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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