Is Haas F1 bad for F1’s constructor model?

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain Monday 22 February 2016. World Copyright: Alastair Staley/LAT Photographic ref: Digital Image _R6T7109

In 2007 there was a bit of a row in Formula 1 over the concept of customer cars. Prodrive’s David Richards was set to be the 12th team on the 2008 F1 grid and he was going to achieve that through the purchase of a chassis and go racing.

One of the strongest voices of opposition to this idea was Sir Frank Williams who had threatened legal action should Super Aguri use a similar tactic and purchase a Honda car or Toro Rosso in a Red Bull chassis. The allegation was that these teams were blurring the lines of actually being a constructor in F1.

Dave Richards was convinced the regulations allowed for customer cars but in the end, it was not allowed and in it’s place a simple list of parts that a team must produce itself in order to be called a constructor.

The list has become smaller and smaller over the years and this was the very thing that Guenther Steiner and Gene Haas used to create their new team. They may be, once again, blurring the lines of what is a constructor and what is a customer car but unlike Dave Richards and his failed attempt to join the grid, this time Haas has the FIA’s own regulations working on his side.

Once again, Williams F1 isn’t too keen as their technical director, Pat Symonds, told AUTOSPORT:

“The status of being a constructor has been gradually eroded,” said Symonds.

“Some would like it completely eroded.

“What Haas has done is good for him, but I don’t know if that is really the way F1 should be going.

“It’s absolutely legal but is it really what F1 wants? I’m not sure.

“When we had the original listed parts, the long list, it was quite pragmatic I thought.

“It allowed you to sell a few sensible things like transmissions which are high value, low performance impact.

“But it got whittled away. Some want it whittled even further.

“I would prefer F1 to have more of an emphasis on constructors.”

Had Haas F1 made their first showing in Autralia and finished last or near last, it may not have been the talking point for Symonds but as it is, they finished 6th in that race and some feel they are destined for a great year. I choose to be prudent in my expectations and as a biased American, I would like for them to do well but F1 is a tough old sport and different tracks breed different performances. Symonds agrees:

“With the pace in the race, we need to be careful how you judge it right the way through the field,” he said.

“I take nothing away from Haas, it’s a fantastic result.

“But on another circuit, would the Force India [of Nico Hulkenberg] have been behind for that long? I’m not sure.”

The issue really may be blurring the lines of customer cars but if the FIA don’t want this, then they will have to change the list of must-make parts that teams should produce themselves. Symonds may feel that Haas skirted the spirit of the law, it’s the letter of the law that is important here and Haas F1 comply.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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MIE

I feel it is too early to judge just how competitive Haas can be using so many components from another supplier. At the moment it looks like they are a significant step ahead of Manor (and the other ‘new’ teams that have fallen by the wayside since 2010). However to move forward to become regular podium challengers or eventual race winners they need to be better than the competition. This will be hard when things like the suspension geometry is dictated by Ferrari, with Haas not party to the thinking behind that geometry. As a stepping stone to get a… Read more »

HeartbreakRidge

The way Gene Haas has been talking, doing well and scoring points may be sufficient for his reason to get into F1 – expanding his business interests – and spending the money needed to be podium challengers may not be in his plans. Assuming Haas is still here in, say, 5 years, then maybe he’ll take another look at it.

Negative Camber

Williams go their start with a March but Sir Frank has been relentless on his position on this. He’s incredibly consistent on the customer car deal. That said, I rad today that Haas F1 is pretty much done with the 2016 car as far as development goes. That means they’ll go backward if they don’t improve it over the season. Not sure how true that story is thought.

MIE

And Ferrari started by running Alfa Romeo’s.

Rules were different then, and teams didn’t have to construct their own chassis. However since Mr E took over, and required all teams to show up to all the races with two cars one of the regulations has been that all entrants are constructors. The difficulty now is that so few series below F1 allow teams to construct their own car, that there is nowhere to learn how to do this.

Andreas Möller

In the old days, that’s how you got into F1 – you sourced a chassis, an engine and went racing. That allowed you to at least take part – if you had bigger ambitions, you needed to start building your own car, since that was the only way to get something nobody else had (which would of course need to be better as well). That hasn’t changed – Haas has definitely hit the ground running, especially when compared to Manor. So they’re definitely taking part, using the constructor rules to the limit. But they’re not going to get to the… Read more »

Junipero Mariano

This rule has aided a new team coming to the grid. It’s the byzantine regulations meant to “save money” that push the smaller teams out and tie the hands of the bigger teams from the dominant lineup du jour.

Negative Camber

I tend to agree that of all the problems in F1, having Haas F1 press the limits on a customer versus constructor is really the least of issues as they most likely couldn’t/wouldn’t afford it if it were otherwise due to outrageous costs. Clearly it is the least expensive way to enter F1 now.

Jason Smith

So what you’re saying is that we can expect for the 2017 season is a full re-write of the definition of an F1 “constructor” as well as keeping the 2016-spec crap-tastic qualifying format…

Yay…

Junipero Mariano

I don’t think he’s saying that at all. Williams is, and should be, perfectly free to build their car right down to the last nut. (Except they don’t. They get a power plant from Mercedes)

It just that it should be options for a new team entering Formula One.

There should be more options period.

Paraphrasing Sean Kelly, options are great because you can always hang yourself by them! :)

Jason Smith

Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you and NC entirely and I’d have no problem at all with a full-on return of customer cars. I just couldn’t help getting a jab in at the “logic” of The decisions of late. Sometimes my humor doesn’t fully translate to my typing…

charlie white

If Haas had finished one place ahead of Manor, Pat Symonds would not complain but they didn’t. Pat and the Williams team sees Haas as provocateurs who could pose a constructor points threat. Already, the team fears STR might have overtaken them as the 3rd best team on the grid. It is their(Haas) 2-way partnership with Ferrari that gives Pat and Sauber’s Monisha Kalterborn many sleepless nights. At some point during the season, someone from Williams, Sauber or Manor would publicly complain about Haas, especially if they scored a nice chunk of points.

Don Thorpe

In NASCAR Stewart-Haas will start building their cars except for engines. Took a lot of years to get to that point but I think they will gradually do the same in F1, just do it incrementally.

Negative Camber

I think that’s right Don, they’ll start doing things they can do as time goes by. I know they’d like to move some of it in house on this side of the pond eventually.

Jason Smith

Also, keep in mind the improved optics of a Haas Automation sponsored F1 team constructing most of an F1 car using Haas CNC machines… It makes too much sense for them to convert to a traditional “constructor” than it does not to. I’d be surprised if the “customer car” nature of the 2016 car isn’t just to develop the team infrastructure without the added hurdle of constructing a car from scratch.

Uan

Like many things in F1, it’s much ado until it’s not. Australia is too soon to tell anything, being the first race of the year and unique track. Not to mention that the red flag really turned everything upside down and it became a 37 lap race with a whole new grid and for the teams that got the tire strategy wrong, a big mess. With no stoppage, I’m not sure Grojean finishes in the top 10. As an aside, I’m not sure why folks think Haas should be finishing down around Manor. Manor may have a Mercedes PU, but… Read more »

Paul KieferJr

How can we say that someone should make their own parts when we don’t even do it with civilian cars? Take a look at Ford, Chevy, Buick, GMC, etc. Each company in America doesn’t make all their own parts. Engines may come from Germany, shocks and struts may come from the UK, bodywork may come from Japan, etc. Nothing against it, just don’t say that any person can make a car completely by themselves. That’s a fool’s errand.

Johnpierre Rivera

Very good piece Todd and thank you for starting the convo. I agree with all that has been said thus far. However we should all (and Pat Symonds as well) keep in mind this is the first race of the year and by the time we get to Europe the pecking order in the mid field will be quite different. Clearly the red flag and subsequently free pit stop helped HAAS achieve their final result so are they a true P6 car, more than likely not. Interesting point your bring up Todd about no development on HAAS’s 2016 chassis for… Read more »

CJR

We can’t complain if someone uses the system to their advantage, personally I would say the sport is a better place with HAAS entering. We must have a more cost effective way to see more teams entering F1, hopefully this way HAAS will be in F1 for many years to come, maybe VW will finally step up…..

Nick

Something about Sir Frank Williams having the issue is bothering me. I know he has been against customer cars for a long time, but didn’t he use a customer car in his first season? Haas is doing more work that Williams did in their maiden season. It seems hypocritical to use a customer car in your first season and then be upset about what Haas is doing, acting like allowing this is below the sport. It was ok for him to do, but not for anyone else. If F1 requires teams to enter the sport as full constructors, we will… Read more »