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 Team, 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 will descend upon the Violet Crown for the sixth time as the United States Grand Prix gets underway Oct. 22.
Coincidentally, Gene Haas secured his first NASCAR 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. The organization is again in championship contention this season, with Harvick leading the way.
Gene Haas has leveraged the success of his NASCAR program to help make Haas Automation the largest CNC machine tool builder in North America, but for the man who founded Haas Automation in 1983, growth is not limited to the coastlines of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Motorsports is more than just a passion play for Haas. It’s a cornerstone of his company’s growth and part of Haas Automation’s DNA. Haas’ involvement in Formula One is partly about the challenge of competing, but it is also about growing Haas Automation globally.
“Being a Formula One participant brings a level of credibility that you just won’t get through traditional advertising,” Haas said. People are kind of ‘show me’ people, like show me what you can do and then I’ll believe in you. It translates well into building machine tools where if we can race cars, we can build machine tools. That was the initial concept – to convince people of our ability to do things that others can’t, and I think that translates into being a machine tool builder. People see what we can do in Formula One, and people believe Haas Automation can build world-class machine tools.”
COTA serves as a key component in Gene Haas’ vision.
“As an American team, having an F1 race on American soil is incredibly important,” Haas said. “When we arrived in Austin last year, I think we had proven that we could hold our own with the established teams of Formula One. We had a very successful entrance into Formula One. We accomplished all of our major goals and, actually, surpassed what we expected at the beginning of the season. Now, we’re back with another year under our belts. We’ve been more consistent and we’ve scored more points. But we can still be better, and being able to showcase our growth and what we can accomplish on home soil is very gratifying.”
Instead of Austin, perhaps it should be #Haastin, as the gray and red Haas F1 Team colors are prevalent throughout the city and around the track.
Those colors can be worn proudly as Haas F1 Team comes into COTA locked in an incredibly tight midfield battle among teams with decades of experience. The United States Grand Prix is the fourth to last race of the 2017 season and thanks to a double-points finish last week in the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka Circuit, Haas F1 Team leapfrogged the factory Renault outfit to regain seventh in the constructors standings. After trailing Renault by five points entering Japan, the American squad departed with a single-point advantage over Renault while closing the gap on sixth-place Toro Rosso to nine points.
Points are always the goal of Haas F1 Team and both its drivers have earned point-paying finishes at COTA. In the second Formula One race at the 5.513-kilometer (3.426-mile), 20-turn track in 2013, Romain Grosjean finished a career-best second to the dominant Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel. It’s one of three point-paying results Grosjean has achieved in his five career Formula One starts at COTA. His teammate, Kevin Magnussen, finished in the points in his first Formula One start at COTA in 2014 when he came home eighth. And in his second Formula One start at COTA last year, Magnussen finished a respectable 12th.
With a history of points at COTA and points from its most recent Formula One race in Japan, Haas F1 Team’s #Haastin homecoming is pointed in the right direction.