SHARE

Does the act of “not ruling out” something from contention make it newsworthy? Apparently it does these days as the mainstream media have latched on to NBC’s interview of Gene Haas during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend.

NBC’s Leigh Diffey asked Haas if Danica Patrick would be the right person for the seat in his new Formula 1 team and Gene said that it remains to be seen although it would be nice. The body language and tone didn’t seem very convincing but that doesn’t matter, it’s a dream story so everyone is running with it.

Today’s interview at AUTOSPORT is the very reason this non-event news story won’t happen and why I find the newsworthy justification of “not ruling it out” as a weak justification to get headlines.

Haas Formula will reserve the first seat for a veteran already in F1 and that means no American. The second seat would ideally be for an American but there is a caveat here as he said:

“Seat number one is going to obviously be taken by an existing F1 driver that has experience with the current engine package and chassis,” he said. “And then position two is open.

“It would be great if we could put [an American] in there – it would just be the home run: an American team with an American driver in a European series. That would be phenomenal.

“But we’re very flexible on that. Realistically, the number one thing is to make sure we don’t embarrass the sport, we arrive prepared and ready to race.

“We don’t want to run around at the back forever. We want to be able to start these races and improve every race we go to.”

While Danica may be a huge media-grabbing headline, it would wear off rather quickly just as it has in NASCAR and what would remain when the dust cloud settled is performance and results. Gene isn’t interested in embarrassing the sport and to be honest, Danica doesn’t have the chops to run with Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso or—depending on who gets the 1st seat at Haas Formula—her teammate.

I have little time for tropes, media pandering or wars between sexes. What I am more interested in is seeing is a seat for some of the American drivers who have worked their tails off trying to get into European series racing such as Alexander Rossi, Conor Daly and others that have a legitimate chance of building a career. Danica is a headline and very little else.

If this were earlier in her career, it may make more sense but she’s 32-years-old and people are already suggesting Fernando Alonso (32) is close to retiring, not just starting his career. I guess we can worship youth in F1 unless you happen to be a female and then age has no bearing at all? Simona de Silvestro is 25-years-old and that makes a little more sense to me that we could see her in a Sauber seat but Danica at Haas Formula makes very little sense beyond selling t-shirts and magazines.

Wait a minute, she could do well in F1 and what if she did throw down some really good performances and hang with the top drivers? Okay, to what end? At 32, are you building a career and mentoring a young, American driver under the tutelage of a veteran in seat #1 for the long term? No.

So what if she did okay? That doesn’t gain Haas Formula anything for the long term. Too much money is on the line to pander to fans that feel the time is ripe for a female in F1. We’re already buckling at the knees over the whole pay-driver scenario and now we want to put females in cars so they can run in F1 for the mere sake of having females in F1 or is there a merit, performance and skill factor that we still believe to be important to the series?

You could argue that she would do no worse than Pastor Maldonado and I would agree with you but I doubt she would bring Haas Formula $20 million for the privilege of driving the car so that dog don’t hunt.

The bigger question, beyond the novelty and pandering issues of a Danica ride in F1, is really this—who out there has the chops, drive, youth and current understanding of European open0wheel series racing that could be a good driver and not an embarrassment to F1 or Haas Formula? Would Rossi or Daly be a good fit? How about Chavez or Ferrucci or is there someone else that has your eye?

The other side of the coin is whose contract would be up in 2016 and would be willing to drive as the veteran? Button, JEV, Perez, Massa, Raikkonen? Anyone? Who comes to mind? And don’t say Danica Patrick…for crying out loud! Let it go! She’s fine in NASCAR.

SHARE
An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • Dicey

    They really need to look at the different series out there and pick a good, young driver to put in the #2 seat. While Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi would be the obvious picks as they are running in GP2, I think some thought needs to directed towards the idea of getting a driver from an American series. That could be an Indy or Indy Lights driver potentially. The most important thing is to get someone who has the potential to be to successful rather than just getting a name people know. I think the Danica question was just putting words in Gene’s mouth and isn’t a serious runner for any seat. The last time an American had a seat was Scott Speed, and I think we’d all like to move on from that.

    • Does anyone come to mind in the Indy Lights series for you? Or even Indycar?

      • Tom Firth

        Sage Karam is the only one I can think of right now. Newgarden is good but doubt he would get looked at by an F1 team.

        Matty Brabham or Neil Alberico if we where a few years further down the road perhaps ?

  • Rick T

    If you’re looking for a big name racer, then surly someone like Patrick Dempsey? Sure he’s old, arrogant and should probably be doing something else. But his la mans experience is amazing and he normally races well for a celebrity racer.

    • DoubleApex

      I remember hearing that his film and TV contracts actually prevent him from driving open-cockpit cars. That’s why he’s usually in a GT car, and why his ALMS LMP2 entry a few years ago was a coupe.

  • DoubleApex

    I’ll volunteer. I’ve done a few races in a ChumpCar (hey, it’s almost a ChampCar!). I’m not the fastest guy on track, but I’m consistently quick and I usually beat my teammates. I don’t have a distracting feud with any of said teammates. I’ve never said stupid things to the press. I don’t have embarrassing tattoos or hair. I have never eaten a soda cookie or sprawled across the hood of a replica Shelby Cobra in my swimsuit. I don’t spam Instagram with pictures of my dog (anymore), even though she’s cuter than Bosco. And I have never in my life worn white leather pants.

    When can I start?

  • Rapierman

    Who would you be comfortable with flying the American flag? Yes, I know what common sense would dictate, but I also know what American Pride and Politics will dictate, and they sometimes run at odds with each other….and the latter usually wins.

  • @Negitive Camber

    Very nice piece and I am glad you did not take the bait. When I heard Leigh Diffey suggest Danica Patrick I thought, (and anyone who wants to take me to task please do) that is a terrible idea on just about every single level and that includes that of her being a woman driver.

    I am in now way being chauvinistic, but first of all she was just never that competitive in Indy car and as has already been mentioned, not only would the attention getting media benefit wear out quickly her tour as a F1 pilot could have a lasting negative effect on a female driver that actually can drive a the current level which is what is needed and that alone is the reason I feel she would be a unwise choice.

    let me be clear I welcome a female driver in F1 as soon as possible and if all goes well Simona de Silvestro has a good chance to be on the grid in 2016, what I’m not interested in is seeing a woman driver ruin the chances for other woman drivers. If it is only the Media that is Patrick’s benefit to the American effort that is not enough. Thankfully it appears that Gene Haas has thought this through and is quite aware that the eyes for the motorsport world will be upon him and will be looking at everything he does as an F1 team principal. I am glad he is taking this seriously and does not want to embarrass us here in the states.

    To me the choice is obvious a deal has to be struck with Caterham to loan out Alexander Rossi services for the second seat in the Haas program. He’s done his time, paid his dues, and will have already had experience with the new drive trains and PU’s, already done simulator work and is already familiar with how F1 works, has raced on many of the track already, need I go on. Rossi is the best bet.

    ps the photo of Scott Speed is very funny as well as appropriate…

    -jp-

  • UAN

    Did I just read a whole story on a non-story? Danica Patrick? Really?

    As for embarrassing the sport, it won’t be the driver’s fault, but the car. If he builds an HRT type car, that runs pathetically around the back of the field, that would be an embarrassment.

    I guess the concern could be something along the lines of Michael Andretti joining McLaren and having a mediocre run of it.

    I surprised you didn’t mention Vettel going to Haas – if he could win in an American car, that would seal the deal on all his doubters. Nah, probably not… :)

  • gsprings

    wonder if Haas will start a gp2 team to groom young american drivers,would’nt be a bad idea

    • that is an awesome idea. it would not even have to be run by Haas himself, but another team owner/business man in which Haas and this team owner would have an agreement. Haas industries could put up the backing or at least most of it while a highly skilled European outfit with GP2 experience could run the show and this could be a proving ground/conduit for American drivers. In an interview i did with James Allen he mentioned one of the reasons American drivers don’t pursue F1 is that they have to goto to Europe and that is huge gamble, so very few ever what to take that risk. Here is the link to that interview.

      F1 and America – An interview with James Allen http://amerf1can.com/?p=1382

  • Heikki Kovalainen for a year wouldn’t be so bad…not just two races in a car he never drove. Danica?! Hinchcliffe would me a better man…ica (He was in the Go Daddy car last year!….sorry, I couldn’t resist).

  • Question to everyone: Does Haas F1 have to have an American in the second car in the first year?

  • Stan

    Obvious point number one – he employs her so he either is unaware of her limitations or at least isn’t bothered by them. Unless I’m missing something the IRL win is the only win of her entire post karting career.
    No FF, Formula Vaxhall, Barber Dodge, or Atlantic.

    I would have to think that would put her close to the top of least accomplished F1 drivers ever. At this point how can they not go with Rossi? The record for guys coming from CART/Indycar/IRL is not stellar. Montoya sure but Zinardi, Da Matta, Bourdais, and Andretti not so much.

  • F1derbar

    Rossi is the most prepped and ready to go, clearly. If they can work it out with Caterham it should be Rossi. Conor Daly has a bright future but doesn’t as yet have his foot in the door like AR.

    • F1derbar

      Also, for the #1 seat – Heikki or Quick Nick!!

  • Rapierman

    Okay, here’s a question for you: Assuming Haas F1 gets off the ground, will they chant “Haas, Haas, Haas” or will they chant “USA, USA, USA”? That will be the answer to “who do we want as a driver”, period.

    • Hum….

    • “USA! USA! USA!” if the team wins. “Rossi! Rossi! Rossi!” if they pick him up and he wins or get a podium.

  • Alexander Rossi.Before I continue, I want to say that I loved his commentary in the press box for the whole of Practice 3 on Sky Sports. I really enjoyed his honesty, insights, and who well spoken he was on TV.

    Rossi is the most experienced American in F1. I think it would be good to see Haas or another team pick him up for a drive. Conor Daly looks ready as well, but I would put him in a reserve roll and let him do some practice days like Rossi has in order to acclimate him to the F1 storm.

  • gsprings

    I believe there is a good chance Haas will go after Rossi or daly,guess we would get to see how much caterham values Rossi if Haas came a calling

    • MIE

      As far as Rossi is concerned, which would be the better drive, Caterham or Haas?

      I’m not sure given Caterham’s lack of progress and Fernandez’s threats to sell.

  • nateman

    To my knowledge, no driver from an American series, i.e. Indy cars, has done well in F1. Michael Andretti opted out of his first season half way through; Alex Zanardi left F1, did well in CART, but was unimpressive on his return to F1; and Sebastien Bourdais won GP2, couldn’t find a ride in F1 then won 4 consecutive CART championships – but couldn’t do anything in F1. Is there something about driving an Indy car that spoils a driver for F1? (Might be an interesting discussion.)

    • UAN

      Well there is Mario Andretti, WDC in F1.

      • nateman

        Yes, of course, and Phil Hill, too. A number of Americans have had good F1 careers – Dan Gurney comes to mind, and I always liked Eddie Cheever.

    • Stan

      Montoya: 7 wins, 13 poles in 94 starts. He would have been something w/o the spoilage but I agree US open wheeling does bad stuff to a driver.

  • #1 Bottas #2 Rossi ..I really see Bottas becoming a very good WDC worthy driver in the future. As for AR, he is by far the most prepared/skilled USA driver at the moment. Anyone else in my eyes would be a big gamble and Gene already had enough gambles on his back with starting up a new team, he doesn’t need anymore!

    • MIE

      While I could see why Haas would want Bottas, I don’t see what the driver would get from the deal. Bottas is possibly to early in his career with too many options to accept such an offer. It may be possible to get a Toro Rosso cast off for the experienced driver role.

  • Scott Speed had a horrible and arrogant attitude. That why he failed in f1 and nascar. I think Conor Daly or rossi can make. Got to get with the right team and have a great attitude.

  • eram

    Marco Andretti! You got some great indycar drivers this year but the average age is much older than F1.