Penske will not follow Haas into Formula 1
Roger Penske, a famous name in United States motor racing – also a former Formula 1 driver and team owner – does not intend following Haas F1 Team back to the sport he departed back in 1976.
Joining the grid this year is Haas, whose founder Gene Haas, also a Nascar team co-owner, admitted recently he had been inspired by the ill-fated US F1 project of a few years ago.
Haas has allied strongly with Ferrari, but a few years ago it was actually Penske who was short-listed by the Maranello marque as an ideal partner for the future.
“It would be nice to see a third Ferrari fielded perhaps by a private American team. I’m thinking of Ganassi or Penske,” former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said back in 2010.
However, Penske said during the Nascar media tour activities in Charlotte last week that he is not interested in F1, even though he won a race as a constructor back in 1976.
“Formula 1 is a special series today and it always has been,” he said. “It’s the Indianapolis of every country. Unfortunately, unless you’re based in Europe and have a commitment in that sport, I don’t think you can compete on a day-to-day basis.
“I think Gene Haas has set up a completely separate team. He’s committed financially to make it happen and I think at this point it’s pretty much passed us.
“At this point I’d say we’re going to focus on the main efforts that we have today and that’s Indycar, Nascar and certainly Xfinity and our Australian (V8 supercar) pursuit,” the 78-year-old added.
Penske’s first taste of Formula 1 was when he rented a McLaren M19 in 1971 which Mark Donohue drove to third place in the wet Canadian Grand Prix.
Penske then planned a full grand prix effort campaign, buying a factory in Dorset (UK) and recruiting Brabham designer Geoff Ferris, to pen a F1 car.
The project sparked Donahue’s enthusiasm and he agreed to commit to a full Grand Prix season with Penske in 1975.
With First National City Bank support and a Cosworth engine, Penske hardly set the world on fire and, midway through the season, replaced the Penske PC1 with a customer March 751.
In practice for the Austrian Grand Prix, Donohue suffered a deflating tyre and flew off the road, hitting television camera tower. Although at first he appeared to have escaped with a headache, Donohue fell into a coma and subsequently died from his injuries.
Penske signed John Watson and, with Ferris’s elegant new PC4, the combination started to run at the front of the field in 1976. By mid-season, Watson was challenging for a win that, somewhat ironically, came at Osterreichring exactly a year after Donohue’s death there.
At the end of 1976, First National City Bank defected to Tyrrell, attracted by the guaranteed exposure generated by the Tyrrell six-wheeler. Penske decided to halt his Formula One campaign and concentrate on the Indy Car scene instead.
Penske Racing remains the last team to win a Formula 1 race using an American licence, Watson having won the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix.
Penske himself competed in two United States Grands Prix in 1961 and 1962 in privately entered Cooper and Lotus, and