Haas is racing at home this weekend and continues to fly towards the most unlikely of successes. On Wednesday, during the promotional evening at the Hard Rock Stadium bringing together the 20 drivers (except Fernando Alonso) of the 2022 world championship in front of thousands of fans, his team principal, Günther Steiner received more applause on the stage than its own drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher. Simply because the « Drive To Survive » series made him the third most popular boss in Formula 1, after Toto Wolff (Mercedes) and Christian Horner (Red Bull). Without gaining anything but by attracting the sympathy of the public by his frankness and his broadsides of swearing in an environment that some considered sanitized.
In season 1, in 2019, Nextlix discreetly filmed him calling Gene Haas, the owner of the American team, to explain to him that his team of mechanics had caused the retirements Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, so fifth and sixth, forgetting to lock a wheel of their cars during a pit stop. « We pass for wankers », he summed up. The Italian with a Tyrolean accent had become a central character in the new Formula 1 soap opera, managing the rest of the season with its unruly and disappointing drivers. On Sunday, during the first parade of team bosses, there is no doubt that he should still be acclaimed.
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« It’s like that, what can I do? If they had better results, they would be more applauded than me », he sighed. Unstoppable, peremptory, Günther Steiner knows full well that Kevin Magnussen has exceeded all his expectations this season by compiling 15 points in four races plus a « sprint » race. But it’s his role to want more, and to make both the Dane and the German understand that it’s the VF22 that outperforms. We know the reason: a project study carried out on Ferrari premises by staff seconded from the Scuderia, and maximum pooling of parts with the red machine.
Haas, however, did better in his second year in the big leagues, in 2016, with the 22 points amassed by Romain Grosjean in four races. Strangely, this year 2022 plunges Gene Haas’ team back six years, with a leader and a second driver without points, who are desperately slow to prove their worth. It is to be mistaken, it is as if Esteban Gutiérrez had reincarnated as Mick Schumacher and Günther Steiner insists on this capital which today could easily be double. “Kevin has scored in all races but one, so I think Mick will get there”he called for, in remarks to The Race.
However, the situation is not the same as in 2016, when Haas proved unable to keep up with the pace of development – in other words spending – of other teams, scoring just seven extra points the rest of the season.
This year, the American boss has every interest in investing to develop a well-born car, in a favorable context like never before. The teams’ budget is now capped and Ferrari has reserves at all levels. And just this weekend, the Haas are getting a new, more powerful V6 thanks to combustion chamber modifications that Ferrari passed through the International Automobile Federation under the guise of improved reliability…
Andretti, a sprawling company
Where Haas has most to gain from it is in conquering its own audience. Having fallen to a low point last year, the team based officially in Kannapolis – more really in Banbury and Maranello – has the opportunity to become a kind of national team which would give it a tremendous boost. This is indeed the ambition of Gene Haas when he Günther Steiner declares: « We’re an absolutely American team. We have an American license, there aren’t many more American companies than Haas Automation (founding boss’s machine tool company) and Gene Haas. »
Everyone knows it anyway at Haas: there is a place to be taken, 2022 is an extraordinary opportunity and time is running out. Because Andretti Autosport has proclaimed loud and clear its ambition to land in the world championship in 2024, with resources such as an independent team has rarely had. Former driver Michael Andretti, son of world champion Mario Andretti, is ready to reproduce the Haas model, in collaboration with McLaren for the chassis part, and Renault for the engine part. He even offered Gene Haas to buy his stable from him to speed up his arrival in the premier category. The more he ran into Sauber’s refusal. Michael Andretti, known in Formula 1 for having been Ayrton Senna’s team-mate at McLaren in 1993, should not be long in spreading out his business plan to arrive in Formula 1 through the front door, he hopes. Even if it means paying ruby on the nail 200 million dollars in entry fees to all the ten stables already in place.
And for the rest, Michael Andretti has clear ideas and long teeth, as proven by his all-out commitments in Indycar, Indy Lights, Formula E, Extreme E. His father Mario, the 1978 Formula 1 world champion, affirms that the Andretti factory will be located in England and that the team will have variations in Formula 2 and Formula 3 to create a pyramid of talents. And unlike Haas, Andretti feels the need to have a local driver, who could be Indycar prospect Colton Herta, engaged in a training process with Zak Brown’s McLaren friendly team. Haas is there and Andretti is about to arrive to create an emulation that can only be beneficial to both teams. Who by then will have seen the influence of the United States extend to the Las Vegas Grand Prix in 2023.
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