With the unfortunate demise of USF1 yesterday evening comes the question of the FIA’s selection process. Windsor and Anderson’s squad have been in preparation for well over a year now, five years if the quotes are to be believed. Yet the squad has failed as far as the 2010 world championship is concerned. This leaves the question, should a potential new team have to prove themselves in lower formulae before being allowed to join the ranks of the Formula One fraternity?
The flip-side of the argument is Campos Meta, another team hoping to join the ranks of McLaren and Ferrari in motor sport’s most prestigious formula. Campos Meta come from the European F3 Open Championship and formerly GP2, where success has been found. However, while not quite in the same predicament as USF1, Campos have struggled to get to the Bahrain grid – only time will ultimately tell. Conversely, Virgin Racing have been testing a car and have attracted drivers of calibre. Virgin do have substantial backing, and do come from a lower formulae outfit (Manor), and so we move on to Lotus…
The so-called fourth new team for 2010, Lotus do have roots in motor sport, but for the sake of argument, they are probably the most inexperienced squad of all four. While the name of the team carries weight and vast amounts of heritage, the squad is essentially new. And where credit is due, credit is given – Lotus are by far the most reliable squad to have tested in Spain this past month.
Going through the most recent new teams to Formula One, a startling fact is worth mentioning…
- Sauber – previously known as BMW
- Brawn – previously known as Honda.
- Force India – previously known as Spyker
- Spyker – previously known as Midland
- Midland – previously known as Jordan
- BMW – previously known as Sauber
- Scuderia Toro Rosso – previously known as Minardi
- Super Aguri – the last new team to enter Formula One (although they used Arrows’s facilities and Honda’s money)
- Red Bull Racing – previously known as Jaguar
- Honda – previously known as BAR
- Renault – previously known as Benetton
- Prost – previously known as Ligier
- BAR – previously known as Tyrrell
The point being that most Formula One teams have experience of running such an outfit before joining the world stage. Even Eddie Jordan and Jackie Stewart realised this when they decided to enter the piranha club, both being based around lower-formulae squads.
Which brings us back to the sad news of USF1 calling it quits on 2010 and the original question: should new teams to Formula One have previous experience in lower formulae before being granted permission to compete?[poll=”53″]
I voted “Yes”. While I agree in principle with the notion that a F1 team only needs quality management, staff and planning (plus money), I believe that the junior series are the best place to learn what is meant by the three non-bracketed items. Yes, quality management can come from outside motorsport (ask Flavio Briatore). Yes, quality staff can be poached from other teams or taken from the dole queue (ask pretty much any team ever). Yes, quality planning can be unorthodox (ask Jordan). However, a core base of people who understand how a racing team is supposed to work would be extremely beneficial to the running of a F1 team. Anyone (well, nearly anyone) can run a F1 team when everything is going well, but few can run a F1 team when the storms strike and darkness falls.
I believe this is why Campos will probably make it to Bahrain and USF1 won’t. When everything went wrong for Campos, Adrian knew the signs, looked for a solution and found one just in time. When considerably less went wrong for USF1, the management entered “headless chicken” mode and the consequences speak for themselves.
Always seems to me to be the basic issue of money. If you have it, or at least enough of it then the parts to the puzzle will somehow fall into place. Maybe USF1 might be viewed in a totally different light if enough money had been on the table. Somehow I think the USF1 situation was much more than money, something just seemed rather odd about all of it during the off season.
As for new teams the odds of success without somekind of previous racing experience pretty much makes the challenge sizeable. Can it be done or should it be done are two different kinds of questions with a world of variables that will ultimately affect the outcome.
I think the level of todays Grand Prix almost for certain requires previous experience.
A pile of money makes meer mortals believe anything is possible.