Haas has had its authenticity as a true American team questioned following some comments — which have been labelled as “B.S.” — by its Formula One boss Guenther Steiner about the viability of looking to IndyCar for future drivers.
Since joining the grid in 2016, owner Gene Haas has avoided signing a home-grown driver for his race team, which is currently spearheaded by an all-European line-up of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. The topic of American drivers being on the radar of America’s only F1 outfit returned to prominence last year when reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden told ESPN during the U.S. Grand Prix weekend that he wants to contest at least one season in the series while still in his prime.
Team boss Steiner revealed his apprehension during the next race in Mexico, saying it could be counter-productive to put a home-grown talent into a race seat before they were ready.
When asked about the topic this week, Steiner repeated his stance to Autosport, saying: “It’s not on top of our list. It’s on top of our list if there’s a good one. Obviously, we want one.
“But then maybe, if there is a really good one, would they come to us? Just having an American driver who maybe cannot compete at a certain level is maybe not good for the sport.
“[Signing an American driver] would be an ambition, but at the moment there is nobody ready for F1 in the United States in my opinion.”
The quotes were met with immediate criticism, started by IndyCar race winner Graham Rahal, who called on the team to reach out to IndyCar talents in order to assess their ability.
Rahal tweeted: “Complete BS. @HaasF1Team if you really believe that, why don’t you call some of us, give it a shot?”
Former Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, the last American to contest an F1 race and who moved across to IndyCar after losing out on a full-time 2016 Manor seat to the well-funded Rio Haryanto, appeared to agree with Rahal’s statement with a simple reply — “Word”.
Rahal followed up with two more tweets later in the day.
American drivers are damn good. I stand by that, there’s lots of talent here. Stay in @indycar, it’s far more competitive anyways!
Always funny the @HaasF1Team mentality. “Americans aren’t good enough”, yet they haven’t even given us a shot. Not worth our time. #USA
One of IndyCar’s other home-grown talents, Conor Daly, questioned why Haas continues to call itself an American team while it refuses to consider talents across the pond.
How can you possibly call yourselves an “American” team and totally berate your entire “home” nationality of drivers? there hasn’t even been a hint of consideration of any well established American drivers over here. https://twitter.com/autosport/status/951853780622069761 …
When Steiner originally responded to Newgarden’s comments last year, he said it would be unfair to sign a driver with limited experience of “the culture of F1” and expect them to immediately compete at a higher level. Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon elaborated on this point, suggesting F1 teams are currently too focused on talents who have come through the European system.
Gordon tweeted: “F1 teams will never truly embrace an American driver unless they establish them & train them in Europe themselves from age 9 or 10. Plenty of great talent in America that given the right opportunity & quality equipment could be successful but don’t see it happening anytime soon.”
For the past two seasons Haas has employed Santino Ferrucci in a test and reserve driver role, though the 19-year-old is yet to feature in anything other than an unofficial test day.