A brief history of the Haas F1 team, including the team's origins, past drivers and its racing record in the F1 world championship
No one can say that Gene Haas hasn't been warned about the task ahead of him and his Haas F1 team. The failure of the previous attempt to get a US-based team onto the Formula One grid in 2010 was painfully fresh in everyone's minds, and even Bernie Ecclestone himself did his best to dissuade Haas from responding to the FIA's 2014 tender process for those wanting to enter the sport.
But Haas has been warned off such endeavours before, and has been a success regardless. After becoming a billionaire thanks to the success of his machine tool building business Haas Automation, Haas decided to get into motorsport in 2003 by setting up a new NASCAR race team called Haas CNC Racing. After five seasons its performance could best be described as mediocre, but then in 2008 Haas joined forces with one of the sport's leading drivers Tony Stewart to found Stewart-Haas Racing. Since then the team has twice won the coveted Sprint Cup trophy, Stewart himself in 2011 and Kevin Harvick in 2014; the four-driver line-up includes another former Cup champion in Kurt Busch, and one of the sport's most popular drivers in Danica Patrick.
While stock car racing is far bigger in the US than Formula One, success in NASCAR drove Haas to start thinking internationally. With the aim of proudly flying the Stars and Stripes at the pinnacle of world motorsport, Haas duly succeeded in winning a coveted place on the Grand Prix starting grid despite Ecclestone's warning. But as he's already shown, Haas is no starry-eyed optimist but rather a hard-headed, pragmatic entrepreneur who sees Formula One not as a money pit but as a way of potentially winning billions of dollars of fresh business from around the globe.
Haas opted to defer his team's entry into the sport until 2016 to ensure that he wouldn't come into the sport half-cocked and fall flat on his face. He has also pursued an innovative strategy of getting as much of the team's infrastructure ready-made from other teams and suppliers rather than trying to do everything in-house from scratch: a technical partnership with Ferrari has been key to this approach, and Haas also purchased the former Marussia F1 headquarters at Banbury to serve as his European base of operations in addition to his main NASCAR-centric facility in Kannapolis, North Carolina.
Haas has succeeded in luring Romain Grosjean away from Lotus to be his main driver alongside Ferrari rising star Esteban Gutiérrez, and has hired former Jaguar and Red Bull Racing technical director Günther Steiner to be the team principal. Even those in the sport who remain sceptical about whether a US team can ever achieve serious long-term success in Formula One have to admit that Haas made all the right moves in preparation for the team's inaugural race in Australia, where it scored a stunning sixth place on debut courtesy of Grosjean and followed that up with fifth in Bahrain. Whether Haas' undoubted business acumen will translate into long-term on-track success remains to be seen. The team went on to finish 8th Place in the constructors championship for 2016.