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.