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GP Week : Issue 200
F1 >>> FEATUrE 29 GPWEEK.com // 29 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Who? Gene Haas, 61, is the founder and President, and sole owner, of Haas Automation. HA is based in Oxnard California (just west of Los Angeles) and is the world’s largest manufacturer of CNC machine tools. Haas is the co-owner of NASCAR team Stewart- Haas Racing, along with Tony Stewart. He is no relation to Carl Haas, long-time CART and Champ Car team owner and co-owner of the Beatrice Haas F1 team from the 1980s. Guenther Steiner, 48, is the team’s principal. He was formerly technical director of Red Bull Racing and Jaguar Racing, and has extensive experience with Lancia, Prodrive, M Sport and Opel. He has worked in the USA for the last eight years. GPWeeK says; Haas has a record of success in business and steiner is a respected man in F1. so far, so good. What? The team is going to be called Haas Formula and based in Kannapolis, North Carolina. There have been suggestions that the best route for an incoming team owner would be to buy an existing Formula 1 team and build it up. But the whole point of Haas Formula is to have an American- based team. It is currently in the process of building a new factory adjacent to the SHR facility. Haas owns the Wind Shear Wind Tunnel in Concord, NC, which has been used by a number of US and Europe-based customers for the last six years. The rolling road tunnel, which opened in early 2008, is full-size and has been used by many of the USA’s NASCAR and Sportcars teams. GPWeeK says; In a sense, some of the tough work has been done. Having a full-scale wind tunnel and a large manufacturing facility is a big plus. When? Either next season or in 2016. Haas; “I’d like to do 2015, simply because I think the first year’s going to be a difficult year no matter what happens. "It’s a very big challenge, and like I say, part of that learning curve is just simply getting to the track and sorting out the logistics of going from race to race. The sooner we learn that, the sooner we’ll be done with that. So I would say we’d like 2015, but depending upon who we select with our partner, I don’t know if they can provide all of the infrastructure and technology that we’d need. “Hopefully within ... I would say within four weeks or so we should have an idea which year we’re going to pursue.” GPWeeK says; The team will need every single testing lap it can get – which means having its cars track- ready in early February 2015. That is a big ask. Why? To sell more Haas Automotive products around the world. Haas; “I build machine tools, and most people don’t even know what machine tools are so that’s a problem. But when it comes to our customer base, everybody wants to buy a premium brand. What the goal here is is to associate ourselves with premium brands. I’ve always in the back of my mind thought that Formula 1 is the premium brand in the world of racing. We’ve done very well with associating machine tools in racing. “You know, it may be similar to Red Bull and drinks. Red Bull is known for having a successful Formula 1 team, and I think it sells a lot of Red Bull for them. So in the same vein, I want to kind-of create my own unique product association with F1. “It’s expensive to do it this way, but the other alternatives would be more media, buying more media or trade shows. Quite frankly, I’m never going to advertising more and going to trade shows more will never, ever increase your brand awareness. “What I want to do is create a premium brand for Haas Automation so that when someone in a foreign country who is in the market or in the machine tool metal working market hears my name is going to think that these guys are in Formula 1. I know from Formula 1 that they must be a good product because only the best compete in Formula 1.” GPWeeK says; Branding a team worked for Red Bull, but it is a mass-market, consumer experience- oriented company. Haas clearly knows his market, but will it work? Other sponsors? Maybe, eventually. Haas; “Well, initially Haas Automation will sponsor the team. Like I say, the goal here is to improve the branding of Haas Automation throughout the world. "That is my primary goal. I don’t want to dilute that at the moment. But as time goes on, we’ll see how that works. “Obviously, we have a business plan to make this a profitable enterprise over five years, and that will require some sponsorship to come in to do that. Initially Haas will bear that responsibility, but that will also be well spent money in terms of improving product recognition. As time goes on, to run it as a Formula 1 team that actually does make money and can compete.” GPWeeK says; Third party commercial branding is conspicuously missing from the Red Bulls – and will American sponsors want to back a rear-of-the-grid F1 team? s