Hurley and Stefanovich in talks over US F1 and Stefan GP merger

US F1 shareholder Chad Hurley and Stefan GP boss Zoran Stefanovich are trying to put together a deal that will see their teams join forces and make it to the first race in Bahrain, sources have confirmed.

Hurley has given up on a possible deal with Colin Kolles and Campos to pursue the Stefan talks, and thus the logical scenario of a team with no car linking up with a team with no entry finally appears likely to unfold.

The FIA will in theory have no problem in allowing Stefan onto the Bahrain grid if such a deal takes place before the start of the season. It would also support a name change, although other F1 stakeholders would also have to agree.

Life will be much easier for the FIA and its new president Jean Todt if a merger does go ahead. The alternative scenario – the cancelling of the US F1 entry and a new bid process – would be far more complicated legally.

Meanwhile Jacques Villeneuve is on standby and will be willing to sign up as team mate to Kazuki Nakajima, should the team get an entry.

However we understand that US F1 founders Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor are not amenable to such a deal, and still wish to pursue their dream of fielding an American car. However, since Hurley owns a significant stake in the team – and has more funds to put in – he is presumably in the driving seat, and that may ultimately enable him to push the merger through.

In addition the visit of Charlie Whiting to Charlotte on Wednesday has given the FIA a clearer picture of what is going on there, and the governing body may now be in a position to force the issue and perhaps give Anderson and Windsor no alternative but to do a deal.

There could be more for Stefan GP to gain than just an entry. Stefan already has a base in Belgrade, Serbia and also has a foothold at the Toyota factory in Cologne. However the US F1 facility in Charlotte could still be of use as a manufacturing base. It may prove more economical to have parts made in the USA than by Toyota.

Ultimately there’s also a question of the 2011 car, which won’t necessarily be a Toyota product. US F1 also has access to the Windshear wind tunnel facility. If the Charlotte facilities are of use to Stefan then clearly jobs could be secure there.

Sources say that one Toyota/Stefan chassis is ready in Cologne, but the second is not yet complete, and a total lack of spares back-up will make the early races difficult, to say the least. Not surprisingly Stefan has not been in a hurry to encourage Toyota to build a lot of spares until the entry is confirmed.

The engine will not be badged as a Toyota, although the company will send a handful of fulltime staff members to races to support it. They are likely to be the only current Toyota employees to travel to the races with Stefan.

26 Comments

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26 responses to “Hurley and Stefanovich in talks over US F1 and Stefan GP merger

  1. F1 Kitteh

    Will it be renamed NATO F1 and the car called B3 ?

    • Joking aside, the renaming is going to be interesting. Stefan US F1? Serbo-US F1? When it looked like Hurley might go with Campos I did suggest ‘Latin American Racing’ to Colin Kolles, and he saw the funny side…

      • F1 Kitteh

        I guess it kind of make sense for Hurley to have a Latin American theme with the Hispanic population in US. As your analysis shows it would also work with Stefan given that USF1 already has the staff infrastructure (apparently) and the machinery (when its not making toasters..). Anyway it would be good to see an extra competitor on the grid and to have JV back. Maybe we need a additional category for seniors champion!!

      • Jonathan

        I still don’t get Hurley’s motivations at all. Why put money into any team which is gonna be far far off the pace. I thought the single motivation was for a US team, which is now not going to happen.
        If it were me, I’d be sponsoring Sauber…………

      • That’s a sound call – Sauber is a great chance for anyone (are you listening VW?). But I guess Chad a) still has some patriotic motivations and b) wants to salvage something from his investment in Charlotte.

      • Hairs

        Then Chad really should have kept a closer eye on the whole thing. USF1 were widely regarded as a joke entry on the day they were announced, and the unintentionally hilarious promotional videos didn’t help matters. It’s remarkable that it took this long for anyone associated with running the team to realise “Wait a minute, we need cars and mechanics to run this thing…..” Speaks volumes about management failures, just like Ross Brawn’s instant turnaround of the Honda team spoke volumes about the unsuitability of its previous managers.

      • Prisoner Monkeys

        I disagree with the notion that they were a joke entry. The anti-USF1 sentiment stemmed from a dislike of Americans in Formula 1 in general and Peter Windsor in particular.

  2. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Peter Windsor was a (hired/paid) mentor to Kazuki Nakajima in the last couple of years?

    Also, Kaz and JV would be sort of nice. At least one of them is from North America!! I’m not a fan of paid driver and it’s not like they’re getting anywhere on their own.

    • Very good point. Not sure of their exact relationship but I do know that Kazuki has been undertaking driver coaching with Rob Wilson, who works with Peter. With Montreal less than four months away you can be sure that Bernie will be very happy to have Jacques on the grid!

  3. Mike

    Would Ferrari ever consent with Coughlan being a part of Stefan GP? Or would they simply show him the door to get around that problem?

    • kristian

      If Stefan buys USF1’s entry or they merge Ferrari has no say. If FIA goes through another selection process once USF1 folds, then Ferrari also has no say as well. It’s only if special dispensation is being made (14th grid slot) and unanimous agreement is required from all teams would we see problems.

      • Hairs

        The whole point of the historical $40m bond new teams were required to put up was that the FIA and Bernie are very anti “entry speculation”. They don’t want F1 entries to be seen as something to be auctioned off to the highest bidder to make a short term profit. If there’s short term profit to be made anywhere in F1, Bernie’s going to make sure it’s all his. Buying into an existing team that has been running previously is a different scenario (massive losses racked up running an F1 team for a season will put off the most ardent speculator).

        Without seeing the provisions of the Concorde Agreement that USF1 have signed, it’s difficult to know what penalties are involved. I’m not convinced that the FIA will want the bad press of Coughlan back in the sport, particularly as it reinforces the idea that they’re toothless following the Briatore verdict. Equally, Ferrari will be livid (not for the first time), but they’ll also have McLaren quietly supporting them, as they’re hoping all that is now successfully swept under the carpet.

        Assuming that there is no requirement that the other teams need to be consulted over the merger, or sale of the entry, does the new entity need to re-sign the Concorde Agreement?

  4. Steve

    Would Ferrari have anything to say about Stefan’s entry if they indeed merge with USF1? The only thing they could really do would hold up a name change since USF1 already has an entry. At least that’s how it looks to me.

  5. F1 Outsider

    Chad Hurley was clearly taken for a ride and now needs to scramble to protect his sizeable investment. I watched his interview on Speed TV when it was announced he was an investor and it was obvious he was very naive about what it takes to run an F1 team.

    I may be wrong, but I just don’t see this arranged marriage between USF1 and Stefan GP working out over the long run. The cultural differences are just too great. Hurley might be better off just outright selling USF1’s entry to Stefan GP. As I see it, on one side you have the American who has spent a lot of money and wants the fastest way out while recovering as much money as he can. On the other side you have the Serbian who also has spent a lot of money but wants the fastest way in while spending as little money as he can.

    It all comes down why is Stefanovic so hell-bent on taking on this F1 venture. Is it just a rich boy’s hobby or is he making an investment in the way Genii Capital invested in Renault with an eye on future profits?

    There’s also the question of what kind of damage this whole USF1 experiment has done for F1 in the U.S. It’s a fact that for F1 to gain a firm footing in the US it needs two things: American drivers and backing from some American companies. Silicon Valley is one of the last places where companies are generous enough in these regards and Hurley’s troubled experience will surely make them think twice. Without an American F1 team on the grid, F1 will maintain a blind eye to American drivers.

  6. John

    I do not think this really reflects on the US, just like if a team fails somewhere else it does not reflect on that country. Some bad mistakes seem to have been made by possibly one person, maybe two.

    Adam – Stefan is just leasing the cars right? What future access will he really have to the factory? Could this merger actually work for him, saves him the need to build facilities. But whatever issues USF1 have with the management would need to be sorted or bought out. I think the team wants to work, just the problem (be it Ken Anderson at the end of all this) needs to take a step back and let someone who is better suited at running a team take over.

    If the problem is Ken, he can still be an owner, but would really just need to let the pro’s do the work and not stand in the way.

    This is going to be interesting to watch over the next few days, only a handful of days left until the containers need to be packed up for the first race.

    • Not sure of the technicalities of the deal. I believe he’ll lease the engines but the rest will be his, as he has acquired the IP. As I suggested in the story, Toyota is probably not a long term solution – they had a car ready to go and they might as well let someone have it since millions had been spent on development. Now TMG in Cologne is a profit centre that is looking for customers, and one can imagine that the charge for producing a 2011 F1 car from scratch would be something quite different. And in case it seems that just about everyone involved with the ‘TF110’ has gone. So Stefan would have to do something else…

      • Further to the discussion on the Autosport forum, the other guy misunderstood or ignored my – our – point. I have never said anything about Cologne being for sale, merely that TMG is looking for business. And the ‘freelance’ cost of designing and building a 2011 F1 car from scratch would be a lot more than they are charging Stefan for a car that that they had paid for and finished. I have talked to the people who would know. And that would certainly encourage Stefan to do something else for 2011, or at the very least base next year’s car on the 2010 chassis. But that strategy won’t last forever.

      • John

        His long-term plan has never really seemed stable.

        I did like his idea to run the cars for young drivers, but then again he would most likely still have an issue getting tyres. Ferrari can get them for the Clienti dept with their actual race entry, Stefan still lacks that.

        Interesting start to the year for sure, the racing is looking like it will be just as interesting as well!

  7. Adrian

    So, this the end of the dream of Jose Maria Lopez…

  8. I feel like the hybrid Stefan/USF1 team is kind of a fraud. The goal was to revive the American F1 market. The objective was not to fritter away a dot.com millionaire’s money, hire an Argentine driver, and then merge it with a Serbian latecomer at the eleventh hour. It is disappointing that neither the FIA nor Ecclestone has been behind the project. The fact remains that F1 has no presence in the US, one of the world’s largest markets, and USF1 would have helped the cause immeasurably. This is just a pathetic coda.

    • John

      Have to see what happens, what the details of the merger are etc.

      I think the problem is not with the factory workers, they wanted to/and still seem to want to be on the grid. Someone inside the team failed them, and that is sad.

      Hopefully Hurley can save that, even if it means a weird merger that might be less than ideal. Who knows, maybe both parties will work well together and be good for both markets. It is interesting, and will be interesting to see how this latest development works out.

    • Prisoner Monkeys

      “I feel like the hybrid Stefan/USF1 team is kind of a fraud. The goal was to revive the American F1 market. The objective was not to fritter away a dot.com millionaire’s money, hire an Argentine driver, and then merge it with a Serbian latecomer at the eleventh hour.”

      What was true a year ago is not necessariy true now. I don’t think it was ever a part of the plan to waste money and to sell to someone else. USF1’s problems have been mismanagement more than anything else. Fraud requires intent.

  9. All you folks are correct in your current evaluation of the status of the USF1 Team, and the Stefan Team.

    I hate to be the bearer of nasty news…

    Formula One does have a following in the United States of America, however, it is small.

    If Speed TV do not find it financially worthwhile to send Broadcasters to other parts of the world to give the American public first hand broadcasting, of all the Formula One events, then, the return on investment is not there.

    The inception of USF1 was a misguided marketing belief that there was enough Formula One interest in the United States for the business to be successful.

    As time ticked by, this delusion became obvious.

    It is not the venue ticket sales that dictate a successful business plan, it is the incurring revenue of the sport as a whole.

    Americans are all about NASCAR, Football, Basketball and Baseball.

    Canadians are all about Hockey.

    Europeans are all about Formula One and Soccer.

    Sorry folks, the United States is indeed a huge market, however, all their entertainment dollars, and interest, are spent in what they know. NASCAR, Football, and Baseball.

    There is just not enough interest, and money, to expand the idea that Formula One could get a foothold in this market, as big as it is.

    From a business perspective.

    By the way, the Toaster idea is weak.

    It is like building a better mouse trap.

    Not going to happen.

    • John

      It is a huge market for the teams, like Ferrari for example. Used to be for Toyota and BMW as well, but they both have other issues right now, even MB is going to run tight for a bit. But it is a huge market for MB. Audi is seeing really good strength in the US market, overtaking some of the other brands (personally I love our Audi so I am biased).

      With under a million viewers it is not a huge audience for sure, but it is still a really big market for F1. Additionally, many things are made in the US for the F1 cars – BBS, Brembo, etc. We did fill some grandstands as well!

      BTW: I miss CART! 😉

  10. Prisoner Monkeys

    I find it to be really quite rich of Windsor and Anderson to oppose a sale to Stefanovic on the basis that they don’t want the dream of an American team to die. They had their chance, and all they did was screw things up for themselves. They don’t have a hell of a lot of ground to stand on, because if Hurley goes to Stefan – even without USF1’s approval – then the team basically dies. They need Hurley more than Hurley needs them, and yet they stubbornly hold out as if they can somehow make the grid. I’m liking them less and less. Thank the stars I never got employed by them.

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