Wednesday, February 17, 2010

USF1, Go Race or Bust

I have been quite interested in USF1 for a while. The First F1 team based in the USA, i hoped that it could garner an increase formula one audience where i live or at least give me a chance to veiw an F1 car in action but this sadly is not the case.

In february 2009, way before Lola,Campos-Meta(now HRT),Lotus or even the ever ready team of Pro-drive, Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson announced their intent in participating in the 2010 Formula one season. It would be American technology and American drivers going to conquer the world.It was promise, hope and change from America.With financial backers such as Chad Hurley(co-founder of Youtube), Truth be told, at that time USF1 was the best positioned privateer team.Mad Max(Max Mosley) had decreed that 2010 would bring a two tier system with the cheaper tier being subjected to as budget cap with a maximum of about 50 million( well in the price range of the new team) but given more technical freedom and the other tier being limitless in budget but limited in capabilities.For example there was to be more KERS power, AWD and unlimited revs allowed for lower tier teams but not for the more pricey category. As such it would be possible for privateer teams to compete with the big teams. With America in support partly due to Ken Windsor's influence through speed programming, It was quite a great opportunity for the team.
However the doubts about this team started appearing quite early. First of all there were huge logistical problems with setting up a team in America. This was the first team ever to try and be stationed outside Europe which is a monumental hurdle in itself. Current teams have a big problem even with circuits in Europe. Coordinating convoys with race equipment, spares and tools even for a top team is a huge task. When we start talking about non-European races, you have to think about designing cargo crates, we have to talk about renting planes etc. And even if they did have an office in Europe like they planned,it would not the same as being stationed there.

In any case,they had the opportunity to buy Honda, Toyota and they just refused for some obscure reasons. They would have been winning Titles like brawn did instead of closing shop.

There were also doubts about the technological capabilities of the team. The team released very little material on their actual operations. But with the little they released, it was easy to see that there was a certain lacklusterness that is uncharacteristic in other teams. I am no expert but what i saw was a renovated Nascar shop with some autoclaves and cnc machines. Their partners are mostly affiliated with Nascar and alot of their staff like star designer Eric Warren came from nascar and believe me there is a huge technological,Monetary, skill,environmental and mental gap netween Nascar and F1. For example in terms of money, top teams like ferrari and mclaren can spend in excess of a billion dollars in a season while a car in Nascar costs only 7 million.

"The irony of all this is that there has been precious little in the way of formal planning and documentation. No production schedules, simply very little in the way of planning."

With all these concerns, one starts to question if they really had the ability to participate in the season. Certainly if they had the money, they could have fielded a decent entry but did they really have such funds? The Two tier system was scrapped when FOTA finally stood up to Mad Max and his diabolical plans and even though some budget cuts were instituted, the cost associated with an entry would have almost doubled. This should have been a big blow but supposedly since usf1 had been planning its entry for a long time it wasn't phased, Mr. Anderson told his employees and the public that he had a long-term budget in place. However there were serious cash flow issues within the team according to sources, there were reports of late pay cheques, lack of resources,unhappy suppliers, employees leaving in droves e.t.c. In all this Mr. Anderson stuck to his story that sponsors, partners and team were just waiting for Bahrain.When he was pressured, he admitted to some monetary concerns but he said they were secondary issue. However it has recently come to light that the budget issues were there even last year in October and with partners like Locstein bailing, there was alot of doubt of them ever making it to the grid. Some say that the whole team was in essence an idea and some scratchwork that was announced in an effort to garner support to actually create the team and go to F1?

Mr. Anderson might have seemed to be a nice all American guy that everybody likes in public but many inside sources say his governing process within the team is authoritarian and destructive.This is part of an Exclusive Interview in a German gazette from an anonymous senior member of the team.

“But because of the stubbornness of one individual, USF1 will continue in limbo until it dies,” said a source on condition of anonymity. “It has no chance while Anderson is still here. And it’s shame, the team has really come together and there’s a sense of camaraderie throughout the organization barring one person. This will be the greatest disappointments of my career if that’s the way we go down. I think some soul searching needs to be happening in the front office. Falcon 2 this is being called.”

The problems in the team gained visibility in the public eye in about January when it emerged Chad Hurley had bailed out. Cutting all his association with the team, it was theorized that he was seeking an opportunity into F1 with HRT. Then Peter Windsor and Mr. Anderson came out and said that they might miss Bahrain and just go to Australia. Then after some time, they said that they would miss four races and just show up in Spain in may. By this time the FIA had gotten antsy and sent Charles whiting to inspect the usf1 entry. Nobody knew what he saw but it wasn't pleasant, some say that they didn't have the main tub of the car in any form, and most of the mills and other machines were still in shrink-wrap; but after his visit, it was all over. The factory closed and the employees were dismissed with Peter Windsor and Mr. Anderson dropping off the radar.The most recent activity to do with the team concerns The en-signed driver Jose Lopez who is now in a huge feud with the company. It is surprising that even when the team is under they still have the manpower to update the online profile, even though it is only to remove the references of the hopeful driver.

Now in the tabloids, we hear that Stefan GP is wishing to use USF1's slot to gain entry into F1.

Stefanovic hopes that once his AMCO company has completed its takeover, it will be granted US F1’s entry for 2010 and then can begin racing.

However, it is understood that in correspondence between Stefanovich and the FIA this week the governing body’s view on the matter is very different.

Although Stefanovic believes that in purchasing the US F1 assets he should get the team’s original entry, it is understood that the FIA has written to the team to explain that the American team forfeited the entry when it failed to start the season.

Furthermore, the FIA is poised to begin disciplinary action against US F1 for its failure to make the grid – which could theoretically result in Stefanovic’s company getting dragged into any penalties that are eventually handed down if he owns the American team.

With practice for australia going on tommorow, i can only imagine what the entry would have been like, But I guess i should not count them out, Mr. Anderson has announced the intention of his team on competing in next year's f1 season in the slot they left. I admit this is very unlikely since the FIA is so unhappy with usf1 that it is looking for any legal penalties it can impose. It is as this speed report says

In order to do so, they'd have to retain a workforce that largely blames the team's two principals - Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson - for misleading and mismanaging the team's entry, re-apply through a selection process which the FIA intends to re-open for next season, and face possibly penalties from its World Motor Sports Council.

But the saga will never end for usf1 unless it reaches the grid or completely goes bust.

P.s: Check out this F1 fanatic article on usf1 about a year ago, pretty much a letter to letter telling of what occured

1 comment:

  1. The only news i can hear about usf1 at the moment is the selling of the trailers on ebay. There was an article on jalopnik on the subject.