Gene Haas, F1's newest team owner, has admitted to keeping a sharp eye on the turmoil at Maranello. This year, after securing a place on the 2016 grid, Nascar co-owner Haas agreed a deal with Ferrari to receive customer engines and "all related technical services".
Haas Automation, Haas' leading machine tool company, also became an on-car sponsor of the fabled Italian team. But since the agreements were made, it has been all change at Ferrari as the marque reacted to its poor start to the all-new 'power unit' era.
President Luca di Montezemolo and team boss Marco Mattiacci, for example, have gone, which may be a concern to Haas. "That's a good point," Haas admitted to Sports Business Daily. "I don't know. I think that the higher-ups know what they're doing. I hope we didn't have any influence over them losing their jobs."
The interviewer, Leigh Diffey, admitted that over lunch Haas confessed that "whoever I spoke to (at Ferrari) got fired. I better stop speaking to people." Haas commented: "There's a lot of pressure on Ferrari. Ferrari is obviously a marquee car builder, and formula one is their marquee racing series. And they want to win. There's just a lot of pressure there. I have to respect that."
There is also big pressure on Haas, who are building a modest team from scratch and intending to be the only competitor without its main headquarters in Europe. And Haas' building phase also coincides with a period of great turmoil in formula one, with backmarkers Marussia and Caterham going out of business and other small teams struggling for survival.
"There are a lot of pitfalls in formula one," he admitted. "We've seen a lot of teams have a lot of problems. There are money issues. There's a lot of rancour in the troops out there as far as what we're hearing. I look at it as a challenge. I've been to some formula one races. I've met the people. I like them. They're good people."
But Haas also admitted that the task of building a car, even for 2016, is almost "overwhelming". "If you get it wrong," he said, "it's a disaster." (GMM)