In 2014 Gene Haas picked up the pieces of the failed Marussia team and built a new American Formula One team in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The team was assembled and ready for the 2016 season, and has been racing in the sport for half a decade. The first six rounds of the 2020 season have been far and away the worst start to a Grand Prix season that the team has had thus far. On Wednesday the team announced it had signed the new Concorde Agreement, along with all the other nine teams, to commit to F1 for another 5 years.
Here’s the thing, though... Does it matter?
With four retirements and seven further non-points finishes, Haas has only scored one world championship point in 2020 thus far. Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have been teammates at Haas since 2017 when Esteban Gutierrez left, and the team have given no indication that it will be changing up its driver pairing any time soon, despite the pair being mediocre at best. In five seasons of racing, Haas has scored 198 points. That’s fewer points than Mercedes has scored in the first six races of this season. Despite having a halfway decent car for the 2018 season, no Haas driver has visited the podium.
The team doesn’t seem to be trying anything new, happy to just trundle around at the back of the grid. It’s a rarity that its drivers even advance out of Q1 during Saturday qualifying on race weekends. And evidenced by two seasons of Drive to Survive on Netflix, the team and drivers don’t seem to respect each other enough for any of it to matter. The team is a shitshow, and I’m trying to figure out what exactly it is doing.
Maybe the team has figured it can just bide its time until the budget cap goes into effect next year and it has given up on 2020 and 2021 altogether, hoping its 2022 car is better than the middling-at-best VF-20 chassis it has now. Perhaps there is a chance to turn the team around and make it into a mid-pack team with eyes on occasional podiums in the next five years, but if the last five years have been any indication, I somehow doubt it.
Gene Haas is allegedly spending $173 million to have his name on the side of his own F1 team cars. Aside from a, ahem, tumultuous half-season with Rich Energy sponsorship, the cars have not seen much in the way of sponsor decals. The team is supported by Alpinestars and Richard Mille watches, but it’s Gene’s own CNC business that adorns the car elsewise. Surely a B2B company isn’t getting much from this back-of-the-pack marketing spend, but then again competitor DMG Mori sponsored Porsche’s LMP1 team with far less visibility, so what do I know?
Earlier in 2020 I would have been skeptical that we would see Haas exist into the 2021 season as even its drivers weren’t sure whether their team’s future was secure. Will it survive all five of the seasons it says it will build a car and compete in? It’s going to need to build a better car, hire some better drivers, and probably ditch those Ferrari engines.