It’s a tough situation to be in and one that Gene Haas isn’t too fond of to be completely honest. In fact, it’s depressing. Running mid-pack in Formula 1 seems to the Haas F1’s lot in life and there is little hope of winning.
“I think we have two good drivers right now, they’ve both scored points, the car’s very good,” Haas said.
“But the real cloud that hangs over us is the fact we’re one to two seconds [a lap] off the fastest cars.
“Quite frankly we don’t understand [how] we can be that far off with what we consider to be state-of-the-art equipment.
“Other than the top three teams, everybody’s in that boat.
“That to me is probably the biggest problem right now, that the top three teams are light years ahead of everybody else.
“They are also the teams that develop their own engines, transmissions and chassis, so there’s an inherent advantage in doing that.
“How do we overcome that? Quite frankly there’s no answer to that, which is really depressing.”
The main element might just be the ability to manufacture your own power unit and even though Haas F1 has a current Ferrari power unit supply agreement, they still can’t seem to compete at the front. It’s a perplexing situation and one that crosses several lines.
Williams and Force India both have Mercedes power units and aren’t battling with the Mercs up front while Red Bull may be the only team with a Renault power unit supply that is battling for podiums and that’s even better than the works Renault team. So what are Red Bull doing differently than has F1, Williams or Force India?
It may be down to the magic in engineering and chassis development. If Red Bull had a Mercedes of Ferrari engine right now, chances are, they would be even more competitive. The devil is in the details, as they say, and in F1 that’s certainly true. It is the enormous amount of money spent by the top teams that can ensure that every detail is accounted for.
Red Bull spends on par with the top teams and they cover every detail but the limiting factor is the power unit performance. McLaren, it could be argued, is also covering a lot of the detail but equally their Honda power unit isn’t providing the kind of shove at the back of the car they need to be competitive. Many argue, and I believe them, that their chassis is actually quite good.
This is where we are in F1 with the hybrid power unit. Two manufacturers have it right and neither will supply a team that spends on equal terms with their own teams for fear they would instantly be too competitive. McLaren and Red Bull can’t get a Mercedes or Ferrari engine.
This creates a large disparity in competitiveness and that’s what Gene feels needs addressing.
“That’s a dilemma that F1 is facing,” Haas added.
“You have the teams at the front and then this big mid-pack… we’re all very close together; the mid-pack is all within a second.
“So from a competitive standpoint we’re all very equal, it’s just you have this group way out in front that we’re all struggling with.
“The reality of it is that outside those three teams nobody has a chance to win. “If you’re running sixth through to 20th, you really don’t have a chance of winning.”
This is the delta that F1 technical boss, Ross Brawn, seems to understand and is focused on. How to close the gap and make a more competitive field? It starts with the power unit costs and technology and then begets an affordable engine supply deal for customer teams. Some may argue that Ferrari and Mercedes must be forced to provide Red Bull, McLaren and teams they deem close in competitive chassis and technology in order to enable teams to be competitive with them.
A tough call, I see both sides of the argument and Gene is right to be concerned because even if he did spend at Mercedes levels, would he have any more expectation of winning races? We might know the answer to that question if Mercedes would provide an engine supply deal for Red Bull but they won’t so we are left wondering.
Hat Tip: Autosport