Haas F1 Team Principal Gene Haas joined fellow team principals at his team’s first race this weekend at the Australian Grand Prix. Friday’s press conference took place after two practice sessions in changing conditions, making progress a challenge on car setups and performance for many of the teams. It also marked the first time the team had run two cars together, having only built the second chassis just two weeks before this weekend’s race. The significance of the moment wasn’t lost on Haas, who replied what it had meant to him afterwards on Friday’ evening:
“Well, I’m nervous. I think there are a lot of things going on here that I’m new to, and the team is new, too. So, putting all of the pieces of the puzzle together along with all the personnel and having it all come together for the first time has been a learning experience. That’s really what we’re here for is to learn how Formula One really operates from the ground floor. Your can watch this racing your whole life but there’s nothing like being a participant to really understand it, and I have a lot of respect for the teams that are here and the level of technical competence you have to have to even start one of these races. I think you have to look at it in terms of years… I have the feeling that if you over-anticipate what you can do in the sport it will humble you very quickly. I think the first year or two just to be able to come to the races, be competitive, not make any major mistakes would be a tremendous achievement. I know a few of our drivers are hoping to score some points and that would certainly be an accomplishment.”
For the new team in the Paddock, team principals in the conference were asked to give Gene and the team some words of advice:
Christian Horner, Red Bull: I think it’s fantastic to have Haas join Formula One as an independent team, as a really credible independent team. Formula One’s a big challenge, it’s great to have an American, and a true American presence in Formula One. Words of advice… get a good lawyer!
Eric Boullier, McLaren Honda: Very similar. I think it’s very exciting for Formula One to have, as Christian said, a true American team and an American character like Gene joining us who had a deep understanding of racing, who has also useful experience in America with NASCAR, which he could share and I would be very happy to hear sometime. I don’t have any advice to give. He knows about racing enough and he is serious about what he had built already and I think it is going to be a nice surprise and maybe a difficult but a nice journey in Formula One.
Cyril Abiteboul, Renault: I was expecting that one. No. I think it’s interesting. I understand that you’re following and it’s interesting to see a new model, in particularly a collaboration with Ferrari because I think that there is a whole field of collaboration between teams which is not explored at this point in time by most teams, so I think I’ll be really curious and, to be honest, a bit frightened to see what it gives on Saturday. In terms of pieces of advice, I’ve heard a lot of people come in with big plans, willing to do things completely differently. So, don’t try to do things too differently because the good old recipes, they also work.
Toto Wolff, Mercedes: I think Gene doesn’t need any advice. He has done it very successfully in NASCAR and much more successful than all of us with his own company. If there is advice in Formula One it’s to manage expectations – because pressure is going to increase the better the results are and, the way you’ve been doing it, keeping both feet on the ground and staying humble, I think is the right approach.
Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari: I think that what I have to say, we are talking most of the time about teams that left or want to leave Formula One and not enough about people like Gene. He’s a serious person, financially reliable, committed and with a lot of experience. I don’t have to give him any advice – but I have to congratulate people like Gene Haas, that they want to invest in Formula One and they want to take this sport seriously and not as a kind of speculation. In terms of a lawyer, he got a good lawyer – but he’s using his lawyer properly.
When asked for some thoughts on arriving this weekend and what he’d like to share with American fans, Gene replied:
“… I’m sitting here in awe that I’m sitting among all these team principals from Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault and Honda and Red Bull, that’s pretty awesome for someone who… you look at these things in magazines. To be sitting among this group of elite is humbling, I can say that. It’s been a long journey, I’m not sure how I really got here but here I am. I think, if you probably ask everybody here, how you wind up here is somewhat unique. Things in life, I guess you have to grab them. This is just part of the process of being able to compete at this level. It’s just awe inspiring. I know there’s some hard times ahead but I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to the challenge.”
— F1 in America (@F1US) March 18, 2016