JUNE 9, 2005

The mysteries of Jordan

The Jordan team press release announcing the departure of Trevor Carlin from the role of sporting director failed to mention one small but rather significant point: Why is he leaving the team? There are obviously things that he can do with his other Carlin Motorsport operations but it is equally obvious that this is not the reason that Carlin is leaving.

He came to Jordan with the new owner Alex Shnaider, fulfilling a long-held ambition to be in charge of a Formula 1 team. Why would he give up such an opportunity? The team's press release quoted him as saying that "Alex Shnaider and managing director Colin Kolles have a very clear vision of where they want to take Midland F1 and the purchase of the Jordan Grand Prix team was the first step."

All very laudable, but if the unprepossessing pair have such clear vision, why is Carlin not sticking around to enjoy the fruits of their dreams? One might conclude that Carlin does not agree with the way the team is being run but clearly he is discreet enough not to say it out loud. This means that speculation is inevitable and from what we hear the problem was one of money and its effects on flexibility. The financial controls at the team are such that money is not being spent - as a string of unhappy suppliers have pointed out - and that means that progress cannot be made. The management of the team says that it is not going to pay every bill that turns up without first checking to see if it is real. This may sound like a sensible idea but it means that the team's future performance will be affected because now is the time that investment needs to be made.

To date there is not even an engine deal for 2006 and there are signs that Midland had the chance of a very reasonable deal with Ferrari but did not act on the opportunity, which allowed Red Bull Racing to get the engines. If team owner Alex Shnaider was serious about F1 he would have jumped at the chance of a deal with Ferrari and would have come up with the money. That means that either he does not have access to the money or that he missed the opportunity. Or that he has a better offer about which we have still to learn.

There are also rumours that the much-vaunted deal with Dallara has fallen out of bed and that the Jordan team will design the cars itself, with Dallara doing some of the composite work as a sub-contractor. This is not a stupid idea as there was much doubt in F1 circles that a company used to producing customer cars would be able to come up with a car with the edge needed to be competitive. But having Jordan build the cars will be more expensive and hiring new people to do an even better job will take both time and money.

Alex Shnaider came into Formula 1 with what seemed to be grand plans. Those dreams are looking a little threadbare at the moment. If Shnaider wants the stories to go away he must dig into his piggy-bank and come up with cash and get things moving in the right direction. Until he does that Formula 1 people are going to consider the enterprise to be either decidedly odd or considerably misguided.