OllieF1
No Driver, No Race, But Could America Be Building A Team?

No Driver, No Race, But Could America Be Building A Team?

There has been a flurry of news in recent days as the 2009 Formula One World Championship gathers pace towards towards it’s first race in March. One of the most interesting items to make the headlines is the possibility of a new team. With the demise of Super Aguri and Honda last year, combined with the sport looking less than healthy financially-wise, the thought of a new team joining the ranks is exciting. Especially when you consider where it is based – the United States of America. Let’s take a look at USF1…

The USA have endured a rocky relationship with Formula One in recent years; the farcical 2005 grand prix and the race’s ultimate demise, Scott Speed unceremoniously leaving the sport to return to home, the loss of Montreal from the calendar… it has all painted a bad picture of Formula One on the other side of the Atlantic. From a fan’s perspective, it is surprising the sport is still watched in America. But watched it is, and although Formula One and the global economy have enjoyed better times, America appears to still want to be a part of Max and Bernie’s game.

Of course, Bernie Ecclestone would do very well to welcome the involvement of a tenth/eleventh team to the grid, bringing the number of competing drivers back up and reinstating his position as someone who can push the sport forward into the future, rather than kicking it when it is down. The logistics of setting up an F1 team are immense though, as are the still extortionate costs. With Max Mosley continually attempting to drive the financial burden down though, the mooted 2010 entry season for USF1 could be a good year for a team to enter.

The USF1 project appears to have been born from the mind of former Ligier and Onyx technical director Ken Anderson. After his stint in Formula One, Anderson returned to America and found much more success with the Chip Ganassi Racing and AJ Foyt Racing teams. Anderson went on to design chassis for the American open-wheel sport before turning his attention to the ever popular NASCAR series.

Also mooted to be involved with the team is Peter Windsor, a name more familiar with European fans due to his presence at grands prix and his reports in F1 Racing magazine. Windsor has been involved with Formula One for a long time, starting out initially as a journalist before working with Williams and Ferrari. Ultimately though, writing appears to be Windsor’s true passion and the Australian-raised Briton continues to write while carrying out duties for SPEED TVs coverage at the races. Peter is often seen on the grid and also conducts the driver’s post-qualifying and race press conferences.

So it would appear the people behind USF1 are of motor sporting pedigree. But despite this, many questions immediately come to the fore, primarily related to funding. With current teams strapped for cash and seeing some of their sponsors walk out the door, one has to ask where the initially injection of finances will come from to create the team, and after that, where the running budget will be sought?

The current trend of private Formula One teams would suggest a wealthy backer to inject a large lump sum into the squad to get things moving. Following this, sponsors would be needed to keep the finances required for the running of the team fluid. Being an American team, they may prove quite lucrative to the many internationally recognised companies based over the pond. Coca Cola and McDonalds are just two that immediately spring to mind, but would these behemoths be willing to part with the amounts of money USF1 would need to be competitive in a primarily European-based sport? Would the extra brand placement be enough to justify the costs?

Also of question is the team’s location. As mentioned, Formula One is more of a European racing series, with drivers often citing their route to the sport via other Europe-based formulae. There almost appears to be an invisible divide running down the Atlantic Ocean, with Formula One on the East and IndyCar and NASCAR on the West. IndyCar and NASCAR usually stay in America, only venturing North to Canada or over to Japan a handful of times a year. Formula One isn’t heading to America any time soon, but the emergence of USF1 could bring America to Europe.

The position of the team could prove problematic though. The current teams already pay quite a lot to travel around Europe and Asia, and despite receiving help with this (the team’s are awarded transport fee reductions for scoring points), the cost of transporting the team around the world is still substantial. And this is for a team based in the UK. For a squad having to cross the Atlantic for each event is borderline ridiculous. Of course, USF1 could lease a smaller factory in Europe to use as an in-season base, but this will only add to the budget.

Despite all the doom and gloom though, the thought of an American team entering the sport, even if just a little pipedreamish at the moment, is very exciting. It could help reinvigorate the sport around the world, improve competition and possibly even help Ecclestone along the way with returning the sport to North America for a race or two.

And so I am just left with one question which has already been very well pointed out grandprix.com… Why haven’t USF1 already purchased Honda?

Oliver White

14 comments

  • And so I am just left with one question which has already been very well pointed out grandprix.com… Why haven’t USF1 already purchased Honda?

    a japanese team based in brackley?

    i couldn’t think of anything less american.

  • a japanese team based in brackley?

    i couldn’t think of anything less american.

    Well no, nor can I. But it would save so much money. The factory is there, as are the facilities and equipment. The location is okay and they would also purchase the cars and the employees that are left. It just seems to make much more sense than starting from nothing.

    The last team started from scratch and without (much) manufacturer backing was Stewart, I believe. And that was 13 years ago when things were a little more rosy in the financial world.

  • The last team started from scratch and without (much) manufacturer backing was Stewart, I believe. And that was 13 years ago when things were a little more rosy in the financial world.

    i suspect, if it actually goes ahead, that they already have factory / windtunnel / talent organised in the states.

    you’re right about them needing a european base though. the advantage of being in the states is no-one will have a clue what they’re up to. the disadvantage is cost.

  • the advantage of being in the states is no-one will have a clue what they’re up to. the disadvantage is cost.

    I see the advantage of relative privacy from them being in the States as a disadvantage. If the FIA ain’t gonna have a clue what their up to, how am I (and everyone else)? But from a team’s perspective, it would be great for them, as you say.

    As you went to the Red Bull Technology factory recently, perhaps you can explain to me why Red Bull keep the Faenza factory. I presume the STR cars are built in Milton Keynes alongside the RBRs, which begs the question, why not just extend the building a bit to accommodate whatever it is they keep in Italy? I dunno, maybe add a conservatory on the back or something.

  • I presume the STR cars are built in Milton Keynes alongside the RBRs

    nope. the str’s are built in italy via various suppliers, assembled in faenza. only the str show cars are done in the uk.

  • I don’t know if you’ve read this yet, but it provides some solutions to many of the issues you’ve raised

    I was aware Autoblog got in early with the story a couple of days ago, but foolishly thought that it would therefore be slim on details. Of course, it was actually included info not covered by many other sites who ran the story. Great link, thanks Gman.

  • No problem, glad I could help.

    When I look at this whole scheme, much of it makes sense, but the costs and logistics still need to be explained more. In terms of those things it is quite easy to be skeptical. My thought (and hope, for that matter) is that the backers must have these matters at least figured out to an extent, otherwise they woulden’t risk the public embarrasment- at least that’s what I think.

    The one thing I really don’t like about it is the insistence on American drivers, at least to start with. I would like to see at least one experienced driver to start with, with much-neglected Anthony Davidson being my first choice. In terms of Americans, I would suggest not Danica or Marco, nor some unproven NASCAR import, but rather Jonathan Summerton- perhaps the best F1 prospect you’ve never heard of. He was part of that 2006 F3 Euroseries class that seems to be producing all these hot prospects, and much of his record to date appears very similar to that of his teammate during that season- some guy named Buemi. I did an interview with him recently as he’s one of the nicest guys around- certainly not another Scott Speed.

  • I am sceptical that an American team would enter F1. NASCAR is well sponsored because they have been able to draw a large, diverse crowd to the sport – specifically they have been able to draw female fans, the that is the reason sponsors like Tide have signed up.

    I don’t think F1 would be able to draw in the same range of fans in North America to racing, and thus I don’t think they would be able to draw the same sponsors. I think F1 should try and get international sponsors to try and attract fans across all continents, as opposed to trying to find NA sponsors to draw NA fans.

    Greg

  • If I was starting a US team just now my first choice driver would be Bourdais. He is well known in the states and has F1 experience so he ticks both boxes. He also has a really good feel for a car and would help them sort out a new car. Anyone who has listened to his radio traffic during a Friday practise session knows that he gives more and better infomation than any other driver on an open channel. Since he has signed for STR I would assume that there is no chance that there is a secret team in the USA ready for this season. Shame that sort of thing doesn’t happen any more.

  • Stinks of BAR. Star(ish) designer who hasn’t done an F1 car in years and an insufferable git (Pollock/Windsor). Just without the ludicrous money.

    Again, because Windsor is involved it’s probably going to go nowhere. The other thing it stinks of is ‘stunt.’ Oh, wait…so was BAR 🙂

  • Greg,

    You are right about NASCAR expanding it’s demographic, but I know Tide has been with the sport for a very long time- probably back to the mid-80’s at least- and I would place that before the NASCAR popularity boom. Indeed, the ideal sponsors for such a venture would be American companies with global reach-if they weren’t battered by the recession, I would say Caterpillar and Bank of America(headquartered in Charlotte) would be ideal….

    An interesting comment on another blog I read today has the engine deal being a Ferrari-made unit, badged as an Alfa Romero- all as part of Fiat’s grand re-launch into North America. The same poster also had Heinz Food Co. lined up as a key sponsor- they do sponsor the home stadium of the Super Bowl Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, I might add.

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