Zoran Stefanovic’s ongoing attempts to get Stefan GP onto the F1 grid have been made rather harder by the end of his deal with Toyota Motorsport GmbH, which means that the Serbian outfit no longer has access to a completed car.
Stefan’s deal was pending gaining an entry for 2010, and having failed to do so, the original memorandum of understanding has lapsed. Stefanovic had been loaned a small office in TMG’s Cologne factory from which to work, and that has now been closed.
It’s believed that TMG has little faith in Stefanovic’s ability to put a viable commercial package together, and sources say that any kind of extension of the arrangement looks highly unlikely.
Suggestions that Stefan might yet get onto the 2010 entry list – by virtue of a deal with US F1 – would thus seem to be somewhat optimistic, although Bernie Ecclestone mischievously told this blog in Bahrain that such a scenario was not impossible.
“I think they’ve come together now with some ideas,” Ecclestone told me. “We have to find a way. They won’t be there for sure for the first two or three races, whether they’ll be there after that, we’ll have to see.”
Pressed on whether a late Stefan entry had any basis in reality Bernie implied that it might depend on the failure of another team: “I don’t know, I doubt it because it’s not fair to the others… But imagine one of these other people was in a little bit of a trouble?
“I’m happy to have America, and I’d be happy if we had Serbia in, it’s another country,” he told me. “The more countries, the better it is.”
However it’s already been made very clear by the FIA that whatever Ecclestone’s position on the matter, Stefan is not going to get in.
When asked by this blog about Stefan GP last weekend, Todt said: “Stefan GP was part of the tender process. They did not get an entry, and I understand during the course of the last month they changed the way of thinking, of getting into F1. They got involved with Toyota.
“But we have to follow a proper process, and if you want to be involved when you have a free position in the F1 championships, we need to make a tender. So that is what we are going to do in the coming days.”
Bernie’s support was one of the few assets Stefanovic seemed to have, but the FOM boss has backtracked a little on what he really said after meeting the Serbian Prime Minister and discussing potential government finance for the F1 team.
“What they said then was they would support the team, which they would do. Whether they would pour money in… I don’t think so.”
Logic suggests that Stefan GP would be in a relatively strong position when the FIA conducted its 2011 entry process if it still had the Toyota TF110 chassis as a starting point. It’s not clear how the team would now create a car. However technical boss Mike Coughlan and his men have presumably gleaned a lot of knowledge from their access to the Toyota project.
With no ongoing commitment to Stefan, TMG is now open to offers from third parties. Last week the company formally announced that it was available to undertake design and development work for road and racing projects, and thus a new alliance with a prospective 2011 F1 entrant is not out of the question.
In a statement, TMG said that it has “restructured to provide specialist solutions ranging from complete car development to individual component testing or production, aimed at the automotive or engineering sectors and beyond. Around 200 experts provide a flexible portfolio of specialised services which for the first time is available to external clients, in addition to the worldwide Toyota family.”
Meanwhile Toyota would appear to face the small problem of retrieving two container loads of its pit and garage equipment which were sent on one-way sea freight trips on behalf of Stefan GP. One is currently in Bahrain, and the other in Kuala Lumpur…