DARLINGTON, S.C. >> NASCAR team owner Gene Haas said Friday he has been granted a license from Formula One’s governing body to start a U.S.-based entry in the series, perhaps as early as next season.
Haas received documents from the FIA on Thursday and the organization confirmed the application had been approved.
“If he wants, he can join next season, it’s up to him,” FIA spokesman Matteo Bonciani said.
The last attempt for an American Formula One team came in 2010, but the entry lacked funding and development to join. Money is not expected to be a problem for the deep-pocketed Haas, owner of CNC machine manufacturer Haas Automation and the Windshear wind tunnel in North Carolina.
Haas co-owns a NASCAR team with Tony Stewart that fields cars for drivers Stewart, Kevin Harvick, Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch. Haas pays for Busch himself.
“Obviously, we’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula One license by the FIA. It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula One,” Haas said in a statement.
Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone said at last weekend’s Bahrain Gran Prix that the U.S.-backed team led by Haas would likely join the series next season. Now it’s official.
“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid,” Haas said.
Haas’ NASCAR co-owner Tony Stewart was happy for his partner and excited for the potential F-1 shop on the program’s campus.
“It’s a pretty cool deal,” said Stewart. “Not anybody can just go get one of those, so he had to go through the approval process and got approved and I’m happy for him.”
Stewart said he would not have any involvement in the venture.
The last U.S.-based team was Parnelli Jones Racing in 1974-76, when Mario Andretti drove. The FIA granted entry to an American team in 2009 — the USF1 team — but it failed to hit the grid in 2010.
Carl Haas (no relation to Gene) and Teddy Mayer fielded an American team in 1985 and 1986, although they were based in London.
At the IndyCar race in Long Beach, Calif., drivers wondered if a U.S.-based team would actually come to fruition.
“There’s not a great track record so far, and those are the data points we have to go off of,” said James Hinchcliffe. But his teammate believed Haas might be able to pull it off.
“With Gene Haas buying the team, I’d say that’s the likeliest chance of it finally happening,” said Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Asked if there’d be any interest in the paddock for a shot to drive for Haas in Formula One, the normally reserved Carlos Munoz immediately perked up.
“I would,” the Colombian said. “I’d love to do it.”
Haas founded his NASCAR team based in Kannapolis, N.C., in 2002. Seven years later, he brought Stewart aboard in a co-owner role to bring legitimacy to the team and help get the cars to Victory Lane. Stewart has delivered.
Haas also operates the Windshear, one of the world’s most sophisticated wind tunnels for the testing of car aerodynamics, which would aid any new F1 entry. He said Haas Automation, one of the largest machine tool builders in the world, currently does $1 billion in annual sales, and he believes entering Formula One could help him double that number.
“It’s not that we’re trying to individually sell machines. We’re trying to make people aware of Haas Automation as a company,” he said.
He added: “We’re just trying to bring our awareness up and Formula One is even more important because half our sales are outside the country. So we think Formula One would be a really great way of bringing us awareness and increasing our sales.”
His team would be based in North Carolina, next to the existing NASCAR shop.
“We want to be an American team. We think that has the most sizzle to it,” Haas said in January.