Haas exclusive: No more ‘nasty surprises’ as Ferrari relationship matures

2018 F1 season preview: Haas

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Formula One’s youngest team enters its third year in 2018. After finishing eighth in its first two campaigns, can the lean Haas outfit realistically set its sights higher?

Haas caused a stir on its debut in 2016. Romain Grosjean took them to sixth and fifth-place finishes in its first two races.

The only new team to have entered the sport in eight years did so by taking full advantage of rules allowing them to source parts from another manufacturer. Haas obtains these ‘non-listed parts’ from Ferrari.

Therefore its 2016 car was close in many ways to the previous year’s Maranello machine. But last year a drastic overhaul in the aerodynamic regulations limited their ability to take advantage of the same opportunity. In 2018 those rules are largely unchanged, so Haas can again take greater advantage of its Ferrari connection.

“Linkage” is the preferred term of Haas chief designer Rob Taylor to describe how the two teams co-operate. “It’s a double-edged sword,” he tells RaceFans in an exclusive interview. “It has its bonuses and it has its problems.”

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The VF-18 has clear echoes of the SF70-H. In particular its sidepods, which adopt a design trend Ferrari led last year which other midfield teams say would be expensive and time-consuming to emulate.

The team’s performance in testing indicate the partnership is paying off. Haas lapped 1.1 seconds off the best outright time in testing, set by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Moreover, they did so on super-soft tyres which are two stages harder than the hyper-softs Vettel used.

Romain Grosjean, Haas, Circuit de Catalunya, 2018
Haas VF-18: Technical analysis
Taylor admits life with Ferrari was “quite hard” at times in the beginning. But now the Scuderia has become more accustomed to anticipating their needs.

“When people are designing things in Maranello it’s the understanding that ‘hold on a minute someone else looking over my shoulder’ – the Haas guy, in a virtual sense, will be interested in this piece of information. So that relationship has improved markedly in that way.

“We get data that people realise in Maranello is important, where beforehand we’d get a nasty surprise at the last minute. The information flow, the understanding, the relationship between us is improved markedly.”

There is a limit to how far this goes, of course: Ferrari is never going to compromise its own competitiveness for the sake of its customer.

“It still doesn’t change the fact that the deadline, the actual crunch time, the definitive data still runs at the Ferrari pace and in our world it’s late,” says Taylor.

“I don’t think they moderate their choices, they just tell us more about their choices.”

Haas has also begun to produce more of its own alternatives to the non-listed parts. “With each car along the way there’s been certain parts where we couldn’t use, for various reasons – a part that would have been notionally available to us in a listed/non-listed sense,” says Taylor.

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“Those are through circumstance rather than through the business model. So there’s certain times where we’ve thought ‘we can’t use that, we’re going to have to put that to one side and make our own’.”

Taylor says it’s a trend that’s “grown over the three cars” Haas has raced so far. “We’ve been more insular about our own, what we want to achieve so we’ve decided I’m not going to take the easy route and grab a Ferrari bit, I’ll do my own bit to do it. Because we’ve grown in our ability to make and manufacture in supply chain it allows you more freedom in that respect.”

The team’s fortunes remain closely wedded to Ferrari’s form. And as with all the customer teams, a vital question arising from the off-season is whether the new technical directives on how they teams can operate their engines brings them closer to the front-runners.

If Haas takes another step forwards this year it will surely serve as an incentive to others to look more closely at following the Haas route. For any potential new teams enticed by Liberty Media’s goals of making F1 more cost-effective, the Haas model is surely one they should examine closely.

In the meantime this fledgling outfit is becoming more ambitious. “Watching the team evolve and the car evolve in parallel, to some extent we’re pushing the capabilities of the team and the car at the same time.” says Taylor.

“We can’t afford to make a car that’s hideously difficult to service and maintain and do all those things with an immature race team. The two go hand-in-hand. It’s not one or the other it’s both.

“And truly I believe designing a race team’s a whole lot harder than designing a racing car.”

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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37 comments on “Haas exclusive: No more ‘nasty surprises’ as Ferrari relationship matures”

  1. Formula One’s youngest team enters its third year of 2018.

    How many years can we expect in 2018?

    1. More than required, it seems.

    2. It does feel like groundhog day on this site sometimes. Maybe we have just been reliving 2018 for the past 3 years

  2. Essentially, Ferrari has a B team and a C team. They’re giving Haas last year’s chassis and with Sauber they’ve gone an alternate of the 2018 route. Interesting, how all the data gathered by two teams will help push Ferrari forwards as well.

    It’s laughable how Ferrari doesn’t win even after having a rules veto, the largest budget, 2 test lab teams and even breaking ‘gentleman’s agreements’ from time to time.

    1. Aren’t you tired of criticizing Ferrari in every single post you do? I mean you sound like a broken record!

      1. @philby

        Not at all. Get ready for a few more come Australia.

    2. @todfod, if you are upset about Ferrari hiring Mekies, then surely you should also be attacking Renault for breaking that agreement first when they poached Budkowski from the FIA last October (he will begin work on developing Renault’s chassis in two weeks time, but Abiteboul has revealed that Budkowski has been on Renault’s payroll since January so he can complete his internal training for Renault).

      1. Renault hired Budkowski before there was any rule against it. Ferrari hired Mekies just after they decided that all FIA employees need to take a 12 months gardening leave before joining a team.

    3. Bridge Wilson
      18th March 2018, 15:20

      @todfod As the saying goes (and it needs to be repeated daily, it seems), you are entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts. For example, you said Ferrari is giving HaasF1 its 2017 chassis to run. That is simply factually incorrect, and you know it. You should adjust you language to stay inside the lines of what is true and accurate. And with every move HaasF1 make it becomes more obvious that Gene Haas has his own agenda. HaasF1 uses its connection with Ferrari to its own advantage in the most intelligent manner possible. That’s not a B team or a C team.

      1. That is simply factually incorrect, and you know it. You should adjust you language to stay inside the lines of what is true and accurate.

        Well… Ferrari and Haas has a close technical partnership. Haas get all the parts they can get from Ferrari within the rules and also have used their windtunnel in the past. Suddenly, Haas show up on the 2018 grid with a car that looks like an exact copy of Ferraris last season car. Do you have any proof to suggest that Ferrari didn’t just hand Haas last year’s designs? Can you prove my statement to be ‘factually incorrect’? If not, adjust your language accordingly.

        1. @todfod

          Did you actually read the article?

          1. @captainpie

            Yes. Do you have a point to make? Or do you post random questions as replies from time to time?

    4. Well that was the famous line from I believe Gilles Villeneuve. From the outside you see Ferrari’s operation and you wonder, “how can they possibly lose?” Then you find yourself inside and you have to ask, “how can they possibly win?”

  3. Team America “heck” yeah !!

    1. That is Funny!

    2. U.S.A.. U.S.A.. U.S.A..

  4. Chassis by Dallara by the way

    1. Design team led by Rob Taylor since Day1.

      1. Dieter,
        Thanks for the interesting article bur shouldn’t Dallara get any credit?

  5. This interview is with Rob Taylor, who is a Haas employee – Dallara are suppliers of engineering and manufacturing services to Haas on a contract basis. Of course they are due credit, but in a supplier role.

    Rob leads the design project, and delegates to Dallara consultants. Ben Agathangelou is Chief Aerodynamacist and his deputy is Steven Mahon – both Haas employees.

    The last time Dallara designed a F1 chassis from scratch it was called an HRT…which surely proves that Haas / Ferrari input has made the crucial difference. Haas also owns the intellectual property to the car, as required by the regulations.

    1. @dieterrencken, isn’t it a little unfair to criticise Dallara for HRT’s chassis given the claims of legal disputes between Dallara and HRT over unpaid bills for development work, resulting in Dallara stopping the project multiple times before just handing the chassis over to HRT and telling them to take it and go? Even those working at HRT conceded that they made things a lot harder for Dallara than they needed to be.

      1. I didn’t criticise anyone; merely pointed out that the last F1 chassis Dallara designed was the HRT.

        But the fact remains is that the basic design, which was ‘frozen’ long before legalities began, was far from cutting edge, and the most rudimentary of the three newcomer chassis – despite all three start-ups having the same amount of lead-time.

        A source who worked with the project put this down to Dallara’s spec chassis mentality, where cutting edge is seldom required. The HRT looked clumsy; the other two were neat.

        Haas/Ferrari input makes the decisive difference.

    2. Bridge Wilson
      18th March 2018, 19:01

      @dieterrencken Dieter, thank you so much for laying the Dallara/Haas relationship out so clearly. Many forum posters seem to want to deny HaasF1 any credit for what they have achieved. I was glad to see this article state that HaasF1 are devoting considerable effort to building the team and its ability to function in general and to respond well when things go wrong. I have been saying this for some time, but few people seem to want to listen. If HaasF1 continues to make incremental improvements in their technical capabilities and in their performance as a team, the goal of someday being a top team will appear more and more achievable.

  6. Another great article. I was about to suggest marking these articles as “exclusive” but then I realized it was water marked on the article image. Maybe it should be pointed out in the title that it is an exclusive as I think the water mark gets lost in the image and people probably think this is an external article. Just a suggestion. Keep up the good work – good to have some article of substance.

    1. The second word in the headline is ‘exclusive’…

      1. Hahaha, no lies told. Good one Dieter. Really appreciate you coming on board Racefans. Keep up the food work.

        Keith I see you too.

      2. Yes I noticed that just after I posted. Still, perhaps something universal in the title name would be good like “RF Exclusive: …” :)

  7. What are the chances that customer cars come back in 2021. Either buy a McLaren Renault for example or have a chassis build by xyz and put a Honda engine in it…??

  8. Liberty are working in that direction, but the risk is even more domination by a single team: imagine 6 Mercedes cars, two factory and two x customers teams, followed by 6 Ferrari’s, two red and 4 others.

    The other factor is that such a concept would kill the independents and place all the power in the hands of the major teams.

    1. But it could also provide a revenue source to Williams/McLaren/Sauber/Force India as much as to the Ferrari/Mercedes/Renault outfits, maybe at a lower price point for the independent teams. And it could help fill up the grid and bring in more overall sponsorship revenue.

      However, if it became like NASCAR or indy car, where there are only minor differences between halves of the grid, that would severely devalue F1 in my view.

  9. That is a good point but I envision a team that has 1 car and is sponsored by product Goobledooblecoke and has purchased a chassis from lets say Dallara and has a Honda customer engine or Ford or Cosworth or whatever.
    This amateur team is in it for exposure, I don’t think the true independent teams have to worry about competition, just the way it was in the 60ies.
    I don’t think anybody gets in F1 as a customer to compete with the likes of Ferrari but may want to get in F1 for the exposure.

  10. Alonso……the spanish Mansell?

    1. Tommy Scragend
      18th March 2018, 7:31

      He can definitely give Nigel a run for his money in the whinging stakes.

  11. In a way it might be annoying for teams like williams and sauber when a new team comes into f1 and buys lots of stuff directly from ferrari and then is faster. But at the same time having that kind of option is great for new teams and I’d hope f1 would be willing to consider opening that kind of deals more for new teams.

    Imagine if a new f1 team could buy a lot more parts from any competitor for their first season and then on their 2nd season they could still buy things but not as many. And then on third season they’d be on their own. Maybe even limit the options more so teams like haas would need to fully design their own cars from 3rd year onwards. To make the entry to f1 be more manageable for new teams.

    I think it could help new teams to get up to speed quicker when they don’t need to spend lots of money and time just to hire huge teams on a tight schedule trying to build a full car for their first season. And it would also allow new teams to enter the sport at much shorter time frame as their own entities instead of just buying one of the teams already in f1.

    This is all assuming there is a team willing to sell the car parts for a new team. The huge entry fees still make it sure that nobody will just enter a team for couple of years. Plus it would of course just be for totally new entries.

  12. Mark in Florida
    18th March 2018, 19:42

    Nothing is stopping other teams from doing what Haas has done. The rules are the same for everyone. Instead of sneering at Haas, they should be congratulated for at least being smart enough to come into F1 and not be in last place where most people thought they would be. Maybe if Williams sourced some common redundant parts from others they could save enough money to hire real drivers. Haas has kept expectations low and are trying to be smart about it, so far they have done quite well for a new team in the sport.

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