The new teams-just how healthy are they?
Widely expected to fail within weeks, USF1 have failed to make any kind of positive impression. Perhaps they have been criticised far too much as they never had an easy task ahead of them. The US has little interest in F1 since the last time it tried to crack America (remember the Indianapolis 05 farce?) so trying to rouse up sponsors, project a positive image from such a long distance, never mind the usual problems facing a new team, was always going to be a lot for the team to take on.
Things started well; they had Chad Hurley, the founder of YouTube, onboard which was a great PR boost. Sadly though it appears that this relationship hasn’t really lived up to its potential; the USF1 website has barely been updated and although there have been a few clips of the squad on YouTube it has mostly been pretty silent on the media front – not what you would expect from the founder of an extremely popular media site. Speculation about the hopeful outfit’s future didn’t die down at all even when they confirmed Lopez would pilot one of their cockpits. The fact that as soon as Lopez was confirmed, there was an immediate denial that he was hired for his money and his rather lacking CV pretty much said it all really.
Nothing is certain yet but it appears more realistic that USF1 will fail to make Bahrain than not. If this is the case then it is a massive shame for F1’s chances of selling its product in America anytime soon. The right steps were all in place – bring back Montreal, have a national team to bring interest, maybe an American driver and this could provide a stable platform to bring back the US Grand Prix and actually get a solid fan base. F1 has always struggled against America’s home motorsport competition particularly against NASCAR and Indycar which was a worsened situation when only 3 teams would compete in the 05 race. This was a real opportunity to get America involved again.
It’s sad when a team appears in such dire straits but this reaches far beyond just one team failing. From a business point of view, if USF1 have failed then this has been a big blow to conquering the States, but it wasn’t unexpected. You have to wonder if F1 will ever be able to get the right conditions and momentum to be able to sell to this crowd.
This team appears almost as shaky as the US team but Autosport is reporting that they are now set for a takeover by majority owner Jose Ramon Carabante. There have been many reports of late stating that Campos were looking at a deal to guarantee their future. There have even been articles stating that Senna has been in contact with the plucky Stefan GP thinking they would be more likely to make the grid than his team who have actually been granted entry.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, Campos are supposedly technically advanced but just lacking funds which was apparently the opposite situation to USF1. This isn’t a disaster for the Spanish squad then as it’s easier to find money in time than it would be to have to build and design a car with such limited time. That there is so much fervour over the idea of a deal already being looked at isn’t the worst thing in the world, it shows action and that Campos can be saved. There does seem to be the potential for solution whereas USF1 seemed all out of ideas.
Yet even if they do make it, Campos has still missed all the tests which will be a major setback but right now just surviving has to be the first thought.
They’ve set their challenge: whoever finishes behind between Virgin and Lotus their boss has to dress up as one of Branson’s airhostesses. This isn’t just about F1 now, it’s about pride.
The VR-01 has been designed using only CFD which is a bit of an extreme approach and mainly in place for cost cutting. It could be a revolution for car design but most of the top guys have dismissed the idea of being naive at best. The Virgin does look more like a GP2 car but it doesn’t really matter so long as it can take the fight to their main rivals.
Virgin should be applauded though, they quickly struck a deal with Manor and it was a clean deal with no mess and kept stability with the team. They are using a minimalist budget which fits in life with the idea that F1 needs to cut costs and they have actually turned up to the tests even if there have been a couple of problems like front wings falling off.
The positive images just keep coming when you take a look at their partners and sponsors; they have managed to bag BMW’s FXPro sponsorship, Oxigen Investments and Carbon Green’s support both of which are environmentally friendly. Getting all the green sponsors they can will win much support and make their cars appear more ‘relevant’.
They didn’t get much support at first by practically causing an outcry that the ‘Lotus’ name should be used for a team which didn’t have Chapman and then had ideas of relocating to Malaysia. Now the team seems to be delaying any emigration to Malaysia and has gone for the retro green and yellow livery they seem to have won much more fans.
They have the best driver line up out of the new teams, both Heikki and Jarno have the experience of working with top teams and Kovalainen in particular will be desperate to show his talent again after two years of being soundly beaten by Hamilton at Mclaren. I like Heikki and think that Mclaren was just a step up to soon, his race pace needed some work at times but he was a great qualifier.
When it comes to qualifying though Trulli is the master, he can get the sweet spot with the car and drum out every tenth he can over a lap. This will be a crucial skill to a new team but he tends to be fragile in a race so let’s see what he can do. Working with Gascoyne again will make this team even stronger.
This team doesn’t even have a place on the grid but they still have a car and are bringing the parts to Bahrain. It could only happen in Formula 1.
Stefan GP seem convinced that a new team will drop out (they seem to have a point on that front) and they can grab the grid spot. It isn’t that simple as the FIA have to grant permission but Bernie seems to like this squad and the FIA have been less than clear so it’s hard to work out what will happen.
It seems that the Serbian team even have a driver line up with Nakajima being heavily linked as they wanted someone with two years of recent F1 experience and Villeneuve has remerged as a candidate for a drive in the elite series.
The squad have used Toyota’s design to build their car so it’s basically the 2010 Toyota which is a really strong base for the team. It’s a mystery why none of the other new teams bought this design, Toyota may not have been the best team but they were close to the front on a good few occasions.
So who do you think will fill up the grid spaces? Does Stefan GP deserve a shot? Have your say in the comments below.