Formula One’s potentially newest team, USF1, is set to make a grand announcement on February 24th about their plans to enter the sport for the 2010 season. Much talk has already been made of the new squad, basing themselves in North Carolina but also having a factory in Spain for convenience purposes. Much talk has also been made of the apparent process the team will employee in deciding their drivers. And already one name has been mentioned more than others.
Danica Patrick entered the IndyCar scene in 2005 and while she is yet to really set the track alight with skill vastly superior to that of her rivals, the young driver has certainly caused many tongues to wag up and down the various pitlanes around the world. While Danica may not be considered the greatest driver to have raced, perhaps not even the greatest female driver to have entered the sport, the Wisconsin-born lass is certainly an attraction for the media. This is what Ken Anderson, one half of the management team behind the USF1 project had to say on Patrick…
She’s great. She gets a lot of press. Tony George would probably be pretty mad with me if I took her out of the IRL but we’ll see. I don’t know if it’s something she wants to do. We’d certainly love to test her and go from there. Ken Anderson.
After Danica finally had the opportunity to lift a ridiculously large trophy on the top step of the podium last year, her name was being mentioned in association with HondaF1. At the time, the Brackley outfit stated that while no discussions had taken place, Honda would be happy for the Danica to test for them. Of course, since then Honda have withdrawn from the sport and the current set of available seats appear to be sewn up for the moment. Aside that is, from USF1.
So what about USF1? It was mentioned last week that the new team, should they actually make it as far as the grid in 2010, would like to showcase American talent. That however poses a bit of a problem. The last American to race in Formula One was Scott Speed, and he was fired (or left before he was fired) after an argument with the team’s management.
Aside from Speed though, who else is there? No one else on the IndyCar grid has any real Formula One experience*, and NASCAR appears to be the place where drivers who used to race in Formula One end up at the moment. While a racing driver is still a racing driver no matter where in the world you happen to be, turning up to a grand prix where both the pilots in your cars do not know the circuit is surely adding an unnecessary headache. Therefore, maybe Speed would be a good bet for one of the seats.
In the comments to my last post about USF1, Gman mentioned Jonathan Summerton, one of A1GP’s Team USA drivers. Summerton has a little more experience of Formula One circuits than many of his counterparts, having raced in the A1GP series and the Formula Three Euroseries. However, the experience garnered from these series is still somewhat limited and at the age of 21, the Florida-born racer is perhaps a little too young still. If you read on though, you may realise that Jonathan is perhaps a solution to USF1’s long term goal, assuming of course they have one.
So back to Ms Patrick… Danica would surely bring a lot of media attention to the team, and this could play very nicely into the hands of the team (and Formula One as a whole) when USF1 go looking for sponsorship money. Patrick would bring the novelty of a female racer to Formula One and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing a fresh face in the paddock when I tune in to watch a grand prix!
But does Patrick deserve the chance to race in Formula One? That’s the question, and I think if we base the answer purely on her results in IndyCar, well, it isn’t an immediate “yes!” for me. Team mate Tony Kanaan finished in third place overall in the two previous IRL IndyCar seasons, while Patrick only managed seventh and sixth in the same car.
For me, the real answer is for USF1 to realise that perhaps by limiting their choice of drivers to one nation only they are in fact considerably limit the results they can achieve. While I am sure that there are plenty of American drivers who could thrive in Formula One, there are also plenty of French, British, Australian [et al] drivers. By turning USF1 into a more grown up A1GP team is wrong for all sorts of reasons, and this is perhaps why I have grown to respect Vijay Mallya.
Although Mallya would undoubtedly love to see an Indian driver in one of his Force India cars, the man is also aware that right now, there is no real Indian talent worthy of a drive in Formula One. In time, maybe Vijay Mallya will able to realise his dream much in the way Ron Dennis did with Lewis Hamilton, nurturing and developing a driver from a young age. Perhaps this is the approach Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor should be taking with the squad.
The last time I wrote about Danica (at the time when the association with HondaF1 was first mooted), opinion was divided. Let’s see if it has changed at all…
What do you think? Do you believe that if given the chance Danica could shine in Formula One, or is the lass just a pinup for teenage petrolheads the world over?
*There is Justin Wilson, but he appears to be finding better luck Stateside at the moment.[poll id=”33″]