A US F1 Team – Is the Timing Right?



The quiet doldrums after the Daytona 24-Hour race leaves little entertainment for road racing fans. The Daytona 500 will gear up this week. Sebring, the start of the ALMS season in Melbourne and the start of the Grand Prix season, is still 6-weeks away. This is the season of speculation, of rumours and of innuendo and there is no better group for speculative gossip than Formula 1. Yes, the world’s most secretive and exclusive motor sport group can make an afternoon soap opera look like a documentary.

This week is no different, an announcement that an announcement may be coming. How definite is that? The new rumour is that there will be a US -based team in Formula 1 for 2010. They are calling themselves USF1. Allegedly headed by SPEED TV F1 broadcaster and ex-Williams team manager Peter Windsor and former F1 and Indy Car man Ken Anderson. Both men have the experience to run a Formula 1 team.

The story continues to say that the new team will make their home in the Charlotte NC area. Most of us consider this to be the home of NASCAR, Billy-Bob and Budweiser, and building sheet metal cars on heavy steel tubing to do battle every Sunday in America’s version of the gladiators. This is true, just North of Charlotte is the city of Mooresville NC, a little town that most NASCAR teams call home. We may consider this an unconventional location to house a sophisticated outfit such as an F1 team. It is the right location, however.

On the outside, NASCAR does appear to be populated with “Good Ol’ Boys” from the south, inside it is a very different story. Southern drawls, blend with the sarcastic wit of British accents. This is a serious business and some of the brightest minds in motor sport live here, qualified, motivated minds that have experience in many forms of motor sport from around the world. The difference between NASCAR and F1 is rules and scope, not talent. Where a Formula 1 team may employ 400+, a NASCAR team may employ 100, or less depending on their budget.

Mr. Anderson has a business in the Charlotte area. It is a state-of -the-art wind tunnel he rents to NASCAR teams and other local racing interests. It features a rolling road and can test full-size race cars to a maximum speed of 180 mph. It is the equal of any Formula 1 team’s private wind tunnel. This is another difference between NASCAR and F1, Nascar teams outsource much of their work. There is an infrastructure of third-party support in the Charlotte area.

Is this the right time to start a new Formula 1 team, 3000 miles from Europe? There may never be a better time. The USF1 folks are aiming to highlight American technology and talent. Recent changes in the F1 rules that limit testing and a growing percentage of events outside Europe; make locating a team  outside Europe less costly than it ever has been. With the economic down-turn and the subsequent reduction in NASCAR teams and employees, qualified workers will be available. I am sure that there are drivers in America that are up to the challenge of Formula 1.


The formal announcement for this venture is scheduled for March. Let us speculate on what their plans might be. The team will locate in the Charlotte region where they will design and possibly build the carbon-fibre chassis. They may outsource the composite work to an existing local facility. Engines will be badged by an American marque and be supplied by Cosworth from their California facility. Cosworth has a long and successful history of building engines for F1 as well as CART and IRL. The team will have a European base for testing and competition activities. This they may share with an existing race team from another series. It all makes logical sense and given the cost-cutting measures that the FIA is introducing for the near future, they may be able to operate with a budget in the 150-200 million dollar range, about half of what Toyota or Ferrari currently spend.

On the business front, it makes sense as well. Formula 1 is an excellent venue to promote globalization of corporations. US companies, seeking to expand their global presence , may find an American team more attractive than sponsoring a European outfit. I am sure that the F1 powers-to-be will be very receptive (read cooperative) to a team from the US. The US is the last frontier for Formula 1. They have worked hard to establish a presence in North America, and have yet to find the solution.

For the definite answer, we will have to wait for the formal announcement. In the meantime, all we can do is speculate. But that’s the fun part, right?


[F1 Live]