Long way from here to the grid for another F1 team, Ecclestone says. (LAT photos)
Bernie Ecclestone says the new Formula 1 team proposed by NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas is “most unlikely” to get the green light due to the high costs of entering the sport.
In December, the FIA opened a tender for a 12th team to join from 2015 and last week Gene Haas, joint owner of NASCAR's Stewart-Haas Racing, announced that he had made an application. However, Ecclestone said: “They have been talking about it for three years. Two or three people there. I would say it is most unlikely.”
Haas is also the founder of engineering firm Haas Automation, which has an annual revenue of around $1 billion, while Guenther Steiner, a former technical director of four-time F1 champions Red Bull Racing, is understood to be working alongside Haas on the project.
“It's no good proving someone has got the money,” says Ecclestone. “Somebody can have 10 billion in the bank but it doesn't mean they are going to spend it. It's nothing to do with having enough resources. You can't tell them to make a commitment because it's a commitment to do what? It's always been like that.”
Ecclestone is actively involved with analyzing the new team despite his recent exit from the board of F1's parent company Delta Topco prior to him standing trial for bribery. He continues to run the sport on a day to day basis, although the decision on the new team is not his responsibility anyway: It will be made by the FIA on Feb. 28 and if Haas is successful it would be the first American squad in Formula 1 since the mid-1980s. The sport has not had an American full-time driver since Scott Speed who drove for Toro Rosso in 2007.
The FIA's decision to open a tender for a new team was a surprise even for many F1 insiders, as several of the existing outfits are barely managing to keep their wheels turning. Budgets have accelerated in recent years and hit an estimated $211m in 2013. Several drivers complained about not being paid last year and two of the most embattled teams, Lotus and Marussia, were listed as “subject to confirmation” on the 2014 F1 entry list which was released earlier this month.
At the end of 2012, Spanish-based HRT closed its doors, leaving the 12th spot vacant. When HRT joined in March 2010 another American-based team, US F1, was also granted an entry but never made the grid after running into financial difficulties. There was so little interest in filling the 13th slot that the FIA formally closed the tender for it in September 2010.
Since then, however, interest in F1 in the United States has increased, fueled by the United States Grand Prix which, after a five-year hiatus, made a successful return to the F1 calendar in 2012 at Austin's Circuit of The Americas.
In addition to Haas, others understood to have filed a team entry application are former HRT boss Colin Kolles and Stefan GP, a Serbian organization that was bidding for an F1 entry in 2010. However, Ecclestone says that the decision to open the grid slot was driven by Haas.
“The FIA is not introducing a new team,” said Ecclestone, “the team is asking for an entry. Somebody has asked, ‘Can we have an entry.' I doubt they will get in.”