By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief
Gene Haas has shed light on the comments on his team signing an American talent made by team principal Guenther Steiner.
Last month, Steiner told Autosport that placing an American in a race seat at Haas F1 Team was not among the list of priorities and that he did not feel that anyone representing the flag was ready to step into Formula One. The comments drew the ire of several, including F1 and Indy car champion Mario Andretti, as well as IndyCar pilots Graham Rahal and Sebastien Bourdais, who previously drove in F1 from 2008-09 with Toro Rosso.
For Haas, the belief of the comments came because of the team only having two years of experience in F1 and are still trying to develop their program.
“Well, I’m pretty sure I know where that talk came from,” said Haas, via a team release.
“Guenther Steiner, our team principal, was asked about having an American driver in Formula One and, more specifically, with Haas F1 Team. He responded by saying something to the effect that it wasn’t at the top of our priority list, and things kind of took off in a bunch of different directions as people made a bunch of assumptions.
“The fact is that we’re still learning here in Formula One, and bringing on a driver who needs to learn about Formula One probably isn’t the best thing for us or them. I felt like there were times last year where our drivers were better than our cars. So, we need to step up, but we know where we need to improve thanks in large part to the experience of our drivers.
There is a potential of having an American pilot on the squad, and Haas believes the talent is out there, but the lack of testing hinders proper development and for the team to grow it must rely on experience.
“We’re not saying no to having an American driver, but the reality is that of the American drivers who have a superlicense and could actually compete in F1, they should really be with a team that can serve as their benchmark rather than the other way around,” said Haas.
“Now, we fully expect to eventually be in that position – ideally, sooner rather than later – but this is only our third year and we need to improve in a variety of areas, and Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are playing a big part in that improvement because of their experience. They help us, rather quickly, determine if the course we’re taking is a proper one or if we need to re-think our approach. That experience is invaluable as we look to become a team that can eventually challenge for podiums instead of just points.
“This debate about American drivers really isn’t a debate. I believe in American drivers – my NASCAR team is full of them, and we’ve won a lot of races and championships. Obviously, the discipline is different, but sure, there are competent American drivers who can compete in Formula One. But we’re not ready for that yet, and with the limited amount of testing teams have, getting anyone up to speed who hasn’t already been a part of a development program would be hard.
“I think that’s the point Guenther was trying to make.”