl
Haas and Teddy Mayer,
contested 19 races
across 1985 and ’ 86
with little success,
although it did provide
a springboard for a
young designer named
Ross Brawn (ABOVE)
to hone his skills.
aas F1 is just starting to put rubber
to road in its quest to become an
American-owned, race-winning Formula 1
team. And if it succeeds, it will become
the only U.S. outfit to have followed a trail
last blazed by Penske four decades ago.
(Shadow won in Austria in 1977, but by
then the team had already switched its
American license for a British one.)
Like Haas, Penske did not let its
nationality dictate its driver line-up. For
its third and final F1 World Championship
season in 1976, the team hedged its bets
on Northern Irishman John Watson,
although it had previously run Penske
stalwart Mark Donohue until the versatile
38-year-old’s death after a crash in
practice for the ’ 75 Austrian Grand Prix.
Penske began its 1976 campaign with
its PC3, a respectable midfield contender
that borrowed a lot of DNA from the
March 751. However, a mid-season
regulation change that limited the height
of the air-intake boxes and size of the
rear wings rendered it uncompetitive at a
stroke, and the team scrambled to
introduce its successor, the PC4. After an
inauspicious debut in Sweden, the new
car began to show its potential by taking
Watson to consecutive podiums at
Paul Ricard and Brands Hatch.
Then, in the late summer, the
championship moved on to Austria. It was
the first time that Penske had been to the
Österreichring since Donohue’s accident
a year earlier, but Watson provided an
antidote to the sorrow by being quick
right out of the gates. In changing
conditions, he remained among the
frontrunners all Sunday afternoon and
scorched home more than 10sec ahead
of Jacques Laffite’s Ligier.
The story’s famous postscript is the
sartorial consequence borne by Watson
for his win... In observation of a bet he’d
made with Roger Penske, he was forced
to shave off his trademark beard.
Less famous is the what-might-have-been. Autosport magazine’s report of
the race concludes with a follow-up bet
from Roger Penske himself: “John, if you
win another race this year, I’m going to
grow a beard – and keep it until
Christmas,” he promised.
Watson’s best finish after that was sixth,
the team quit F1 at the end of the season
to concentrate on Indy cars…and The
Captain’s chin remained forever bare.
Roger Penske’s greatest F1 successes came
with John Watson and the PC4, but he still
withdrew from Europe at the end of 1976.
A few hours after this shot was taken, Watson
was clean-shaven. Penske reportedly failed to
recognize him at breakfast the next morning.
standpoint, one of
the most gratifying
aspects of John
Watson’s win in
Austria was that it
was earned entirely
on merit. He’d been
quick throughout the
weekend, and started
on the front row
WHO JOHN WATSON WHERE COCKPIT OF A PENSKE PC4 WHEN 1976 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX