The end of the road for US F1

It was all smiles when Peter Windsor and Jose Maria Lopez posed with Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, on January 25

The twin sagas of the US F1 and Campos Meta teams have been dragging on for months now, and with FIA technical checks due to take place in Bahrain just three weeks from Thursday, matters have finally reached a head.

A source close to the US F1 team has confirmed what we have all suspected for some time, namely that there is no money, the outfit is nowhere close to being ready for the start of the season, and that it has neither complete cars nor engines.

Peter Windsor gave the bad news to Jose Maria Lopez, his father and his manager/advisor Felipe McGough this week. Lopez is already in Europe trying to salvage a seat with the help of Bernie Ecclestone. As Argentina’s F1 TV producer, McGough is well connected, and knows Ecclestone well.

It’s a complex situation, and Bernie is juggling a lot of balls in the air as he tries to ensure that both Campos and Stefan GP make it to Bahrain in some form or another.

Last week at least three potential saviours were in contact with Dallara about taking over the car designed for Campos. They included none other than US F1 investor Chad Hurley, who apparently realised last week that the game was up, and decided to explore other avenues. He sent close associate Parris Mullins – with former Red Bull man Gunther Steiner acting in an advisory role – to check out the Dallara project. The car is nearly complete and is said to have potential, although obviously work has been on hold of late.

The Campos Meta team, now led by original investor Jose Ramon Carabante, has since confirmed that it still wants the Dallara, and Hurley and other potential customers have been thanked for their interest. It seems that Hurley is still in the frame, and there remains a scenario where both he and Lopez could get involved with the Campos Meta project.

However, sources suggest that although he sees some value in Grand Prix racing Hurley may be so disenchanted after the US F1 debacle that he’s not sure he wants to pursue it. “I think he doesn’t know what to do,” says one insider. Logic suggests that his money might be better spent on a more established outfit, and no doubt several are already chasing him.

Meanwhile Stefan GP is waiting in the wings, and the team could yet find its way onto the grid in Bahrain. Two complete cars are in Cologne, awaiting possible shipment to the Middle East, and Kazuki Nakajima has been busy in the Toyota simulator. A test is planned for Portugal later this month, but there are question marks about whether Bridgestone is willing co-operate with the team, unless it becomes a bona fide entry.

While everyone would agree that having 12 or even 13 teams on the grid would be good for the sport – that is after all why the FIA launched its campaign to bring in more entries – the problem now is that if either one or both of the Campos and Stefan teams is to make it to Bahrain, everything is going to have to happen way too fast, and with either insufficient testing, or none at all. It could all be very embarassing for F1, and the FIA will be keen to see that things are done properly.

There’s one matter that should not be overlooked. With due respect to car builders Dallara and Toyota, the circumstances may also compromise safety – and no doubt both companies are well aware that their reputations could be at stake.

8 Comments

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8 responses to “The end of the road for US F1

  1. This is interesting, i actually read something similar to this yesterday evening on a blog about Chad people being at dallara…

    My Only question is this, one has to question Max and FIA “due process” because lola didnt make it and MB openly said he had the £40mil needed to fund th project… where has all Campos meta money gone… also epsilon had similar statements.

    USf1 are an embarrisment… plan and simple – when you cant even knock up a blog for a website is a poorshow!!

  2. bill windham

    Is this really a surprise? I’ve spent nearly my entire life in the racing business and the carpetbagging that went on in this deal was second to none. All the pomp and circumstance, really, did anyone believe the promoters of the “falcon” project of Indy car could pull this off. I knew it was phoney when I sent 15 requests to their web site regarding employment info and never received a single response. These guys should be put in jail for fraud!

  3. Steve

    After reading anything and everything about this, I’m asking myself if this indeed has been a scam??? To me, when u watched the videos on Youtube and such it was if it was “propped up” with tiny workstations with computers and such. Now, I’m not saying there was zero going on, but when interviewed the workers body language almost told the story. It was as if they knew this was going nowhere. Anyone else notice this???

    • Jonathan

      I totally noticed that also. It was very embarrassing to watch. Bob Varsha looked very uncomfortable too.
      I feel very bad for Peter Windsor, as he is one of the most respected journo’s out there. Will he be seen in the paddock again?

      • Steve

        I figured I wasn’t the only one. The entire clips seemed awkward, including Varsha. I’m sure many of the top involved can walk away with a nice chunk of cash when everything folds, I assume. I mean, return the equipment, hand the keys to the building back, and keep whatever money is still there. You would think there’s still some sponsor money. Maybe this is why they are procrastinating….keep what $$ you do have left;no point in spending development money that’s all for nothing.

  4. I’ll be delighted to read Peter’s scholarly articles again if he does decide to give up.

  5. Craig

    I am really shocked that so many informed and intelligent people didn’t see through this “USF1″ SCAM some time ago.
    Yes…SCAM… fits nicely. Peter Windsor knows at least as much as the next dork what goes on in a proper F1 operation. Don’t try to convince me that he ever REALLY thought he was going racing at that level. If he did, his detachment from reality was clinical and dangerous and he should be seen by professionals (real professionals like Peter Sauber or Frank Williams)

    These guys stole opportunity from real efforts that might have otherwise materialized, credibility from the whole concept of America in F1, and maybe money from sponsors, drivers, vendors and investors (who all should have known better if they were a bit more Zen and a bit less “hopeful”).

    The good thing is that we surely never have to listen to Peters smug pitlane interviews that never exposed more than his resentment/jealousy towards the real stars of the sport.

    You folks who silently participated in this “ruse” (intentionally or otherwise) by NOT erupting into belly laughs when “investigating” or “reporting on” the “operation” in Charlotte will have their chance to explain themselves. Do you have a clue….or do you DON’t have a clue?

    Steve Matchett and Bob Varsha (others)…..c’mon guys. You have both been to McLaren International. How could you walk into that community college computer lab and NOT say “wait a minute old pal, something smells funny”. Those CNC mills were marketing tools….not production tools. How is it possible for you to see what was being passed off as an F1 effort and not be a little skeptical at least (or just start slapping your knees and pointing your fingers as if Windsor announced Oprah as a candidate for a race seat…he might as well have).
    I understand there were lots of good folks who saw this through rose colored visors. The drivers, fans, many of the employees surely wanted this to be real so badly that they “parked” their intuition.

    Lesson Learned?

  6. Steve

    Learned. Community college computer lab analogy was spot-on. It just didn’t look right. I want answers from Bob Varsha, he must have known….it reminded me of the movie The Grifters with John Cusak…remember that? They had a fake office to milk rich oil men for money…everybody “working” was a part of the scam and the one oil guy wanted to “look around” and they had to stop him. Whole thing just plain stinks at this point. And to hide, not return calls/emails like these 2 are doing is just plain immature. Not professional IMHO.

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