When it arrived on the Formula One scene, the Haas team seemed to be a story of success that all incoming teams should try to emulate. Now, however, after several difficult years, Haas is saying that it might not make it in the sport without the implementation of some serious cost caps.
Haas looked to be a formidable enemy for the midfield teams from its inaugural season in 2016 up through 2018. Where most new F1 teams have languished away at the tail end of the grid, Haas seemed to find a perfect formula. It came in with plenty of money and bought up as many parts as it could, including a strong technical partnership with Ferrari that saw the team catapult to a best constructors’ championship finish of fifth.
2019, however, was a mess. Nothing on the car seemed to work right, and drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were only able to scrape together a measly 28 points during the entire season. Completely unrelated to the on-track performance was the off-track disaster with Rich Energy, which in theory should have provided the team with more funding but in reality ended up causing more problems than the money was worth.
And 2020 hasn’t looked much better. Kevin Magnussen has scored the team’s single point with a 10th place finish, and the only reason it’s not languishing at the very rear of the standings is because Williams is in shambles. Ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix this Sunday, both Haas drivers missed the first practice of the weekend with power unit problems. Both drivers were able to set times during the second practice, but both had settled to the very rear of the time sheets, over two seconds slower per lap than Max Verstappen in first.
With its lack of prize funds at the end of the year, Haas is especially looking forward to the cost caps in F1 that the FIA aims to implement. That said, Haas also signed the newest Concorde Agreement, which effectively locks the team into competing for the next five years.
Guenther Steiner, Haas team boss, said the team may not have made it much longer without those cost caps in the future. From Motorsport:
I would say it would have been a lot more difficult and almost impossible if there wouldn’t have been the chance to be competitive, and also that the spend would not increasingly go up.
I think the main thing is [Gene Haas] sat back and saw F1 is, marketing wise globally as a tool, very powerful. And for him thinking about what it did over the last five years, for sure it was beneficial to his company, for Haas Automation. That was the main reason.
And then, for sure, all the other things like the Concorde Agreement and more equal payouts and the budget cup, that worked as well to convince him that this is a place to stay.
Ultimately, it’s the value of the investment and the promise that things will be a little more equitable in the future that’s keeping Haas around. But if those cost caps don’t turn out to be effective, Haas may not stick around to sign the next Concorde Agreement.