Formula 1 will have 12 teams and 24 cars on the grid next season after the US based team Haas Racing was granted a licence to compete by the FIA.
This follows a consultation process, whereby the team’s plans, financial position and other aspects were carefully assessed by an FIA panel in early March. The panel comprised FIA deputy president for sport Graham Stoker, Charlie Whiting and other FIA figures as well as auditors, with input from Bernie Ecclestone’s FOM as well.
The team has just over nine months from now to produce a car to take part in the pre-season tests ahead of the 2015 season; quite a challenge.
Haas will be the first new team to join F1 since Caterham came on board in 2010. At that time there was supposed to be an American team called USF1, but this was not able to get everything together to make the grid. Virgin Racing, which has since been renamed Marussia, also joined the fray in 2010 as did HRT which failed after three seasons.
It is a huge undertaking to start an F1 team, a massive investment in infrastructure and personnel. There is little sign of really effective cost control on the horizon; the FIA has committed itself to bringing in a cost cap for 2015, but the level would be high initially and in any case there was not enough support for the latest plans at a recent meeting of teams in Bahrain.
Details of Haas’ plans will no doubt emerge in the coming weeks and months, but a UK base -or at least a European base – is essential from a logistical point of view.
Gunter Steiner, formerly of Jaguar Racing and early Red Bull fame, is part of the plans and has been to a number of races in the last 12 months, researching the project.
Haas is understood to be a customer of Ferrari for engines. Currently the Ferrari is the worst performing of the three units in competition but all manufactures will be able to carry out developments between the final race of 2014 and the end of February 2015 when a new homologation period will begin.
“Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA. It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula 1,” said Haas.
“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid. I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our license application come to fruition.”
There has been speculation about whether Haas might look to purchase Marussia, or even Caterham, should the teams be available for sale. The idea is to increase the grid size, but at the same time Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has said that if his team does not make a significant step this year he may well abandon F1.
There are other entities looking to start an F1 team, with former Midland Racing front man Colin Kolles heading another bid.