COTA Talks With Haas F1 Team’s Guenther Steiner
In the weeks leading up to the 2015 United States Grand Prix, the fourth race to be held at America’s only purpose-built Formula One track, Circuit of The Americas, some key announcements have been made by what will soon become America’s only Formula One team – Haas F1 racing.
Team owner Gene Haas, and Team Principal Guenther Steiner recently introduced current Lotus driver Romain Grojean as their lead driver when they take to the F1 grid for the first time next March, at the 2016 Australian Grand Prix.
They also announced that besides operating from current team headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina, Haas F1 racing had taken over and renovated the F1 facilities previously occupied by Marussia in Banbury, Oxfordshire, England. A third group of Haas F1 personnel will work with Scuderia Ferrari in Maranello, Italy, which is the team’s powertrain partner, providing Haas F1 with engines, gearboxes and technical support.
According to team owner Gene Haas, who hopes to transfer his success with Stewart-Haas Racing over to Formula One, Ferrari was selected because historically it is the most successful team in the history of the sport, with 16 manufacturer titles and 15 driver championships.
“The multi-year agreement forms a strong collaboration between the two organizations that will allow Haas F1 Team to be competitive in its inaugural season and in the years following. There is no team in Formula One more accomplished than Scuderia Ferrari, and no team with more history. They’ve been a part of Formula One from the beginning, and now they’ll be a part of Haas F1 Team’s beginning,” he added.
“Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsports. It showcases the latest technology and is the most competitive form of racing in the world. Aligning the Haas F1 Team with such a tenured and successful company as Scuderia Ferrari provides our team with the greatest opportunity for success in 2016 and beyond,” he added.
So is there more news to announce?
“Well … not just yet,” confided Steiner, who took a break from recruiting more staff for the Haas F1 team – which will eventually number about 200 – to attend this weekend’s United States Grand Prix race at Circuit of the Americas. Steiner, with a varied 30-year career in motorsports, including managing the manufacturing and technical side of things at both Jaguar and Red Bull racing in recent years, is now in charge of getting the Haas F1 team up to speed – literally.
While he claimed he wasn’t here to conduct any “job interviews,” we couldn’t help but ask if he would be seeking out American F1 driver Alexander Rossi this weekend, in an effort to convince him to leave Marussia and join Romain Grosjean next season on the Haas F1 Racing Team.
The question elicited a huge smile … accompanied with the anticipated, “No comment.”
“Well, of course, our next big announcement will be when we name our second driver, which we hope we’ll be able to do fairly soon,” added Steiner. “It’s just a matter of finding the right moment to do that. It’s really a very busy schedule for everyone as we’re moving toward the end of the 2015 F1 season with four races to go. But we’ve carefully analyzed several potential candidates and will be making that announcement fairly soon.
“Next, people want to know what our team colors will be, and whether or not we’ll have additional sponsors. One the first issue, that’s not been fully decided yet. And in the beginning, Haas Automation, a CNC machine tool manufacturing company owned by Mr. Haas will be the only sponsor,” noted Steiner
While not yet ready to name a second driver, or describe team colors, Steiner was willing to talk about other aspects of the team, as well as his successful history of assembling Formula One racing teams at Jaguar and Red Bull. He said he was pleased and exciting to be joining Haas F1 racing, and was confident the team would enjoy some early success, thanks to his experience assembling F1 teams, coupled with the solid technical support being provided by Ferrari.
“To translate it into Texan, I suppose … This isn’t my first rodeo,” he laughed. “So I’m very confident that we have a really good plan in place. When I was at Red Bull we had a team of about 350. Now at Hass F1 Racing, I think we can accomplish our goals with only about 200. There are a couple of reasons why I believe we can be successful with a smaller team.
“First, I think it’s important to be very efficient and frugal, especially, when starting out. We also have the benefit of being able to work with the people at Ferrari, who are very experienced and have a long, successful history at this. It’s just not possible to do everything all at once. Race teams need more support, especially the first few years, so they don’t get overextended like Caterham and Marussia did last year. I don’t think they realized that even coming in last takes a lot of work, here in Formula One.
“But Mr. Haas has higher expectations than that. He doesn’t want to get into F1 racing just to finish last, and neither do I. So we worked on coming up with a plan that would believe will help us leapfrog over some of the pitfalls that have afflicted previous F1 start-up teams, and help up be competitive, right from the start.
“What happens if you have very few successes in the beginning is that you and your racing team run out of either money, or passion. And in many cases … without success … you run out of both. What we’re hoping to do is avoid some of the mistakes made by previous F1 start-up teams. We’ve already seen what doesn’t work.
So you have to think it through and craft a plan which has a greater chance of achieving success. You have to spent time in the beginning putting together a really smart plan, and then you have to couple that with hard work to see it through.
I’m certain we’ll have a few problems to overcome right at here the beginning … it’s almost inevitable. But we hope to keep them to a minimum. Also, what we’re looking for is people who are really good team players, and are committed to achieving team goals. That should help. We’ll all simply do our best, and see where it goes,” he concluded.