Gene Haas has spoken at length about his F1 plans for the first time since the FIA granted him an entry.
Haas was accompanied at a press conference by Guenther Steiner, who will be team principal of the Haas Formula organisation.
Haas explained that the driving force behind the team was to promote his machine tool business worldwide, with a view to doubling sales. However he also said that the plan is for the team to become a “profitable enterprise” in five years.
Intriguingly the conference created as many questions as it answered, with Haas admitting that he doesn’t yet know if the team will make its debut in 2015 or 2016. He said a final decision would be made in four weeks.
“I would like to do 2015, simply because the first year is going to be a difficult year no matter what happens,” said Haas. “It’s a very big challenge and part of that learning curve is just simply getting to the track and sorting out the logistics of going from race to race, and the sooner we learn that, the sooner we’ll be done with that.
“It’s one of those things that we’re going to find out in the next few weeks, and hopefully in the next four weeks we should have an idea which year we’re going to pursue.”
Later he said: “2015 is too close, 2016 is too far.”
What he did make clear was that as expected he will rely heavily on a technical partner. However, he insisted that there was still a choice to be made between Ferrari and Mercedes, despite the Italian team being the clear favourite since news of the Haas entry bid first emerged. Intriguingly one source told this blog that Toto Wolff has already declined a request for technical support from Haas.
“It’s going to take us a while to learn, and we’re going to lean heavily on our technical partner to help us,” he said.
Rule changes that relax the restrictions on sharing of technology mean that from 2015 Haas could buy virtually everything it needs from an existing team – and in essence would only need to own the IP of its chassis and bodywork. Haas even used the phrase “customer car” at one point.
He also admitted that there was a good chance that Dallara would be in the mix as the supplier of the chassis, a job it did for HRT in 2010.
He also confirmed that a “campus” in Kannapolis would be the main base for the F1 team, alongside the NASCAR operation, but there would also be a facility in Europe.
“Ideally the main office will be here in Kannapolis. There may be a smaller office in Italy or Germany for assembly and disassembly of cars. It will depend upon who our technology partner ultimately is. That would be the logistics we would use. Nothing is cast in stone yet, we’re going to be flexible at it, we’re going to do what it takes, and we’re going to be efficient at it.”
He said that his Windshear wind tunnel was one of his biggest assets, but admitted it would have to be converted to run scale models given FIA restrictions on full size running.
Regarding drivers he said: “Ideally what we would like is to have an experienced F1 driver, probably someone who is familiar with the current engine package rules. Then going forward we would certainly like to have a young American driver, that would be the ideal situation. At the moment we haven’t really narrowed it down. We’ve had quite a few people talk to us.”
On the subject pf potential designers, Steiner said: “We’re in contact with people, but also we just got the license last week, and until you’ve got the license you can’t emply anybody and nobody would come and work for you if they don’t know if you’ve got a license in the future.
“The real works starts now, we need to get the people, we need to define if we start in ’15 or ’16, and we need to pick our partner.”