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?