Ever since the notion of an American Formula One team started getting bandied about in January 2014 when Gene Haas responded to the FIA’s “Call for Expression of Interest” regarding a Formula One entry, the names Haas and Circuit of the Americas have been inexorably linked.
Prior to Gene Haas forming Haas F1, there hadn’t been an American Formula One team since 1986. And prior to Circuit of the Americas, or COTA as it is better known, there hadn’t been a Formula One race on American soil since the 2007 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
COTA put Formula One back on America’s map when it became the country’s first purpose-built Formula One facility. Constructed in 2011 and hosting its first Formula One race in 2012, COTA and its residency of Austin, Texas, have become a destination venue for the Formula One industry which has descended upon the Violet Crown for the fifth time as the United States Grand Prix gets underway tomorrow.
Coincidentally, Gene Haas secured his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in 2011 as his driver and co-owner, Tony Stewart won the series title in epic fashion by beating Carl Edwards in a tiebreaker. The two ended the season tied in points, but Stewart’s five-win tally trumped Edwards’ lone victory.
That championship put Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) into the elite rank of championship-winning NASCAR teams. Three years later and six removed from its inception in 2009, SHR won its second title with driver Kevin Harvick in 2014. After finishing second in the championship in 2015, SHR is again driving toward the series title, emphasised by Harvick’s win this past Sunday at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.
It was an impressive start to what will be an impressive week for Gene Haas. The man who founded Haas Automation in 1983 and has since turned the Oxnard, California-based company into the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America has made motorsports more than just a passion play. It’s a cornerstone of his company’s growth and part of Haas Automation’s DNA. Gene Haas’ involvement in Formula One is partly about the challenge of competing, but it is also about growing Haas Automation beyond North America.
“As an American team, having an F1 race on American soil is incredibly important,” Haas says. “We come to COTA having scored some points and proving that we can hold our own with the established teams of Formula One. We’re looking forward to our first home race.”
Instead of Austin, perhaps it should be #Haastin. Haas F1 Team comes into the fourth to last race of the 2016 season as the most successful new Formula One team in recent memory. The 28 points Haas F1 Team has earned so far this season are the most of any new team in this millennium. When Jaguar debuted in 2000 and when Toyota came on the scene in 2002, each entity managed only two point-paying finishes in their entire first seasons for a combined total of six points.
Delivering those points to Haas F1 Team has been Romain Grosjean. The veteran Formula One driver will make his 100th career start in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix, and in COTA’s second Formula One race, Grosjean finished a career-best second to the dominant Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel.
Grosjean’s teammate, Esteban Gutierrez has been knocking on the door of a points-paying finish all season long with five 11th-place results, each one spot shy of a coveted Formula One point. The affable Mexican looks to break that streak at COTA before heading to his own homecoming a week later – the Mexican Grand Prix at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City.
This week and next, the spotlight will shine brightly on Haas F1 Team. But first, the 5.513-kilometre (3.426-mile), 20-turn Circuit of the Americas beckons, and America’s Formula One team plans to make the most of its time on American soil.