FEBRUARY 8, 2009

The American F1 team - rumours and possibilities

The suggestion last week that there could be a Formula 1 team on the grid from the United States of America in 2010 is a great idea. FIA President Max Mosley said that it is something that he would like to see but admitted that he thought it would be very hard for such a team to raise the budget in the current financial climate. He is, however, hopeful that if his cost-cutting ideas are adopted by the teams then there will be 12 teams on the grid in F1 in 2010. Mosley's plan is to have budgets of less than $65m per team. He believes that this can be achieved with cost-cutting of the current budgets and could be even lower if the teams would accept budget-capping. His goal is make F1 teams into profitbale businesses as he says this will guarantee that car manufacturers remain in the sport. If that were to become the case it is likely that all the small F1 teams would be pushed out of the sport by the car manufacturers wanting to take advantage of the situation as any business that turns a profit in the automotive sector at the moment is a bonus for the beleaguered industry.

In a perfect world there would be an American F1 team and there have been relatively elaborate stories about a base in Charlotte, North Carolina and a European offshoot near Bilbao. These ideas can all be traced to the principals in the project: Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor, both of whom have been trying to set up F1 teams, on and off, for the last 15 years. Anderson is a partner in the groundbreaking Windshear wind tunnel, which opened for business last autumn. This is the first commercially available, full-scale, single-belt, 180-mph rolling-road wind tunnel in the world. It was largely funded by money from Gene Haas, the owner of Haas Automation, who is also a partner in the Stewart Haas Racing NASCAR operation with Tony Stewart.

Our sources say that Haas is not involved in the F1 project.

The plan is to base the team (and build the cars) in Charlotte, with a European base at Epsilon Euskadi, in the town of Azkoitia, near Bilbao, in Spain. This is run by longtime F1 man Joan Villadelprat who worked for McLaren, Ferrari, Benetton, Tyrrell and Prost during his long F1 career. His chief engineer is Sergio Rinland, another F1 veteran, who worked with Windsor at Williams and Brabham. The team already has impressive manufacturing capabilities and build the Epsilon Euskadi ee1 LMP1 car in 2008.

In the current economic climate, it is tough for any team, even the mighty Ferrari, to raise money but the word from the US is that money is being raised to get the idea off the ground. There is no single source of this money but there is apparently enough for a launch to be planned for next month.