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JUNE 25, 2010

USF1 fined for no show

Motor sport's governing body, the FIA, has found USF1 guilty of infringing the International Sporting Code by failing to take part in this year's F1 world championship, for which it registered and was accepted.

Under a new disciplinary procedure introduced at the start of the year, an initiative of new FIA president Jean Todt, USF1 has been fined 309,000 Euros, a sum equivalent to the entry fee for the championship, disqualified them from the right to take part in any competition and claimed costs for execution of the disciplinary procedure.

USF1, which was scheduled to be a fourth Cosworth-powered new team, claimed that its non-appearance constituted a case of force majeure, due to uncertainty over the budget caps initially proposed by the FIA as part of F1's future structure, and the delay in the signing of the 2009 Concorde Agreement. The team also claimed that commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone's public scepticism about the chances of the team making the grid had deterred sponsors.

USF1 was represented at the hearing by team principal Ken Anderson and lawyers, who confirmed that the team had asked for its entry to be suspended until 2011. It claimed that "the negotiation of the 2009 Concorde Agreement lasted several months longer than expected, affecting USF1's ability to timely design and build its cars and procure sufficient sponsorship."

The team also claimed that the new agreement "lacked the protection for smaller teams that USF1 had counted on, including a 'cost cap,' greater technical freedom, higher engine rpm, an adjustable front wing and increased testing opportunities."

The team claimed to have $26m of binding written sponsorship contracts as of late December '09 and that non-performance of these deals was partially due to negative public comment on the part of FOM.

The FIA, however, disputed this, claiming that only one of USF1's sponsorship agreements, for $8m, was actually binding. They also pointed out that Article 4.1 of the Concorde Agreement explicitly excludes lack of funds as grounds for force majeure, and that USF1 had signed the Concorde Agreement on July 31, which was after the events of which they had complained.

The governing body's decision declared: "The World Motor Sports Council did not consider events of 'force majeure' were established in this case as there were no compelling supervening events but instead this was about a lack of funds. Nor did they accept that statements from FOM [Formula One Management] had had any real material impact.

"Rather they considered that the team, whilst well-intentioned, had displayed poor financial management and had underestimated the requirement to present an F1 car for the 2010 season in the time and with the financial resources available to them.

"It was wholly unacceptable that the FIA was presented with only three weeks warning of the total non-appearance of the team at the Grand Prix in Bahrain and for the 2010 season, and WMSC members had real concerns about the impact on the championship, not least the deprivation of the opportunity for another team to have provided two cars to run in the championship in 2010 instead of US F1."