Haas F1: Who are they and what do we know about them?
We take a look at the sport's newcomers, who have announced that Romain Grosjean will drive for them in 2016.
By Mike Wise
Last Updated: 30/09/15 7:43am
Who are Haas F1?
They were formed in 2014 by Gene Haas, owner of Haas Automation. He also co-owns the Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR team alongside driver Tony Stewart. Although their original intention was to race in F1 this season, they subsequently decided to give themselves more time to prepare.
Why are they entering F1?
It's a sport that has struggled to grab attention in the United States, and no American team has raced since Carl Haas's (no relation) Beatrice-Lola team in 1985-86. His namesake is aware of the potential in his homeland but the main reason is to promote his brand worldwide. "It's a synergy between racing and selling machine tools. I don't see myself as any different from Red Bull or Nike," Haas said.
Will they be based in the United States?
Partly. Haas F1 will have headquarters in Kannapolis, North Carolina, where the NASCAR team is located. For logistical reasons they also have a race base at Marussia's old factory in Banbury, with work on their chassis also undertaken with Ferrari in Italy.
How close will the relationship be between Haas and Ferrari?
Ferrari will supply the mechanical side of Haas's car, leaving the newcomers responsible for the chassis/bodywork. But even here they've been lent a helping hand by their technical partner, with Ferrari letting them use their wind tunnel on a regular basis. There were even mutterings earlier this year that the relationship had gotten a little too close i.e. Ferrari's 2015 resurgence was in part down to a blurring of the line between their own wind tunnel time and Haas's…
There is big-picture stuff here, and it revolves around Appendix 6 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, which lists car parts a constructor must build itself rather than buy elsewhere. The list has shortened over the last couple of years, meaning that, besides its hybrid engine and power train, Ferrari can also supply Haas with its front and rear suspension and even brake ducts (which have become very elaborate in recent years as teams explore their aerodynamic benefits).
With Haas effectively a Ferrari 'B' team, then, it's seen by some as the first step on the slippery slope towards customer cars, which the rules currently forbid - but which the big teams have been pushing for. Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff has said it's "clearly a very intelligent way of entering Formula 1" which "opens up an avenue for new models of collaboration".
Why have they formed an alliance with Ferrari?
According to Haas, they "seemed to have the best overall programme. They have an interest in what we're doing, more so than other ones; and that relationship just seemed to work best for us".
The collaboration also means that R&D costs should, in theory, be spread across both teams. "I think we have to learn and I think there has to be a reason for Ferrari wanting to help us," Haas added, "and I think this is maybe a new model: why should a bigger team help a smaller team?
"There has to be some sympathetic relationship there. One benefits from the other."
So it means they're not a newcomer in the way that Caterham, Marussia or HRT were?
With so much Ferrari technology in the car, it stands to reason that Haas's own should be a more competitive proposition.
Marussia and HRT were always going to struggle because they were granted entries on the understanding that a budget cap (which never materialised) would be in place.
Again, the word partnership is important. F1's hybrid era might have taken some of the emphasis off aero, but Haas will also be looking closely at how Ferrari do things in that regard and learning.
They're also taking their time. Haas first told Bernie Ecclestone at the 2012 U.S. GP that he was thinking of entering and, as has been mentioned, they put back their debut by a season.
Haas said of the other recent newcomers: "I think that the biggest problem they had is trying to get to the grid so fast, they wound up having to take on partnerships that maybe weren't thoroughly thought out and wound up making a lot of mistakes."
Is the Ferrari partnership why Romain Grosjean has placed his faith in the team?
Yes, which suggests he sees it as a stepping-stone to the Scuderia as Kimi Raikkonen's replacement in 2017. It's potentially a career-defining decision for the Frenchman, who at the age of 29 is seen as one of the sport's most underrated talents but who is also now vying with the likes of Max Verstappen for a top drive.
Who else do Haas have on board?
"I've already given the seats to Danica [Patrick] and Kurt Busch," Haas said with a chuckle last November. As it turned out, he wanted as much F1 experience as he could lay his hands on and the Ferrari connection continues with their reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez in line to be named as Grosjean's team-mate.
Chief aerodynamicist Ben Agathangelou has also worked for Ferrari, while team principal Guenther Steiner was technical director at Jaguar and Red Bull - alongside Agathangelou - with the team employing around 200 staff in all. That's not many by F1 standards, but then as we've seen they're getting outside help.
When will the car be ready?
Steiner has said they hope to crash-test their car in early January, with testing due to commence alongside everyone else in March 2016. Looking at the even tighter testing restrictions next season, with just eight days of running ahead of the first race (and no in-season testing) Haas's partnership with Ferrari makes even more sense.
What are the expectations?
Haas is coy. "I think in the first five years it's just surviving," he said. "I don't have any expectations of grandeur that we're going to go out there and win championships. I'm not expecting to beat anybody, just maybe beat the guys at the back."
Grosjean's expectations might differ.