‘overwhelmed’ Haas channels F1 fan’s frustration

Gene Haas most likely didn’t mean to channel Formula 1 fan frustrations but that’s kind of what he did when he explained to AUTOSPORT that he was a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of running an F1 team and car.

“The complexity of the cars and engines and what we are doing with them is way beyond anything I ever expected,” added Haas.

“The technical aspect of the cars is fascinating. I think for the engineers especially, who design and work on them, it’s a real challenge to get these cars to do what they do.

“So while it’s a real challenge on one hand, on the other I don’t think the fans understand how complex it is.

“Even I didn’t know. I was kind of naive, too, about what goes into making one of these cars run.

“It is a very complex process, it is a complex car, it’s a complex way to race cars, and right now, it’s a little bit overwhelming to be honest with you.”

The team ran into issues on day two of the second and final test of the 2016 Formula 1 pre-season. A fuel-related issue cropped up and a turbo had to be replaced overnight leaving the team sitting in the garage during critical testing time.

Ultimately this is what F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has been complaining about. The notion is that the sport has become a series for engineering boffins and has left the driver and core element of racing as secondary and tertiary ingredients.

Gene’s right, we don’t fully understand. How could we if he himself is overwhelmed? We don’t have near the access to the data that he has so yes, we’re in the dark over the complexity and yet we do feel overwhelmed by it at the same time.

If Gene Haas, and experienced racing team owner, is overwhelmed or befuddled by the complexity of the sport, how do you think the average F1 fan feels at home with no access to team information or line of sight to the data and intricate details of what the heck is going on?

No one said F1 was easy or the technology was primitive and Gene should have known that prior to entering the sport but when you REALLY get in to it and find it overly complex, that’s a telling sign that perhaps the sport’s governing body needs to think less of the series as an incubator for road car relevancy and engineering wonks who salivate over rapid prototyping and more about a racing series.

Sure, there is the occasional fan who loves the technology and hybrid system but for the most part, the cacophony of frustration from fans, drivers and even F1 pundits is the elephant in the room.

There’s always been domination

Unlike the Ferrari era of domination where the team simply won everything and went home with the spoils or the Red Bull era where they were trumpeting their aero genius Adrian Newey, the Mercedes era has a completely different feel to it.

It comes across as slightly heavy handed and overtly manufacturer-centric with much of their positioning about system development, road car relevancy and investment in research and development. It leaves a twinge of “F1 is a test lab for us” and everything else should be aligned to keep it as such.

No doubt that F1 is the crucible by which they test their engineering, who can doubt that benefit? I also argue that in several of their press releases and comments, the mention of actual racing for sport is lower on their list of reasons for being.

Fair enough, I’ve no bone to pick with that, it’s their raison d’être but I also feel that their impact on the sport has crafted a series tailored for their engineering lab and made it overly complex and much too expensive.

It’s not all Mercedes fault, they were merely taking advantage of what the FIA felt was the right move into sustainability, green messages and a big lure for manufacturers in the sport to keep the series healthy. All noble charters but the impact hasn’t been good from many perspectives.

Now you have a new team, in Haas F1, who has really blurred the line of customer cars and yet even they are overwhelmed by the complexity of the entire process. Even if you chalked 80% of that up to Gene simply not grasping the full scope of F1 and hence he’s overwhelmed, that’s 20% still left that is quite simply over the top. Gene seems like a very practical guy and he’s an accomplished team owner and businessman and I am sure he’s looking at the process and asking why does it need to be this complex to have great racing?

Some folks may be smiling and saying, welcome to the big league fella, but I tend to think there is more to this than Haas jumping in the piranha pool.

I wonder if Gene will look at F1 and feel that it is the Rube Goldberg of racing and while being high-tech is great, becoming the Rube Goldberg of racing isn’t really the best for anyone and definitely not for fans at home who have very little ability to really gain a full understanding of what they are watching.

If you’re a F1 team owner, you’ll probably need an abacus to participate but fans at home shouldn’t need one to simply watch and understand the series and action on track. Talk about overwhelmed.

Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT

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MIE

On the plus side for Haas, at least they are finding these issues now, rather than once the racing starts. That doesn’t mean that something else won’t crop up during the season, but the same problems shouldn’t repeat themselves. Remember the experience Ferrari had with the introduction of the first semi automatic gearbox to F1 in 1989. With unlimited winter testing allowed, the team hadn’t managed to complete a race distance over the off season. The optimism in the team was such that Nigel Mansell had booked an early flight home from the opening Brazillian GP. He was very surprised… Read more »

Shocks&Awe

Not that I disagree with F1 being overly complicated, but I don’t think his comments had anything to do with the sporting regs or anything else. Just more like someone who’s used to a single speed Huffy coming across the derailleur on Cervélo for the first time.

Yes, NASCAR is the Huffy in this analogy.

TheWeightTransfer

I feel better that Gene’s is saying how he feels about it instead of B.S.ing his way through it.
Technically, NASCAR is a 4 speed Huffy.

Shocks&Awe

I (kick)stand corrected.

runnah

I’ll put it to you this way in the best hamfisted analogy that I can muster up at 15 minute until quitting time. Think of every emotional movie you have seen or every moment defining song you’ve heard. Now realize that engineers were very important in developing the technology that allowed these things to happen. Now realize that it was artists who came along and used these tools to create art. No where in the process did the engineer come and tell the guitar player how to properly do sweep picking or tell the DP how to frame a shot.… Read more »

Negative Camber

You had me at sweep picking. ;)

runnah

I know how to appeal to my target audience.

Shocks&Awe

Sometimes, like when you’re talking about bridges, the engineering IS the art.

And you can be sure that Jari cares very much what pickups he uses, and so too probably do many many ameteur guitar players.

runnah

Well not to pull the “I am an expert” card, but I do work for one of the largest bridge constructors in the US. Anyways engineers don’t make the bridges look good, that is what the designers and architects do. The engineers are the ones that say if it can be built the way it’s designed. They then figure out how to make the design that is settled upon. That’s not to say that there isn’t some beauty in good engineering, but if left to their own devices everything would be brutally simple and functional. And yes I am sure… Read more »

Shocks&Awe

Ok, I’ll bow to your expertise, and clearly I failed with my analogy, but my point is that how things work is just as interesting to many of us as how well they work.

We all have our different reasons for being fans. Some are technology lovers, some speed lovers, some Button lovers and some are circus lovers.

I suppose some of us are even overly-complicated-rules lovers, though to my shame I tend to dismiss them out of hand.

TheMan

Where is the “road car relevance” in F1? Other than aerodynamics, I think a lot of hybrid road cars are just as technologically relevant as F1, so where is the expected big technological leap? First of all I think it’s time for F1 to quit regulating everything on the cars in detail. Just define a box with a given height, width and depth and if the product fits in the box it is considered race worthy. Yes, everything, including tires wings or whatever. Secondly, F1 needs to consider alternatives to the current stone-age powerplants. The First suggestion will also take… Read more »

geeyore

“Where is the “road car relevance” in F1?”

Four tires and a driver.

bobmendon

Hass is pretty much stating the obvious. How could anyone prepare themselves for the complexity and politics of F1. You can plan and make sure you have the best talent but until you are at the track, it’s all theoretical. I think his observations are up front and refreshingly genuine!

geeyore

I guess it’s that “the map is not the territory.” What Haas brings from Nascar and his business background (and jailtime?) gives him an orientation, but I’d guess it’s gonna’ take him a season or two in the game to fit all of the F1 pieces together. He seems pretty versatile.