Most independent teams that have attempted to compete in Formula One have collapsed — of the three teams that joined in 2010, Manor is the only one still on the grid — due in large part to overly ambitious investors with little motorsport experience. That’s why, when NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas decided to field a team in F1 he made sure he did his due diligence.
His attention to detail and careful approach to the sport paid off almost immediately. In the 2016 Australian Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean finished P6, making Haas F1 Team the first team to score points on debut since Toyota in 2002.
One could argue the Australian Grand Prix had a high attrition rate, with five DNFs and one DNS, so the achievement should not be overstated. But even if there are a lot of retirements in a race, a team must still do everything right to capitalize on the opportunity. The same logic applies to Daniel Ricciardo’s three victories in 2014; Just because they were a result of Mercedes’ DNFs doesn’t mean anybody will deny that they’re legitimate race wins. (Except maybe Sebastian Vettel.)
Also, many people are forgetting one giant factor, which if anything, makes Haas’ result on debut even more spectacular. Unlike Toyota, which had the second largest budget in F1 behind Ferrari at the time, Haas has nowhere near the financial resources of a works team.
One can see by looking at the VF-16, it’s fairly bare. Haas F1 has just five sponsors on its car, of which, only two are official team partners (Richard Mille and Alpine Stars) — and there’s a reason for that.
The NASCAR and F1 owner’s main motivation to compete in F1 is to have a global marketing platform from which to promote Haas Automation. Admittedly, the lack of sponsors does give the VF-16 a much cleaner livery than most teams, but it’s also a wasted opportunity.
The American team has already proven it can do a lot with a little, so imagine what it would be able to do with even a handful of sponsors contributing resources.
Currently, Grosjean sits P12 in the driver standings, ahead of former world champion McLaren-Honda drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. Haas F1, though, is currently behind McLaren, sitting P8 in the constructor standings. The reason for the slight disparity between where Haas stands in the driver and constructor standings, highlights the need for more sponsors.
Grosjean was able to rake in points finishes at the beginning of the season while McLaren struggled to find reliability. As the season progressed, however, McLaren — who announced multiple new sponsorship throughout 2016 — was able to improve both reliability and performance and surpass Haas.
With F1 wrapping up the summer break, this would be the ideal time for Haas to find new partners. In its current standing, the decision to endorse Haas F1 would be a no-brainer for a company to make, especially an American company. If Haas waits until after its first season to go hunting for sponsors, it runs the risk of losing ground in the constructor championship, and therefore losing value to marketers.
Looks like we will have to wait until the cars get on track in Belgium to see if the VF-16 will have a busier livery for the remainder of 2016.
Thumbnail photo via Red Bull Content Pool