Watching the second season of Drive to Survive on Netflix, it became apparent that Gene Haas was nearing the end of his patience. If you have read comments he’s made over the last season or two, you’ll also get the impression that he thinks the business model and cost of Formula 1 for smaller teams is broken.
Reading today’s story at Autosport doesn’t surprise me in the least. I just said on last night’s podcast that if they turn things around this year, I can see Gene leaving or selling the team. He said:
“I’m just kind of waiting to see how this season starts off,” he said when asked about what his thoughts were for the future.
“But if we have another bad year, then it would not be that favorable.
“We did five years. That was really the test – we’re going to do this for five years, see how it goes and evaluate it and then we’ll decide whether to go forward.
“I’m not saying we won’t be back. It has to be evaluated. To do it for another five years, though, that would be a big commitment.”
I said in this week’s podcast that they need to move away from Dallara and create their own chassis but if cost is still the biggest issue, and when is it not, then that may be a bridge too far for the team.
“With the new regulations coming in 2021, the big question is how much is that going to cost?
“There’s so much change going on in Formula 1, you really have to ask yourself is it really going to be worth the expense to try to implement all these changes?
“I know everyone thinks the changes are good, but – boy – they’re expensive.
“It’s similar to what is going on here [in NASCAR].
“The Gen 7 is a real departure from what (NASCAR) has done in the past.
“It’s like anything else, they’ve changed so many aspects of the car, you just know there’s going to be a lot of troubleshooting to get it right. It’s difficult for the teams.
“These changes that they implement, I think they do it with the best of intentions but when you are on the other side of the equation trying to implement them, economically it’s extremely difficult.”
Now, innovation in NASCAR is happening and Gene feels that’s a costly endeavor too. Some part of me wonders if this advance in technology is out-running the business folks who own teams and invest in the sport. I rift between manufacturer-driven tech advances and the independent teams who are trying to participate. NASCAR is a spec series and when the Spec is too expensive, there’s a problem.
“The business model does not favor the smaller teams.
“As everybody knows with the way the money has been distributed 70 percent of it goes to the top three teams and 30 percent of it goes to the other seven teams. It’s not a good economic model.
“At least in our condition, you’re only paid about a third of what it actually costs to run a team in Formula 1.
“So, from a business model it doesn’t do that well.
“Obviously, every team has a different nature as to why they do it. Some of it is primary sponsorship. Ferrari is that they’ve been doing it for 60 years.
“But they take home enough money to actually make the $175 million cap, but a lot of the other teams operate on a quarter of that. So, how can you really run a race team with that kind of disparity?”
Given the Haas F1 performance in testing, I worry that Haas may turn the 2020 season into their farewell season to F1.
Hat Tip: Autosport