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Gene Haas Says He’s “Really Depressed” About Gap to Top F1 Teams

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Gene Haas, owner and founder of the Haas F1 team that made its Formula One debut last year, has lamented the performance gap between his team and the top three teams in the sport.

“I think we have two good drivers right now, they’ve both scored points, the car’s very good,” Haas told Motorsport.com. “But the real cloud that hangs over us is the fact that we’re one to two seconds off the fastest cars. And quite frankly we don’t understand we can be that far off with what we consider to be state-of-the-art equipment.”

With a €117 million budget in 2016, Haas F1 did reasonably well for itself, scoring 29 points in its debut season to finish eighth out of 11 teams. Halfway through the 2017 season, Haas again sits at 29 points in the championship and is relatively more competitive compared to the rest of the midfield. However, the top three teams—Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull—are “light years” ahead of the Haas and the rest of the grid.

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With budgets often surpassing €300 million, they have been the teams to beat over the last several years. Though money has a big role to play, it isn’t the only factor—Toyota was notably uncompetitive in the 2000s despite its enormous budget and McLaren is currently wallowing near the bottom of the championship even with its considerable resources. Meanwhile, Force India has proven to be extremely good at making the most out of little, having finished fourth in the championship with the smallest budget last year and being on course to repeat the feat in 2017.

Still, money likely remains the biggest differentiator. It attracts the most talented individuals—whether it be drivers, engineers, or managers—and in a sport where every detail matter, each little increment makes a difference. Haas F1 is two seconds off per lap to the leading teams, which is significant, but those two seconds are earned in tiny doses in every possible area: drivers that can use a little bit more of the car’s performance, engines that can make just a few more horsepower, aero designs that produce just a little more downforce. Add it all up and you get maybe an extra 10th of a second of performance per corner and per straight, and thus about two seconds per lap.

Haas himself has previously stated he was against income redistribution in F1 (he is, after all, American 😉 ) and knew very well that entering F1 and becoming competitive would be a long-term ordeal. With that in mind, it makes his complaints about the gap to top teams seem a little misplaced.

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Source: Motorsport.com (1, 2)