The RACER.com Guest Mailbag with the Haas Formula 1 team

Image by Dunbar/Motorsport Images

The RACER.com Guest Mailbag with the Haas Formula 1 team

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The RACER.com Guest Mailbag with the Haas Formula 1 team

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Q: Thanks for answering our questions – I have two, if that’s OK. First, before we had Haas F1, there was the US F1 team, which obviously never took flight. Do you think there was ever a realistic chance of that team being viable? And second, Haas F1 has four seasons under its belt now. If you could go back in time to when the team was being set up, what advice would you give yourself?

Michael Fletcher

GS: I don’t really know. It was a different time and feels like a long time ago. I don’t really want to go back and try and second-guess what happened to the US F1 Team, because obviously I don’t know all the details. Regarding the second question – there’s a lot, but not really one big piece of advice. You see a lot of little things now, but hindsight is beautiful. You can always do things better. That said, there’s nothing I would do completely differently. For what we did, it actually worked pretty well. I’m not saying we did a perfect job, as I said, you can always do better. It’s all just small things you can improve upon, but you only know to improve them after you know you did them wrong, we certainly didn’t do anything strategically wrong, for example.

Q: Any great memories you want to share from WRC days? Any from the Colin McRae and Carlos Sainz years? Were you just as angry with that pairing as you are now with Romain and Kevin? 

Kevin, Long Beach, CA

GS: To work with champions like Colin and Carlos… it was a fantastic time. They were both, in their own way, the biggest talents of their time. One was driving strategically and managing everything, Carlos obviously, and the other, Colin… from a sheer driving talent perspective, there just hasn’t been anyone like him before or after, in my opinion. They were great times, and obviously I was a lot younger! At that time though, I was not in a position to be allowed to talk to them the way I can with my drivers now. I’m sure if I had spoken to Colin in that way, he would have hit me. If I had talked to Carlos like that I would have been sacked. So – I didn’t!

Q: What do you see as the opportunities and challenges for the upcoming (now 2022) rule package?

Thanks for taking our questions, and have a good day,

Mike Bridges

GS: If you make a new car, there are always challenges. You always question if you are on the right track or not. You have no idea, especially with a package change as big as this one, where other people are going. You’re always wondering what other people are doing and if you’re going the right way. To develop a car with a completely new rules package, you really have to open up every angle of it and see what you can do. Uncertainty is the biggest challenge in terms of where other people are going with it.

While working with McRae and Sainz at Ford World Rally team, Steiner faced a choice of being punched, sacked, or remaining diplomatic. He chose the latter. Image by McKlein/Motorsport Images

Q: How would you feel about Formula 1 returning to Indianapolis or Watkins Glen?

Rob Peterson
Rochester, NY

GS: I would be in favor of this, especially Watkins Glen, but unfortunately it cannot be approved because of its run-off areas – the safety is not there. I’m not an expert on race tracks, but I don’t believe with Watkins Glen you can make the run-off areas bigger because there isn’t the space, as far as I know. It’s an iconic race track and it would be fantastic to go there. For Indianapolis, I think we’d have to get over the dilemma from 2005, when there was the tire issue, but otherwise I would have no problem to go back there. If I could pick one of the two, I would prefer to go to Watkins Glen.

Q: It’s well-known in F1 that budget highly contributes to success, and Haas F1 has traditionally not had the largest of budgets. The United States has by far one of the best economies and many of the largest companies in the world. Why then do you think Haas F1 struggles to get investments? Wouldn’t many American-based companies jump at the opportunity to back the only American F1 team? Other than hiring me to help, what can be done to shore up this shortfall of American sponsors?

John Griffis

GS: Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as that. Finding any sponsorship in these times is difficult, we’re talking large sums, and a lot of companies invest in digital sponsorship. Also, Formula 1 in the United States, for a long time it wasn’t very popular, it’s still not a major sport in the market there. It is gaining momentum, but it will still take some time to make it a lot more popular. So, these are the two main elements – money being spent on other platforms, and Formula 1 coming up as a priority to big companies.

Q: How successful do you think F1 has been in trying to become more fan-friendly? Can it still do more? As a fan, even sitting here typing a question to a team principal feels like something I couldn’t have done five years ago.

T. Ferguson

GS: You can always do more. I think Liberty Media has done a good job in making the sport more fan-friendly. Also, the work they’ve done digitally on things like their social media channels, it’s been fantastic. We were really behind as a sport on that medium, that work should have started 15 years ago but didn’t. Now we’re playing catch-up, but they’re doing a good job in doing that. Improving fan access will be one of the goals for the future.

Q: F1 has declared a moratorium on 2021 rules car development for a season. How can they police that?

Lee Chard

GS: It hasn’t been completely signed off yet, at the moment we’re all in shutdown mode. We’re now deciding what is frozen and what isn’t – hopefully there’ll be a lot frozen. It’s pretty easy for the FIA to check that one, because we have to submit all our drawings to them, then they can measure and see everything. The FIA are quite sophisticated in terms of what we’re doing, they have all the data and everything. The risk to try and cheat on all that, it’s too high for a team. The penalties are so high. You wouldn’t risk it.

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