What was Gene Haas thinking with Haas F1?

If I’m honest, I have no idea what Gene Haas is saying in this AUTOSPORT article. The reasoning, after just half way through his first season in Formula 1, is the very thing everyone (me included) were saying at the beginning…just buy an existing team like Sauber or Manor. NOW he comes to the conclusion that free freight, tickets and financial prize money eligibility is a good thing?

“Bernie was always saying ‘why don’t you just buy an existing team?’, which was actually a better idea because there were only 10 teams at the time so economically it would’ve been a lot more beneficial,” Haas said.

“Bernie was probably right because there are so many advantages when you’re a top 10 team.”

“Not only do you get ‘column A’ money but you also get freight and airline tickets for the team,” he said.

“There is a lot of financial help for the teams once they’ve been established.”

Having bought Manor’s old building in the UK for a European HQ and taken advantage of the “listed parts” loophole of F1’s regulations, he is now feeling like buying an existing team would have been better? I think everyone, including Mr. Ecclestone, were telling him that. I have to assume Guenther Steiner was saying much the same thing.

If they would have bought Manor or Sauber, they would have had a full operation with the capacity for chassis development and fabrication and in Sauber’s case, possibly some wind tunnel time and more. Sure, they may have paid more up front but in the long run they would have been eligible for prize money right off the bat but as it is now, even their points scored in the first two races will gain them nothing this year as far as prize money is concerned.

Would he have needed all of that infrastructure for car fabrication and development? Well, according to him, last week, he may have. He feels Ferrari haven’t done enough to help Haas F1 with their development and are playing it too conservative with the “listed parts” program for fear the FIA will deem their efforts illegal.

I said it back then, he would have been well advised (and apparently was) to acquire Sauber—a Ferrari acolyte team—and then used the listed parts program and also be eligible for prize money and could even have developed their own chassis.

Had they done that, they would be getting millions dollars at the end of this season for the points they scored in the first two races of 2016. They would have had free freight and personnel travel covered. I did that math at home with an abacus so I’m perplexed as to how Gene didn’t see that.

In fact, I assumed Gene knew something I didn’t and that’s why he chose to roll his own so to speak. I assumed there was a gray area in the “listed parts” strategy they wanted to use that would have made it more marginal had they bought an existing team. I assumed that a man who runs a complete and terrific NASCAR operation would have worked the numbers at the same time as he worked the big picture. It seems I may have been wrong.

I have a lot of time for Gene and the Haas F1 team and couldn’t be more elated that they are in F1 but I am befuddled by his revelation here. At this point, the “listed parts” program has been watched very closely by the other teams and the FIA as well, I assume, as other who could be interested in joining F1. It has its issues as Gene clearly suggested last week with the lack of focused development from the host manufacturer.

The symbiotic relationship is only as good as the host’s health and if it struggles or is under pressure, the symbiotic organism is going to feel the pain. Gene is also at a point where he needs his car to develop and make incremental improvements over the course of a season and if it isn’t happening, then the “listed parts” program is exposed as a good way to get in to F1 but not a good way to stay in F1. Eventually Gene will need to develop his own chassis if he wishes to continually develop in areas that he feels are deficiencies and that’s difficult to do with the current relationship and chassis-by-others 3rd party supplier.

It all depends on what Gene wants from F1 but it also brings up a serious question—what about the raft of massive changes for 2017? If you think Ferrari are already working on their program, you’d be right but how much of their 2017 engineering and gray matter are they sharing with Haas F1 in order to have Dallara build a chassis and what if another group decide to come to F1 and use Dallara? Would Ferrari be comfortable sending all their keen chassis engineering help to Haas only to send it to Dallara in order for them to absorb the nuances of chassis design and offer that to other teams? It gets a little gray doesn’t it?

In the end, Gene is going to have to build his own chassis and work with Ferrari in the best possible way but doing so would point directly to the fact that it would have been better to simply buy and existing team—something I, and apparently everyone, was telling them at the beginning.