Having completed the most successful debut in F1 since 2002 when they joined the grid last year, taking an amazing sixth place in their first ever race and following that up with a fifth position in the next round, the Haas F1 Team now have a tough task ahead of them to equal that success in 2017.
As well as building on that fantastic first year, the American team also have new rules and regulations to consider, which could either help or hinder them this season. Founder and Chairman Gene Haas is not worried however, having successfully run a team in NASCAR for the past fifteen years.
That experience in American motorsport, certainly helped the Haas F1 Team to stay on the right track in their inaugural year, as the entrepreneur and machine tool magnate explained.
“Everything we learned that we did wrong in NASCAR we avoided in Formula One; and the most important thing was immediately seeing what works and what doesn’t work.
“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.”
Scoring points in the first round of the season was a definite high point for Haas in 2016, who was unable to believe what they had managed to achieve in such a short space of time. For the American, it was the stuff dreams are made of.
“I certainly think Melbourne was my proudest moment, because it was our inaugural race and actually scoring points was a record-breaking event.
“Melbourne certainly stands out above any other race during the whole season just because we scored points.”
Haas had a different way of working to other F1 teams, having struck a partnership with Scuderia Ferrari prior to entering F1, which saw the Italian squad not only supply the Kannapolis based team with engines, but they also provided them with numerous car parts, wind tunnel access and on hand advise too. The unique arrangement meant the American squad did not have to build up everything from scratch in that first year, a hardship many a start-up team had fallen foul of in the past.
It did however, see them receive a lot of criticism from around the paddock for using such a set-up, but the American team’s founder knew they were on to a good strategy, and never doubted their potential.
“There was a huge amount of scepticism at first. I think a lot of people certainly thought we’d run in the back the entire season.
“We did have a lot of support from NBC Sports and all the guys on the broadcast. I think by the end of the season we silenced the critics and, by now, most people see us as a serious competitor.”
With the regulation changes coming in this year, the American squad could have a tough challenge ahead, but Haas is confident that having gained a years’ experience the team should be more competitive in 2017.
“I think it has pluses and minuses. On the plus side, we are not trying to put the whole pit crew together. We don’t have to worry about getting trucks and other infrastructure. We have all that in place.
“The negative side is that there’s less time to do all these things again and there are a lot of rule changes, so you have to be prepared.
“On the other hand, we have stronger relationships with a lot of our suppliers, so that should make it easier. It’s kind of give and take.
“It’ll be just as challenging as it was last year, but I think with the knowledge we have, we should actually perform a little bit better this year.”
The American businessman is hopeful of moving a couple of places up the order in 2017, and believes it is an attainable goal for his now one year old team.
“If we can do a little bit better because our business model in Formula One allows us to operate more efficiently, we might be able to move up a position or two.”
Haas have signed up a new team-mate to line-up alongside Romain Grosjean in 2017, in the form of Kevin Magnussen, a driver they have had their eye on for some time and clearly feel he is a good fit for their brand.
“Well, Magnussen was actually one of our original candidates. We talked to Magnussen and thoroughly went through his racing resume and we were very impressed.
“Near the end of the season, we asked Kevin if he might be available and he said he was.
“On the On the second to last race weekend of the season, we made our decision and brought him to Haas F1 Team.”
Having taken on many new ventures in his life, Gene Haas certainly loves a challenge, and his mantra for making every one of them a success is a simple one.
“Create a good, efficient and cost effective solution. Repeat”.