• The Inside Line

Field of dreams?

ESPN Staff
January 20, 2014
Gene Haas has expressed an interest in joining the F1 grid © Getty Images

Could Gene Haas, co-owner of a NASCAR team and owner of the Windshear facility in North Carolina, be the saviour of Formula One?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Formula One could do better in the United States. Since 2012 we've had the fantastic Austin race at COTA, and thanks to NBC televised coverage of the sport is growing, but we've yet to make the sort of impact long hoped for.

Another universally acknowledged truth is that the potential US audience would quite like a team or driver of their own, some hometown heroes to cheer to the chequered flag. Which is why the news that Haas has expressed interest in a slot on the 2015 grid should be welcomed with open arms.

Rumours of a potential US entry to the field first started to circulate at the end of the 2013 season, but with details thin on the ground it was all a matter of speculation. The potential US team was already involved in NASCAR, and based in the North Carolina talent triangle, but that's all we had to go on. And that describes most of NASCAR.

The abortive USF1 effort is recent enough to still be fresh in the minds of many. But most of the issues that plagued the infamous toaster builders and YouTube clip generators do not apply to Haas.

His potential problem is one of logistics, particularly during the European summer season, when rivals will be far better equipped to return to home base to work on their cars, or to fly in new components at short notice. However, Haas does have a facility in Brussels that the team could use as a summer base.

But 2015 will also see the first year of the F1 cost cap, and it is highly likely that the development arms race we've become accustomed to will be a thing of the past, with teams no longer booking endless seats on easyJet flights around Europe so that team members can fly new parts to races at short notice.

If selected for an entry - there is competition from a Romanian effort with involvement from Colin Kolles, and a bid by Stefan GP - Haas has the experience and the resources to make a success of his team. He will be in a position to open the doors to Formula One to any NASCAR sponsor interested in broadening its global reach, and will be able to offer sponsorship packages that offer exposure across both sports.

Interest in a national team should also increase viewing figures in the United States - a long-held goal for the sport - and increase the impetus to add a second or third American race to the calendar. That alone would give Haas instant status within the paddock, putting him among the leaders and influencers.

But perhaps the best news to come out of Haas' confirmation that he applied for a grid slot is simply the fact that there are still parties interested in starting teams, in getting involved in Formula One. The sport's recent financial crisis and endless in-fighting was threatening to bring about a slow decline, and there was always the risk that potential team owners would be put off by the shared experience of Caterham, Marussia, and the now defunct HRT.

Instead, we have at least three new teams interested in getting involved, and with at least one grid slot open that means there will be a minimum of two new seats available for the 2015 season. For all those sidelined drivers and ignored championship winners there are now at least two new chances at Formula One. And that can only be a good thing.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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