News broke last week that a new American based Formula One Team is planning to enter the World Championship in 2010. USF1 is yet to be formally launched but details are starting to emerge about the new outfit and their bid to tackle Grand Prix racing under the star spangled banner.
Most of the stories about USF1 at the moment are based on rumours because the only tangible thing currently attached to the team is a website and logo.
However, there are a few known quantities.
The team is being created by Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson who have both been heavily involved in motorsport their entire lives.
Peter Windsor acted as Team Manager for Williams during their early nineties heyday, and also had a similar role at Ferrari. These days he is best known for asking the official press conference questions having carved himself a career in journalism and TV commentary. Windsor has written at length in F1 Racing magazine about the sport’s failure to conquer the American market so already has strong ideas about how to make the team work stateside.
Ken Anderson is also no stranger to F1. He started off as a specialist in motocross suspension before applying his expertise to Indycars. He moved into Formula One with Ligier and advanced through the ranks to become Technical Director. He later assumed the same role at Onyx and is now part owner of a windtunnel in the USA which is regarded as one of the very best in the world.
Anderson and Windsor have already made contact with the FIA and their application for 2010 is believed to have been processed. Max Mosley said, â€œThey are serious people but they are the same as everyone else, they need the costs to come down if they are to be competitive. They are recommended by Nick Craw, our man in the States who knows a lot of people. You have to take it seriously.â€
The team will be based in North Carolina, something of a motorsport hub since many ALMS and NASCAR operations are located nearby. They will source most, if not all, of their suppliers and sponsors from the USA and will also field two local drivers.
There has not been any formal confirmation of the team’s intentions but there is no shortage of speculation.
One rumour is that the team will be sponsored by Heinz, and will run Ferrari engines badged as Alfa Romeos. Another rumour suggests a film crew will permanently follow USF1 everywhere to create a TV series and movie based on their progress.
There are also plenty of opinions about who should form the driving line up. The likes of Scott Speed, Marco Andretti, and Jonathon Summerton have been mentioned and any American driver with some international pedigree can be excused for getting a little excited.
A formal announcement is expected on Windsor’s Speed TV network in late February and then everyone will have a better idea of what USF1 is all about.
Until then we’ll just have to wait with baited breath.
Stories about budding American teams entering Formula One are nothing new and a lot of people expected Red Bull to create one after they bought Jaguar in 2004, and again in 2005 when they bought Minardi. It’s easy to understand why.
America is the world’s largest consumer market and is a wealthy technically advanced society so there is plenty of opportunity to generate revenue. The country has a rich heritage in motorsport so it isn’t like trying to break into a new region like Abu Dhabi or Korea, and Americans are also very patriotic so the idea of their own team is bound to drum up plenty of support.
There is massive potential for a US national team to flourish if it’s done right.
NASCAR is a great example of how to make motorsport work in the USA. The oval based series is popular in America because it is presented very well to a broad audience. NASCAR is essentially a brand, not a racing series, and uses the power of mass marketing and television to great effect.
Formula One creates a more exciting global product than NASCAR so if it was given the same style of attention it might work really well.
This will largely be the motivation behind USF1.
The door of opportunity may be open to Anderson and Windsor but history is not on their side.
There have been three Grand Prix teams born in the USA and all of them were shut down within a few years of operation.
Dan Gurney’s Anglo American Racers was the first of them.
The popular Grand Prix winner set up All American Racers in the early sixties primarily to build sportscars in the USA whilst he focussed on driving in Europe. He struck up a relationship with an ex-Lotus designer and together they built a car for the 1966 Indianapolis 500. Their creation was dubbed the Eagle T1G and the chassis was purposely constructed in such a way that it could be used for Grand Prix racing as well.
Gurney named the F1 arm of his organisation Anglo American Racers and drove the team’s only car throughout the 1966 season. He managed to score four points but real success was to come in 1967 when he took a surprise win at the Belgian Grand Prix. It remains the only time in Formula One history that an American driver has won a race in an American car.
A host of contenders including Richie Ginther and Bruce McLaren raced a second Eagle for the team in 1967, but results were thin on the ground and Gurney was back on his own again the following year. He was running out of money and soon ended up switching his attentions back to the Indycar series where All American Racers was proving quite successful.
The demise of Gurney’s squad was unfortunate, especially given the high level of innovation the team displayed in its short lifespan, but at least he fared better than Parnelli.
Vel’s Parnelli Jones Racing entered Formula One in 1974 with the help of tyre company Firestone. They had been highly competitive in Indycars so got together some F1 personnel to design and build a machine for Mario Andretti.
They only made it to a few races in their debut season but geared up for a full challenge in 1975. Sadly they never got into full swing because Firestone withdrew their support and left the team without the funding they required. They had enough cash to finish the year but folded just three Grands Prix into 1976.
Andretti only learnt that Parnelli was going bust when a journalist told him about it after the team’s last race, which suggests the organisation and honesty of the management was not exactly great.
Just like All American Racers, Parnelli returned to the USA where good results were easier to come by.
The last American team to contest a Grand Prix was the outfit that should have been the most successful. Penske has won in NASCAR, Indycar, Sportscars, and in 1975 they had a crack at Formula One as well.
Penske had previously run cars with other teams and raced with their own machinery at the very end of 1974, but 1975 was to be their first big season as a standalone constructor. Unfortunately the car was a dud and had to be replaced midyear by a March customer chassis. This was the least of their concerns because lead driver, Mark Donohue, died from injuries he sustained in a crash during practice for the Austrian Grand Prix. Penske withdrew from most of the remaining events.
In 1976 the team built a much better car and it developed into a podium challenger. At the Austrian Grand Prix, twelve months after the Donohue tragedy, John Watson drove brilliantly to score a remarkable breakthrough victory.
Despite this promising result the F1 team was costing Penske too much money so they continued the trend of US hopefuls returning to Indy. It was a shame that F1 was unable to benefit from their presence because Penske has since become one of the biggest names in all of motorsport.
It would also be a shame if Formula One failed to benefit from the presence of USF1.
First of all we’ll have to wait to see if the rumours turn into facts.