USF1 circling the drain UPDATE #12 SPEEDtv.com reports that the struggling start-up USF1 Formula 1 team has formally petitioned the FIA to defer the team's entry into the sport until 2011.
Team principals Ken Anderson and Chad Hurley have offered to post a “substantial, seven-figure” surety bond as proof of their intentions to race next year.
02/24/10 The FIA's Formula One race director and technical-department head, Charlie Whiting, is believed to be visiting U.S. F1's facility in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday to sift through various rumors and reports to determine the team's state of development. Sources said Whiting flew to the United States on Tuesday and arrived at the Charlotte factory on Wednesday morning. AutoWeek
02/24/10 (GMM) News about USF1's crumbling formula one team is heading from bad to worse. It already emerged on Wednesday that, with the American team admitting it is not ready for Bahrain, its lead investor Chad Hurley and well-financed driver Jose Maria Lopez are in serious talks about switching to Campos.
Locstein Group AG, a Geneva based global financial services firm, has now confirmed it will not sponsor the Charlotte based outfit.
"Locstein did engage USF1 regarding sponsorship, but when it was apparent that the team was not able to participate in the entire 2010 season, Locstein elected to withdraw from further involvement with USF1," the company said in a statement.
Another definite departure from USF1 is Brian Bonner, formerly the head of business development.
"USF1 is breaking apart because (team principal) Ken (Anderson) is not able to manage such a project," an anonymous insider who works for the team said in an exclusive interview with Germany's motorsport-total.com.
The insider revealed that ten of USF1's staff have now left the team because they doubt they will be paid as scheduled on Friday, while about 60 remain.
"We hear that sponsor funds could emerge if Ken Anderson goes," he added, also revealing that sporting director Peter Windsor was "rarely at the factory" throughout its development.
Anderson responded by saying the insider's views are "one-sided", while Windsor declined to comment.02/22/10 Remaining options for USF1:
- obtaining a finished car, such as that built by Dallara for cash-strapped Campos
- merging with another team
- continuing development on own car but facing FIA penalties for missing races
- withdrawing entry completely and reapplying for 2011
Furthermore, Nick Craw - President of the FIA Senate - explained to the American broadcaster that the team has thus far only asked for confirmation of the race-skipping rules, which state that three Grands Prix can be forfeited in exchange for resultant penalties. GPUpdate.net
02/21/10 I hear from Charlotte that the principal players of the USF1 operation met on Friday for a strategy meeting to discuss what to do about the options available for the future. The car is not finished. There is not enough time nor money to get it done and Chad Hurley, of Youtube fame, has apparently decided not to put any more money into the operation. There is no additional money coming from any other sources at the moment and while the principals continue to dream that money will turn up at the last moment and save the day, this is increasingly unlikely as other bids aimed at saving the situation have been deemed unacceptable. I do not know any details about the offers that have been made but apparently they were not good enough.
This does not really change the future. There are still staff members in Charlotte but it seems that they are simply waiting until the end of the month to see if they will be paid. After that it looks like the whole operation is going to break up. The obvious course of action now is for Hurley and the partners to agree to a deal by which the entry is sold to Stefan GP. If Hurley is to get any thing back from his sizable investment in the team, he will need to ask for equity in Stefan, which is a sensible goal given that Stefan goes nowhere without an entry and there is no reason why the FIA will issue a new entry at this stage of the game. It would create a very bad precedent for the future.
Thus we expect to see any negotiations in the coming days centered on transferring the entry, and perhaps Jose Maria Lopez's contract (if it is deemed to still be valid) to Stefan GP. The Serbian team would enter the sport with the USF1 name, but this could be changed by a meeting for the Formula 1 Commission after a few weeks. That all depends on whether a deal is possible. If it is not then both teams will flop. Such a thing would be illogical, but if there is pride involved anything can happen. Joe Saward
02/19/10 (GMM) A slight sign of life emerged from USF1 late on Thursday, after waves of reports suggested the new American outfit was set to fizzle before ever turning a wheel.
Amid reports that YouTube's Chad Hurley and Argentine driver Jose Maria Lopez were jumping ship to Campos, the team's official website also went off the air.
"The web server is down and is being repaired as this is written," said USF1 on Friday night. "We are not gone, as many have reported."
The Charlotte based team promised to provide more information "soon".
Following reports that Lopez had been told by a tearful Peter Windsor that USF1 was on its last legs, it then emerged that his management team was busily making other arrangements for 2010 with a series of London meetings.
"We would like to inform that yesterday, Jose Maria Lopez Sr, together with (managers) Felipe McGough and Victor Rosso, visited USF1 headquarters in Charlotte to be in contact with the team's directors," read a statement.
Lopez's entourage said they left the US "with a clear understanding of the team's current situation" en route to London.
"Arrangements were (then) made to have different meetings; one of them with the managers of the FOM (Formula One Management) whose president is Bernie Ecclestone. The result of the meeting has been positive," said the Lopez statement.
Representatives of the Argentine government then made clear to the Clarin newspaper that they have not yet made any payments to USF1.
Moreover, in a Europa Press report, the manager of the Motorland Aragon facility - USF1's European base - said he did not know if USF1 was continuing with its plans.
And former grand prix driver Jos Verstappen wrote in his Telegraaf column: "If they (USF1) get to Bahrain with two cars, they are so far behind that the world should expect nothing of them."
02/18/10 According to newspaper reports in Argentina, the team’s Peter Windsor has informed Jose Maria Lopez’s management and father that the team will not be able to meet their immediate goals, and will miss the first three races, and probably the entire championship.
02/18/10 As rumored here first on AR1.com weeks ago, according to increasingly widespread reports, sources and rumors, the American entrant USF1 is nearing the end of the line. The largest metropolitan newspaper in the United States, the New York Times, says the Charlotte based team is "plagued by financial troubles".
Team principal Ken Anderson is quoted as saying earlier this month that "a couple (of) sponsors have let us down a little bit, but we're on track".
However, official crash testing for the car in England this week has been called off, as have pre-booked press interviews, and no testing for the 'Type 1' is "scheduled or planned", the newspaper added.
"The bottom line is really simple: sponsor money didn't come through the way it was supposed to and it has grinded down the company to a halt," said an anonymous insider.
"They're having trouble making payroll, they're having trouble paying suppliers and that's the situation they find themselves in," he added.
Anderson and Peter Windsor, the team's British sporting director, declined to comment.
It means rumors have flourished that USF1's backer Chad Hurley, the CEO of YouTube, has been in talks to move his money to another team, such as Campos.
Argentine reports say a tearful Windsor this week informed Jose Maria Lopez, the team's only confirmed race driver, that the project is in trouble.
Instead, like Hurley, 26-year-old Lopez's management has turned its attention to other F1 teams.
A source close to Lopez told La Voz del Interior: "Maybe this is for the best and 'Pechito' (Lopez) ends in a car running better than the USF1."02/17/10 A bottle of Champagne sits in an otherwise empty trophy case that greets visitors in the lobby of the new USF1 headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. It is a gift for the team founders, Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor, to be opened March 14, when the first Formula One team based in the United States since the 1970s lines up on the starting grid in Bahrain for the opening race of the season.
But it may be awhile before that cork is popped, if at all.
USF1 is plagued by financial troubles, and even Bernie Ecclestone, the chief executive of Formula One Management, expressed skepticism about the team’s future.
“I don’t think we will see the Americans,” he told The Express, a British newspaper, this month.
Anderson and Windsor, who announced the formation of the team in February 2009, insist they will be at the Bahrain race.
“It’s always a struggle for new teams, any new business,” Anderson, an engineer who has worked in the IndyCar Series and Formula One in 30 years in motorsports, said in his office at USF1 headquarters in early February. “Yeah, a couple sponsors have let us down a little bit, but we’re on track.
“It’s not an option not to be there.”
But the team still does not have a fully built racecar and will not participate in a crash test in England that had been planned this week. Although Jose Maria Lopez of Argentina, who is signed to drive for USF1, said the car would be tested in Alabama at the end of February, no test is scheduled or planned.
“The bottom line is really simple: Sponsor money didn’t come through the way it was supposed to and it has grinded down the company to a halt,” said a person with knowledge of the problems facing USF1, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They’re having trouble making payroll, they’re having trouble paying suppliers and that’s the situation they find themselves in.” More at NY Times02/17/10 (GMM) A key member of the new American entrant USF1 is believed to have left the team. Brian Bonner, the team's head of business development, is no longer working with USF1, amid rumors the YouTube founder and CEO Chad Hurley has ceased his backing of the Charlotte based operation.
Bonner, 50, is a former IndyCar driver, and now co-director of the B4 Marketing company.
Another rumor is that Hurley could be interested in joining forces with Campos, the other embattled new F1 team, with the hopeful Serbian outfit Stefan GP also possibly involved.
At the same time, there are rumors that some other USF1 team members are growing impatient at delays in being paid.
Meanwhile, it is true that USF1's Charlotte headquarters is for sale, but the team is in fact a sitting tenant, with a lease through 2014.02/09/10 Rumors persist about USF1's demise. It seems that the tub the team showed off late last year, may have been merely a mock-up. Apparently, there is no completed production tub, and therefore nothing has been crash tested yet, which is probably the basis for Ecclestone's public doubts about the team answering the bell at the first race.
Missing payroll and having no car certainly makes it look doubtful that this team will make the grid.
Chad Hurley, founder of the now Google owned YouTube, is reportedly unimpressed with the current team management, and is not willing to shell out more funding until they can show they are worth the investment. Apparently the senior management's contract includes progress clauses that would allow for their (forced) departure.
There are reportedly backup plans being made, but the current team is being given the chance to produce.
02/05/10 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the USF1 team has failed to meet payroll for it's employees. Unconfirmed reports say some of the staff have already started looking elsewhere for work.
And leave it to Peter Windsor to spin it into a good story. "We're still in exactly the same mode - flat out," he told Autosport. "Bahrain is the goal - and we are not thinking of anything else. It is just amazing to see the hours and time that everyone is putting in.
"We had a slight bump in the road with a sponsor who was late on payment, but that is typical of what can happen to any new team. We've moved on from that and found a replacement.
"The car is quite late because we put a massive amount of development time into it. We are taking our time and as a team we are confident we are on the right track.
"As soon as we are through the crash tests, we will be doing a shakedown and going to Bahrain.
"We will be in Bahrain. We may not be pretty, but we will be there. And from there we will grow. This is all about belief, passion and people being committed to a very good cause."
So no testing and 2 rookie drivers.......hmmmm!
02/04/10 Rumor has it that USF1 has yet to book a date to test at Barber Motorsports Park and the track's calendar is just about all filled up. They are looking at lunchtime during the IRL open test at this point according to the rumor. If true, you wonder why the predictions this team will be stillborn? The established F1 teams are already testing their new cars, but it is true most of the new teams have yet to test.