While America remains a country that loves its motorsport, Formula One has never quite broken through in the way many thought it might in the United States.
The Circuit of the Americas might host a Grand Prix each season, but it feels as though the public has been deprived of a hero to carry the sport forward.
There was a hope that the situation would change when Gene Haas, the Ohio entrepreneur, announced in 2014 that he was launching his own F1 team – would America finally have a hero on which to pin their hopes?
Sadly, there has only been limited success for the 68-year-old’s venture, and a sluggish start to the 2021 season has given oxygen to the rumor that Haas is looking to sell up and exit Formula One.
One name is a dominant force in the speculation – Mazepin. Haas has employed Nikita Mazepin as a driver for his team, and the Russian’s father Dmitry – a self-made billionaire in the chemical industry – is rumored to be interested in buying out Haas’ share in the brand. Mazepin senior’s firm Uralkali is already their principal sponsor.
And it seems as though the Russian investor is already edging Haas out of the picture. The team’s vehicle races in a livery that is very similar to the Russian flag, despite previously using silver, black, and red as their main color palette. Just how deep does Mazepin’s influence run?
Haas has essentially ‘given up’ in 2021, refusing to invest in new technologies before a considerable overhaul of F1’s rules next year. He has brought in the precocious Mick Schumacher – son of seven-time world champion Michael – as a driver, but there is so little going for the team that you can back Schumacher or Mazepin at +400000, yes you read that correctly, in the outright World Championship 2021 F1 betting odds.
So is this the end for Gene Haas’ love affair with Formula One?
The Speed King
Even though his background is in engineering and automation, Haas has long held a fascination with motorsport.
In 1978, he set up his own tiny engineering company, Pro-Turn, which employed just two people. Within a decade, they had patented a unique ‘indexer’ for use in machining and a variety of other tools that would see the company turnover more than £1 billion annually.
The Ohio native’s love of racing was merely a hobby at first, but, in 2002, he formed his own NASCAR team – Haas CNC – and success followed when the legendary driver Tony Stewart was brought on board.
In the background, Haas was working on a unique automotive wind tunnel, and this innovation is now widely used in Formula One, NASCAR, and the IndyCar series – a much-needed revenue stream for the entrepreneur, who has almost single-handedly financed his F1 team until Mazepin entered the fray.
Bringing jobs and wealth to the country via his North Carolina facility, Gene Haas has been the flagbearer for Formula One in America for the best part of a decade – even if his time in the sport is coming to an end, he will forever be remembered as the innovator who brought F1 to the United States.