Haas F1 Team Facility

Haas F1 Team to be based in Kannapolis, NC

Earlier this year, Gene Haas, owner of CNC machine manufacturer Haas Automation and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing, was granted a license to compete in Formula One, with its teams beginning competition in the 2016 season.

The bulk of the Haas F1 organization will be based in Kannapolis, part of a 125,000-square-foot expansion of the SHR headquarters. Part of the expansion used by the NASCAR teams is complete with the additional construction expected to be finished in late November.

Haas F1 Team

Haas F1 Team will become the first U.S.-based Formula One team since Parnelli Jones Racing in 1974-76. Haas said he expected to have the first cars assembled in November 2015 and on the track testing in January 2016.

On Wednesday, Haas met with reporters from the Observer, USA Today and The Associated Press to discuss the progress of his F1 organization.

Q: How do you go about hiring people for an F1 organization and get them to the Charlotte area?

We really haven’t gone on a hiring spree. The first thing we did was align ourselves with partners we thought would work the best for us. It took us almost six months to figure out the Ferrari relationship. Once we got that down, then a lot more pieces of the puzzle fit.

Q: In the F1 community, do they think you’re crazy for wanting to base the operation here?

Well, they’re all crazy. I don’t think anybody really thinks anything you do is crazy because, let’s face it, the (other teams) are really all over the map. You got the Ferrari guys operating out of Maranello (Italy), you have the Russian teams operating out of London, you got Sauber, which is based in Switzerland and Red Bull in Italy and England. It’s pretty common for these teams to be spread out.

Q: It was just over a year ago you started a fourth Sprint Cup Series team in NASCAR. Is this task more daunting; is it far more involved?

I’ve been involved about the same in both decisions because I have other people who do most of the hard work of making all the little pieces work. I build machine tools – that’s what I do most of the time. The racing part is a vital part of my business, but I’m not here every single day. It all comes down to hiring the right people. We have Guenther Steiner as our team principal, and it’s really up to him to figure out how all the parts of the puzzle fit together.

Q: Where are you in the process of finding a driver?
We’re really not even looking for a driver right now. In Formula One, their “silly season” occurs right about now so really never know until the end of the year. For us, I would think our interest in a driver would increase in May or June in finding a driver and then over the next 90 days we’ll see who’s available, who’s going where.

Q: Would you like an American driver?

I think an American driver from a media and sponsor standpoint would be a home run. That would be the ultimate goal for an American team is an American driver. Realistically, we’ll probably have to go with an experienced Formula One driver, at least for one seat. The other one, that could be open. Maybe we get an up-and-coming young driver.

Q: Has there ever been a step along the way where you had second thoughts about going through with this endeavor?

Actually, the further along I get, the better I feel about things. I think it makes sense from a business standpoint and also makes sense from a racing standpoint. I’ve been involved in a successful NASCAR team. I have a lot of experience there. I have a wind tunnel where we can do our scale model testing. I have a successful business involved in manufacturing. All those things seem to say that Formula One is a natural stepping-stone toward the ultimate event.

Q: Do you think it will take seeing cars on the track to overcome some of your doubters?

Oh, probably. There’s good reason to doubt it. It’s a big undertaking. People are looking for us to fail. It’s a natural skepticism. That’s just a natural human trait not to believe it until you see it. I’ll believe it when I see it (laughing).

Haas F1 Team

Article by Jim Utter of the The Charlotte Observer

Photos by Rainier Ehrhardt