Things have gone from "unlikely" to likely for a 2015 Formula 1 team for Gene Haas in the mind of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.
After previously downplaying Haas' chances, Ecclestone said Sunday at Bahrain that his bid "will be accepted." Haas, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing with Tony Stewart, has been vying for the chance to field a Formula 1 team (independent of Stewart).
"I've spoken to (International Automobile Federation president) Jean Todt and we agreed yesterday that another two teams want to come in, we'll let them in," Ecclestone said (via Eurosport).
The other team is reportedly an entry with Romanian backing. Haas has Formula 1 connections as his North Carolina wind tunnels have previously been used by F1 teams.
If you're not familiar with Formula 1, it can make NASCAR look pretty reasonable financially. Earlier in the week, Ecclestone said Haas would need to be prepared to spend $1 billion over four years. Yes, that's billion with a "b." Haas told the AP that he hadn't heard from Ecclestone.
"We haven't been notified by the FIA, but Bernie is kind of half Formula One, so I'm sure what he says goes," Haas said Sunday. "I have no doubt that even if Mr. Ecclestone says he's OK with it, there's probably another few weeks of legal paperwork" before FIA would issue a license.
USF1 made an ill-fated attempt to join the F1 grid in 2010 but never made it to a race after a project that initially showed some promise. USF1 was even on the Formula 1 entry list as well, but the team may not have even had a car prepared. The guess is here that the Haas team has learned from USF1's mistakes.
2010 was the last time new teams entered F1, and Carterham and Marussia, who entered then, are the backmarkers of the Formula 1 field and haven't scored a point to-date in the series. Initial struggles likely won't deter Haas. Before giving Stewart half of his team in 2009, Haas teams ran 284 Sprint Cup races from 2002-2008 with one top five and 14 top 10s. (Since joining with Stewart, SHR has 21 wins in 420 races.)
The last American driver to compete in Formula 1 was Scott Speed, who ran from 2006-2007. He finished on the lead lap once. If Haas' new team makes it to the grid and wants an American driver, there aren't many notable options. Conor Daly, an American driver who has competed in one race in GP2, a lower series, would be the most recognized choice who isn't currently participating full-time in an American series.
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