Anderson, Windsor block US F1/Stefan GP merger

Some more cars that might struggle to make the Bahrain grid

Zoran Stefanovich has told the German media that negotiations between Stefan GP and US F1 have broken down, which goes some way to explain why his website launched an amazing rant against the American team on Friday night.

As we reported yesterday, Chad Hurley wants to do a deal to safeguard his investment, but Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor have refused to play ball. One assumes that they all now risk being left with a heap of nothing if – as is entirely possible – the FIA goes ahead and cancels the team’s entry next week.

A deal would seem to have been the most obvious way for Stefan and US F1 to make the grid in Bahrain, although clearly to make it work there would have to be serious compromises on both sides.

Yesterday a source who has been in close contact with both camps in recent months confirmed that discussions had been ongoing.

“There is stuff going on between Stefan and US F1,” he told me. “Whether it happens or not… It’s quite complicated. I think you’ll find at the moment that the likes of Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor are trying to block it. That seems to be the stumbling block. If that was clear I think you’ll find that Chad Hurley would reach an agreement with Stefan almost immediately. You don’t know what Anderson and Windsor are telling Chad. They are the guys who are preventing anything from going forward.”

He confirmed that it was not impossible that the Charlotte facility could still have a future use in any Stefan/US F1 link-up. As noted yesterday, a move away from relying totally on Toyota in Cologne could have made sense for Stefan, not least because TMG is not going to design and build a 2011 car for a bargain price.

“That could well happen,” said my source. “It’s all a bit hypothetical at the moment. I think the American base would stay and be used for some things. They’ve got huge manufacturing capability. They’ve got the latest Haas CNC machines. They have got limited composite facilities – they’ve got a small autoclave, not a big one – but it could do stuff, for sure. The one thing that impressed me about US F1 is the resources they’ve got around and about where they are, and which are untapped compared to European suppliers, so to speak.”

It seems that Anderson and Windsor have prevented that from happening.

The next move is probably in the hands of the FIA. Charlie Whiting’s report from Charlotte has by now been digested in Paris. Will the US F1 entry be cancelled on the basis of that report confirming that there’s no tangible evidence of a car – and if the entry process is re-opened, will it be for 2010 or 2011?

In last night’s website rant Stefan said: “If case we don’t receive the chance to compete in Bahrain, and also when some of the teams fail to show up, somebody should be in a trouble explaining what is happen to all of us.”

Allowing for some dodgy grammar, that was a clear dig at the FIA. We now know why Stefanovich had a go at US F1. So has he already heard from the FIA that there won’t be an open spot for 2010, even if US F1 fails?

If he hasn’t been told that, he may well have shot himself in the foot, and that rant won’t have helped his cause.

Meanwhile when I spoke to him yesterday Jacques Villeneuve seemed to be as eager as the rest of us to find out what was going on. He’s continuing his training regime in Austria this weekend with long time physio Erwin Gollner, so he’s ready to rock if the thing goes ahead.

 Roll on Monday…

26 Comments

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26 responses to “Anderson, Windsor block US F1/Stefan GP merger

  1. Greig

    If Windsor and Anderson are blocking any move then it just seems as if it is out of pure spite, because THEY failed to make a go of USF1.

    It makes sense to merge and not just as a short-term solution. If the facilities at Charlotte are pretty good, it could be used as you say in the future for design and build. It would at least secure a number of jobs.

  2. John

    What a mess – Ken and Petter swallow your pride and let Chad save the day.

    With Stefan you at least get to take part in the sport, and then possibly build the car or part for 2011.

    As it stands now, it be could be court rooms where the racing takes place… Unless you have some magic up your sleeves and you crash tested the Type-1 with the FIA, and they are being assembled as all this goes around???

  3. F1 Kitteh

    Besides the machinery, they must also have some really good stuff that Ken and Peter is smoking.

  4. Sniffer

    This is at the level of almost bringing the sport in to disrepute now! Well it would be if anyone really cared.

    What must Lola and Prodrive be thinking? They surely would have had a better proposition wouldn’t they? People like Windsor, for all his experience, must surely know what the very least in terms of preparation you must have to get on the grid? It seems remarkable that just a few weeks ago they were signing a driver with the intent on being on the grid at Bahrain. Shoddy is the only word that comes to mind right now.

  5. Ben Stewart

    Adam,

    Do you know where USF1 got to with their design? Was there ever a final design in the computer? Are they behind in everything equally or is it for example the gearbox they elected to make which is holding them up? Could there actually be a car in 4 races time, or is that just total BS from them? I’m really fascinated to know the inside story. I guess we will have to wait till all the people employed there are laid off, then we can get the story from them.

    • That’s a really good question. We know they were making bits and we assume that there was a definitive design, but they were far from having a complete chassis, never mind a running car. I guess the real story will eventually come out…

  6. Nicko

    The new F1 teams germinated with a vision of restricted-budget racing. This was torpedoed by the establishment (ciao Maranello!), forcing them to either improvise their business model or die.

    Anderson and Windsor have the experience and vision to get a competent F1 team up and running, but are unable to convince that a limited investment has a chance of decent return. With 26 cars in the field you’re not going to get your sponsor logos on TV much unless you’re in front, especially on US television, where F1 will have minute audiences until there’s American success to celebrate.

    This chokes USF1 of funds that’ll let them buy in the expertise and manpower to get the job done. A big cash injection could well get this show running, but it’s hard to see where this’ll come from. Perhaps cash-rich Asia might be interested in a more neutrally-named team.

    Stefan GP don’t look ready to play the long game. It’s hard to see the team as being more than the dream of one person. Their PR is awful – execrable English language, no expressions of commercial vision, no weighty sponsors, peevish one-upmanship. It’ll surprise many if they last longer than Midland, Spyker and many more.

    • Thanks, you make some really good points and argue them very well. The only thing I would say is that while it’s true that the new teams were offered incentives by the FIA – only to have the goalposts moved – US F1 always made it clear that their plans had been underway for some time, and that the performance breaks and so on were a bonus. To be fair though the uncertainty last summer didn’t help any of the new teams.

  7. dans

    By all accounts, if they dont turn up for the first race, they will be breach of contract and could be stripped of their entry.

    If that happens, it will go up for tender for 2011 and i cant see Stefan or Peter getting a look in again. I would guess it would go to Dave given he has the Aston brand and money to play with.

    • If there is a new bid process in April or May or whatever it will be fascinating to see who shows up. A lot of potential investors will have seen how hard it was for Campos and US F1, and how hard Virgin and Lotus have worked to be hanging on at the back of the grid. It’s not as easy as ‘compact private team’ Brawn made it look last year. It might not be a very long list this time…

  8. melonfarmer

    Dick and Mutley look like they’re on board the Delta Wing IRL car…

  9. melonfarmer

    …if the US’s most promising young driver, Graham Rahal, can’t find the $$$ to run in the IRL, it’s no wonder no one is interested in US F1. Open wheel racing is dying a long, painful death in the US.

  10. jim

    Depending on how far along the car is, I can see how Anderson and Windsor would want to see this project through. If I understand correctly, if they can block Hurley from selling out, then the only way Hurley can see a return on his $$$ is to sell his stake in the team to someone else (doubtful), or fund USF1 to get a car on the grid.

  11. Prisoner Monkeys

    I think there’s still a hope for Stefan. Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor might be stubbornly holding onto their entry, but they were five days late paying their staff last time. If they’re late again, I can’t imagine too may would stick around. After all, they probably have families to support. They certainly have to support themselves. So if USF1 is late again, the staff will walk. Then USF1 will have no money, no car, no sponsors, and even if they somehow find it within them to build car, they will have no staff. And they’ll probably be black-listed: given that they’ve fallen so far behind, that they’ve been totally mis-managed and that the whistle-blower pointed out that it took a very dramatic example to shake them out of apathy, I don’t think anyone is going to want to work for USF1. Their entry will be little more than a sheet of paper, if it isn’t one already. Whatever slim baragaining power they have right now is going to go up in smoke very shortly.

    It’s my understanding that Windsor and Anderson are holding out because they don’t want to see their deam die. But based on what we’ve already seen, it’s already dead in the water. They just haven’t realised it yet. Nicolae Ceausescu would have been a better team principal – and when he went out into the world, he used to send people ahead of him to paint the leaves on trees green. By the end of his rule, he had totally lost his grip on reality. Sound like anyone we know?

  12. Benny Wong

    I want to say F1 hasn’t got a 100% new team for a long time. What’s the last time we have these so-called 100% new teams like Virgin / Lotus?

    Force India originates from Jordan. Toro Rosso from Minardi. Red Bull from Jaguar which started as Stewart GP.

    Maybe the last true “NEW Team” was Super Aguri. But the had the blessings from Honda and I think they needed to pay a deposit to FIA in order to get in at that time? Even so when it attended it first GP it used a car originated from Arrows A23, and it’s about 4s off the ultimate pace. By the end of the year it improved to around 2.5s. But pls bear in mind that the team had the technical support of Honda, and Takuma Sato as driver.

    Judging from the testing pace so far, I think Virgin / Lotus would face a similar upward struggle at Bahrain (at least 4s off fastest time). With drivers of no F1 experience and no testing, I cannot imagine what Campos / Dallara cars would be up to. Is the 107% rule still in effect?

    The last true private team which succeeded was Stewart GP, and it’s 13 years ago, and there’s support from Ford. If you remember there’s another private team entering F1 in 1997, it’s called Lola and you guys know all the rest…

    These new teams were admitted to F1 based on “Budget Cap”. If this did not materialize, I think we should allow these new teams to use “Customer cars”, say, for 1-2 years and they can learn and develop them before making their own.

    This would help F1 to remain the pinnacle of motorsports. If it turns out that the new cars are even slower than GP2 cars, certainly it would create enormous pressure to the new teams and no one would be eager to join..

    from Hong Kong

  13. Steve

    Great points, Benny. Despite my frustration, we ALL need to remember starting from scratch is quite different than taking over another team. That being said, USF1 has been grossly mis-managed. But what do u expect when u have a journalist running a team? He was last “in” F1 20 years ago….times have changed….I’ve lost a lot of respect….

    • Just let me make a reply on your journalist point! I know what you are saying but it would be unfair to tar everyone with the same brush. Ian Phillips (ex-Autosport) was a founder of Leyton House and Jordan GP and is still at Force India, after nearly 20 years, as business director. Norbert Haug was a journalist – love him or hate him he would not have survived for 20 years at Mercedes had they not rated him. Current Cosworth F1 boss Mark Gallagher was a journalist, as was Bahrain GP organiser (and former Ford Motorsport boss) Martin Whitaker.

      Its unfair to judge people by their backgrounds. Flavio was a ‘t-shirt salesman’ but proved to be a very effective team boss. Not too many years ago Stefano Domenicali was a humble business student (as was yours truly!). Jean Todt and David Richards were both rally navigators. Sir Frank Williams was a secondhand car hustler. Craig Pollock was once a flag marshal at Ingliston, and you can’t deny the fact that from nothing he created a team that made it to the grid – and qualified fifth for its third race.

      I am not defending Windsor at all, but I hope you see my point – there is no standard resume for these guys. In fact you would have thought someone who has been around F1 for nearly 40 years would have a good base from which to start.

      Finally it’s been almost surreal to read on other forums that Windsor been given an easy ride by the media because we wanted to protect one of our own. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in years…

  14. Tom

    This is a mess. Will be fascinating to see the full USF1 story come out.

    To say that they ran out of time is simply wrong. The first article on the establishemnt of the team on Autosport.com is from 24 February last year and states that they had the endorsement of Bernie and Max, so its clear they were going to get an entry. The whole project has clearly been mismanaged from the beginning and if I were them I might view Stefan GP as a chance to at least salvage something and perhaps secure jobs for those left at the factory.

    Adam, I’m guessing as Peter Windsor was a fellow journo you would have had some dealings with him in the past. Did he strike you as someone capable of setting up and running an F1 team competently, or is he a bit of a ‘dreamer’?

    • As I said in my previous comment, Peter has been around F1 for nearly 40 years and he obviously knows a great deal, although I’ve not always agreed with his opinions on drivers or anything else.

      But two things strike me – 1. US F1 clearly needed at least one or two more experienced, competent, credible people on the management side. Even the hands-on Mike Gascoyne was happy to have a Malaysian businessman (and I don’t mean Fernandes) put in charge of the Lotus factory as CEO. Ken and Pete clearly thought they could go it alone. 2. His decision to carry on with his TV work last year was naive in the extreme and created a very unfavourable impression in the paddock.

      At one point he was doing interviews and attending FOTA meetings on the same day. I was standing next to him in Singapore when he was questioning Mario Theissen about Sauber’s 2010 entry problems, and he asked if there would be a problem with having 14 teams in the pitlane next year. The look on Mario’s face was priceless.

      At Abu Dhabi a leading team manager shook his head and told me ‘if you are starting a team it’s a 25 hour a day job…’

      • elephino

        I agree with both points and would like to add that they made another error. They kept quiet about the sponsor losses. US F1 put themselves forward as being open and forward about their plans, partly because of Peter Windsor.

        Now I don’t know when the sponsor deal/s fell through that have caused their money woes but considering the state of the lack of car, I think it was well before the suggested timeline of around November.

        I will be very interested to see what the FIA have to say, but I’m not sure what they can actually do until the team doesn’t turn up in Bahrain.

      • It’s very interesting to hear your views on this particular side of the story Adam. I was amazed to see that Windsor was still working as an inside journalist during the championship … amazed that he was allowed to do this, amazed that he had the nerve to do so. As a subscriber to F1 Racing magazine since issue 1, and therefore having had to suffer Windsors tunnel vision opinions and increasingly ridiculous race reports for over a decade, it really does put a huge smile on my face when I read stories of how USF1 appears to be going so terribly wrong.

        Apologies if this seems like an attack on the man, it’s not. It’s just a huge relief to realize that an F1 journalist I enjoy reading clearly doesn’t subscribe to the WindorF1 way of thinking!

  15. Alberto Dietz

    For several decades Peter Windsor’s been close friends with Lole and Nige, and that’s good enough for me. I wish him and his team success.

  16. Steve Selasky

    Adam, being an American I hoped for an F1 team to encourage F1 racing in the states. However, I am not surprised by the troubles of the USF1 team. The reasons are there was an absence of any substance coming from Windsor or Anderson.
    What I was looking for at least a scale model of the car they were hoping ot bring to the grid. Additionally, I found the lack of concrete answers in interviews by Speedchannel to be laking depth.

    Going forward, I think the best thing the FIA can do is to not take either Stefan GP or USF1 entry for this year. Neither are suited for the long game of F1. I believe the next F1 team should come from eihther: Dave Richard’s Prodrive or Martin Birrane Lola organization.

    Keep up the writing. And no I don’t think anyone has given Peter Windsor a “free ride”.

  17. Ben G

    Glad to see US-Serbian relations have recovered so well, after all that nastiness with the F-18s and cruise missiles back in 1999.

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