Andretti buy-out option blow as Haas send firm F1 future message

Jamie Woodhouse
Nico Hulkenberg in action at the 2023 United States Grand Prix.

Nico Hulkenberg driving the Haas VF-23.

Gene Haas has made it clear he is not in Formula 1 “to sell”, reaffirming his commitment and intention to be here for the next “10 years”.

While rivals are getting stuck into their F1 2024 challengers at full throttle ahead of launches and the return to on-track action, Haas has met something of a speed bump, leaving team owner Gene Haas with the “biggest concern” being getting the VF-24 ready for the season ahead.

Just hours after technical director Simone Resta’s exit was announced, the news followed that Guenther Steiner, who had served as team principal throughout their existence, had also left following the expiration of his contract.

Haas F1 Team here to stay long-term

Haas at the same time promoted their trackside engineering director Ayao Komatsu to the team boss role, but the upheaval understandably triggered question marks over the performance to come from the team, Sky F1 commentator David Croft going as far as to ask, “Can you honestly see a scenario, at this moment, that Haas aren’t the team that will finish bottom at the end of the season?”

Croft explained his thinking by claiming Haas had lost a “real motivator” and “leader” with Steiner’s exit, with the wider reception to Haas’ senior staff losses, plus Gene’s clear frustration at a lack of progress, posing the question of whether his team could be about to become Andretti-Cadillac’s ticket onto the F1 grid via a takeover?

Gene made it very clear that this is not the case.

“I didn’t get into F1 to sell [the team],” he insisted to the Formula 1 website. “I did it because I wanted to race. Guenther had the same perspective.

“We’re not here to cash out, we want to race and be competitive. If you look at any team, historically, they have had a lot of good years and a lot of bad years.

“Surviving is one of the characteristics of getting better. As long as you can survive, you always have another year to prove your worthiness. This is a big change. Losing Guenther is going to cause the team to have to focus on other aspects. We will hopefully come out better for it.” recommends

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Croft and his Sky F1 colleague Craig Slater also questioned the level of funding at Haas, seeing this as a factor which will hinder any recovery mission, but Gene shut down that way of thinking too.

He said the team is actually operating close to F1 cost cap level, but the money has not been spent efficiently, something which he says must change as he plans on the team being around for the following 10 years.

Haas introduced a B-Spec VF-23 challenger to limited effect from the 2023 United States Grand Prix, with Nico Hulkenberg even opting to revert to the previous spec.

“There is a perception we spend a lot less money; we’re usually within $10m of the budget limit,” Gene clarified. “I just think we don’t do a very good job of spending that money.

“A lot of teams have had previous investments in their infrastructure, buildings, equipment and personnel. Our model was to outsource a lot of that. We spend a lot of money. We haven’t exceeded the cap but we’re pretty darn close to it. I just don’t think we’re doing a very good job of spending it in the most effective way.

“That’s one of the reasons we [Gene’s Haas Automation business] have survived – because we are so conscious of how we spend money.

“Being efficient at what we do is going to make sure we survive in this series. We’re one of the longest surviving teams, everyone else [other new teams] have had the tendency to spend all their money in the first few years and then they go out of business.

“We survived for eight years, and we’re not in a situation where we are going to go out of business. But I certainly want to be able to survive for the next 10 years.”

Komatsu is set to be assisted by a to-be-appointed chief operating officer, who Haas say will be based in Europe and handle all non-competition, off-track matters.

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