Friday, April 15, 2016

Haas boss lays into F1 'whiners'

(by Alastair Himmer 4-15-16)

The boss of American-owned newcomers Haas launched a withering attack on "whining" Formula One rivals Friday, blasting them as drama queens for crediting his team's success to their links with Ferrari.

Gene Haas spoke out after Frenchman Romain Grosjean finished sixth in Australia last month on his debut for the team and went one better in Bahrain in a fairytale start in Formula one -- even if Mexican Esteban Gutierrez has yet to score.

Earlier this week in Shanghai, Grosjean claimed detractors were "jealous" of the team's success -- an accusation repeated, with interest, by a defiant Haas.

"This place is a soap opera," the 63-year-old told reporters. "It's sour grapes. A lot of the teams at the back really don't know what competition is.

"They're getting maybe a little too fat and happy," he added. "I guess there are a lot of whiners in F1 that talk about our success.

"We never came into this (sport) to run at the back. We want to compete, and that's what we're going to do. If people don't like that then that's their problem, not my problem."

Haas have a close partnership with Ferrari, which has prompted some critics to label them "Ferrari B-team".

But Haas showed he has little time for the sport's political sniping.

"I don't know what they are complaining about, quite frankly," he said. "There have been a lot of obstacles to get to this point and now we're here, we're not going away. They'd better get used to that.

"There's an assumption that because we're using Ferrari parts that it makes easier. But I would challenge any team to take a complete Ferrari car with all the parts and just try to run it."

He added: "They're very complex cars. Having the parts is only one part of the puzzle."

Haas even produced a sheet of paper detailing a list of parts his team makes itself for its two Formula One cars.

"We've proven we are well within all the guidelines the FIA publishes," he said. "The fact we're doing something that is different, what's wrong with that?

"If you're a driver and you can figure out how to go around a turn faster than the guy next to you, who do you give the credit to? The guy who is slower, or the guy who is faster?"

Grosjean placed 14th and 16th in Friday's free practice in China while Gutierrez was 20th and 21st after both the Mexican's rear brakes caught fire in the afternoon session.

Grosjean followed his robust thoughts on Haas's critics with some more straight-talking about tyre manufacturer Pirelli following Friday's practice.

"The Pirelli tyre limits have been ridiculous today for tyre pressure," he fumed. "You just don't get any feeling, it's like a piece of wood -- it's just not driveable."


Friday, March 25, 2016

Haas F1 Team Stuns Field at Australian Grand Prix

(by AJ Baime 3-20-16)

“I’m just hoping we can finish the race,” said Gene Haas, minutes before his Haas F1 Team debuted at the Aussie Grand Prix on Sunday. “If we do that, I’ll be happy.”  The team did that, and a hell of a lot more. Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean started 19th and climbed 13 spots to finish sixth, giving the team eight points in the constructor’s championship in the first race of the F1 season.
How big an accomplishment is this? Consider some facts: No American team has raced in F1 in 30 years. No team from any country has scored a point in a debut race in 14 years, when Mike Salo finished sixth for Toyota. No American team has won a Grand Prix since the summer of 1976, when Gerald Ford was president. Not that Haas has won a GP. But sixth in the debut, by all accounts, “feels like a win,” said Grosjean—the man who brought it home.
As Mario Andretti wrote recently for The Drive, “If they come away with some points [this season], that would mean success. A top five would be a second Christmas.” Haas came one spot from a second Xmas in his debut. And in doing so, the team beat some of the most storied names in the business, from Renault to Sauber to McLaren.
The race was won by Nico Rosberg of Mercedes AMG, followed by Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari in third. (Hamilton started from pole—his 50th and the third most ever, behind Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna.) The three-man podium has become quite familiar, all the more reason why Haas’s sixth place is the biggest story of the weekend.
From the moment Haas partnered with his team boss and technical director Guenther Steiner (an Italian living in the U.S.), it took six years of work—and probably a nine-figure investment—just to get a car on the grid. Haas is a man who knows how to gamble big. He invented a machine tool in the early 1980s, and turned it into the largest computer machine tool operation in North America. He launched a Nascar team (Stewart-Haas Racing) that has won championships in America’s biggest racing series. He even did 16 months in federal prison for tax evasion.
His weekend in Australia started out grimly. A crash in pit lane caused damage to one of the team’s two cars in practice, before the cars could even get to qualifying. Then, a new qualifying format proved disastrous as it bored fans (you could bake a soufflĂ© in the time it would take to explain this new qualifying system). Haas cars were the third and fourth to drop out, so they started 19th and 20th out of 22 cars.
A spectacular crash on lap 17 red-flagged the Grand Prix. Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez and Fernando Alonso made contact, sending Alonso’s McLaren tomahawking into a wall. Alonso’s survival from this shunt is a miracle (he walked away), and the accident ended the race for one of the Haas cars. The remaining Haas driver, Grosjean, made use of the red flag by changing to new tires that he hoped would last him until the end of the race. He had 40 laps to go, and he inched his way up lap after lap.
Gene Haas and his team boss Steiner must have made meals of their fingernails as Grosjean made his final loops around the circuit in sixth place. As announcer Will Buxton said: “I can’t believe I’m about to say this guys, and I don’t want to curse them, but with only a handful of laps to go, Romain Grosjean holds a two-second advantage over his rivals. He literally has to bring this thing home. What an astonishing result it would be for this brand new team. I cannot remember when a team has turned up so well prepared, so regimented, and so competitive.”
Grosjean’s careful work with his tires proved the difference. “A very good day at the office,” he said afterwards. “This is unbelievable.”
“There’s a new F1 team on the block,” Gene Haas said post-race, “and it’s an American team.”
Here’s what else you need to know:
*Best rookie finish: Britain’s Jolyon Palmer, Renault, 11th
*Best livery: Williams, for the third year running
*Best new livery: Renault, in the team’s return to F1
*Worst new livery: McLaren
*Scariest moment: Fernando Alonso’s terrifying 17th lap shunt
*Worst moment: The entire qualifying session. The new rules proved senseless.
*Fastest lap: Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, 1 minute 28.997 seconds


Friday, March 4, 2016

2016 Sauber

Sauber has been looking good too the past couple of years. I especially like the nose on this one.

Cheers to them for an easy-to-spot paint scheme as well. I get tired of almost all the teams being either silver, red, black, or a combination there of.

2016 Renault

Renault have had some of the best looking cars the last few years if you ask me.

Hopefully they can get it together and compete up front with this beauty of a machine.

Monday, February 29, 2016

IndyCar facing challenges, but signs pointing up

(by John Oreovicz 2-4-16)

Imagine the Verizon IndyCar Series as a vessel at 50 percent capacity, with a divided and disaffected fan base that constantly argues whether the glass is half empty or half full.

Now 20 years after the infamous CART-IRL "split" and heading into the ninth season after reunification, IndyCar still looks like it's stuck in neutral.

That's not as harsh an assessment as it seems. Certainly Indy car racing's presence in the sporting landscape today both in America and around the world is much smaller than it was pre-split.

But over a shorter span of history -- say, the past 10 years -- IndyCar is one of the few forms of motorsport that has maintained or is slowly increasing its market penetration.

The modern-day IndyCar Series has a lot going for it: strong manufacturer support from Chevrolet and Honda, a marquee title sponsor in Verizon Wireless and more than a century's worth of heritage and history at the Indianapolis 500, which will be staged for the 100th time in May. IndyCar is arguably the closest and most competitive form of racing in the world on any given weekend.

The problem is that it can't get enough people to pay attention. The series trumpets television ratings that have improved 35 percent in the past two years (averaging 0.76, including the Indianapolis 500), but they conveniently omit that even those numbers are about 70 percent lower than they were at their peak in the first half of the 1990s. Averaging just under 1 million viewers per race, IndyCar's television audience is about one-fifth the size of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Those television numbers are a huge concern because sponsors perceive value in higher ratings. And that's the biggest issue that the management of IndyCar continues to grapple with. The series may be reunited, with a race schedule and a lineup of quality teams and drivers that harks back to the sport's most commercially successful days in the late 1980s and early '90s. But the value has been sucked out of Indy car racing, and it may never be restored.

The teams' struggle to sell sponsorship is reflected in the car count, which is likely to dip to 22 this year, and the fact that questions are already being raised about whether the Indianapolis 500 can attract a full field of 33 cars for its historic 100th running sends an alarming message.

An indication of how devalued the Indy brand has become was revealed recently when IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway parent company Hulman Motorsports inked PennGrade 1 motor oil as the 500's first presenting sponsor, for the paltry sum of $4.5 million over three years.

An unfavorable TV contract doesn't help matters. IndyCar's 10-year deal with what is now known as NBC Sports Network to broadcast the majority of its schedule was sold for a reported $60 million; NBC's package to broadcast half of the NASCAR schedule went for $4.4 billion, television revenue that is distributed to the tracks and ultimately to the teams in the form of prize money.

Meanwhile, IndyCar has pretty much eliminated prize money, instead operating a model that pays each member team a $1.25 million subsidy and minimal bonuses for top-5 finishes. On salary and prize money, top Indy car drivers earn about a quarter of what NASCAR stars generate.

To its credit, IndyCar has done a very good job of cutting costs to the teams, to the point where the budget to run a car now -- estimated to be $3 million a year at minimum and up to $8 million at the top teams -- is less than half of what it took to compete in the latter days of the CART-sanctioned series. Much of the credit for that goes to the engine manufacturers absorbing millions in development costs to run their Indy car programs in order to keep engine lease prices around $700,000 per car per season.

Honda and Chevrolet also do extensive marketing on behalf of the series, including event sponsorships, and it's safe to say that IndyCar would be in a world of hurt without them. That's why news of Honda's contract extension through the end of 2017 with an option for three years beyond that was arguably the biggest news to come out of IndyCar's 2016 media day.

Ultimately, most of IndyCar's problems come down to money -- or, more accurately, a lack thereof. It's typical of the sport's bad karma that the 2008 reunification, a dozen years in the making, came at exactly the time when economies in America and around the world began to tank. Tobacco money, which for decades was the lifeblood of a sport that relies on corporate sponsorship more than any other, was already legislated away, and the Hulman-George family, which reportedly subsidized the IRL to the tune of half a billion dollars over the first decade of its existence, cut spending to the bare minimum.

Mark Miles, who has held a number of high-profile sports business roles in Indianapolis, was hired in 2012 to improve Hulman Motorsports' bottom line, and he has succeeded in that regard. IndyCar, after operating at a loss for more than a decade, now generates a small profit, while the number of people who stream through the gates at IMS has increased substantially over the past couple of years, in part due to using the facility as a concert site.

Not surprisingly, Miles remains bullish. In an industry that has trended downward, IndyCar's attendance has held steady or ticked upward at most venues in recent years, and TV ratings and most other measures of awareness of the series are heading in a positive direction.

"Ascending," was Miles' immediate response when asked to summarize the state of Indy car racing entering the 2016 season.

"I think in one of my first opportunities to talk to fans three years ago, I sort of felt like IndyCar maybe needed to apologize because we put our fans through a lot," he said.

"We're not perfect today, but I think the fan metrics are improving. What matters most is more fans paying more attention, and I think that's happening. I think about attracting more fans and I think the direction is good for us, whether they're digital, dot-com, social or broadcast."

The return to classic Indy car venues like Phoenix International Raceway and Road America is a step in the right direction for IndyCar in terms of winning former fans back. But an attempt to stage a Labor Day weekend event in downtown Boston could prove risky; even if the controversial race goes off as planned, history has shown that the odds of long-term survival for downtown street races are slim, with only Long Beach, Toronto and St. Petersburg lasting a decade or more.

IndyCar must also sharpen its focus on safety. The series is generally acknowledged as the most dangerous form of motorsport in the world, with its exposed-cockpit open-wheel cars reaching speeds of over 240 mph in superspeedway trim. Eight drivers have been lost to fatal accidents since 1996, including three dynamic and popular stars -- Greg Moore, Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson -- and despite significant advances including carbon-fiber chassis construction, the HANS device and SAFER walls, the challenge of balancing speed and safety remains as vexing as ever.

Because it's the 100th running, the Indianapolis 500 is generating additional fan interest, and the true test of whether the IndyCar Series is really on the rise will come after that. The series needs to build on the momentum and energy of that historic event and keep fans engaged with the sport throughout the rest of the 2016 season and beyond.

Longtime followers of the sport have been frustrated by Indy car racing's decline and inability to bounce back as quickly as they would like. The glass has remained half-full for an awfully long time.
But unlike most other forms of motorsports, the IndyCar Series' level finally appears to be rising.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Haas rolls out new VF-16 in Barcelona

(by Nate Saunders 2-22-16)

After its official launch on Sunday, Haas has rolled out the VF-16 in the Barcelona pit lane ahead of the first morning of winter testing.

The American team is the first new outfit in Formula One since 2010 and arrives with an engine and technical partnership with Ferrari. On Sunday it released the first images of its silver and red challenger for the new season, which followed the VF-16's first laps at the Circuit de Catalunya during a promotional event spread across Saturday and Sunday.

Drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutierrez were there to unveil the car ahead of the assembled media at 0750 local time, just over an hour before the green light for the session. Grosjean's number eight car was the one presented to the media as the Frenchman takes to the wheel for the first morning of testing.

As part of its technical partnership, the VF-16 is running as many Ferrari components as are allowed under the current regulations, but the chassis itself has been designed by Italian company Dallara.


Haas launches its first F1 car

(by Laurence Edmondson 2-21-16)

New American F1 team Haas has launched its first car, the VF-16.

Haas is the first American team to take part in the championship since 1986 and is headed up by the founder of Haas Automation and NASCAR team owner, Gene Haas.

"From an international standpoint, Formula One is the highest echelon of racing, and Haas Automation builds the highest-quality machine tools," Haas said. "When you hear 'F1' you know exactly what it is - a global racing series that showcases the latest technology and attracts the best talent in engineering and design. Haas Automation has an excellent reputation in the United States and I want that reputation to grow worldwide. Connecting Haas Automation with F1 in name and in practice is the best way to grow our business and elevate Haas Automation to a premium, global brand."

The team's close relationship with Ferrari means the car shares as many components as is allowed under the regulations with the recently-launched SF16-H, but the chassis itself has been manufactured by Italian company Dallara. It is powered by Ferrari's V6 turbo power unit and also uses a Ferrari gearbox.

The livery was the source of much speculation over the winter and Haas has settled for a predominantly light grey and dark grey colour scheme with red detailing. The origin of the name VF-16 goes back to the first CNC machine manufactured by Haas Automation, the VF-1, launched in 1988. The "V" stands for vertical, which is an industry standard designation for a vertical mill. Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation, added "F1" to the name to unofficially designate it as the company's "Very First One".

The car completed its first lap on Saturday during a filming day at the Circuit de Catalunya and will be back on track on Monday when Romain Grosjean gets behind the wheel for the first day of official pre-season testing.