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Debate: should USF1 have got the spot?

March 3, 2010

Unlike USF1, The Art of F1 is not dead. It’s just that like everyone else on Earth, we have priorities and sometimes writing turns out to be impossible. But despite our almost two weeks break, we are getting back to work on full speed, with two new features!

Firstly, you must have noticed the new header and new colours. Every week before a Grand Prix, we will update the header with an image from the previous winner of that Grand Prix, adding an aesthetic feature to the blog. This means the blog will be constantly changing, giving it a renewed look every two weeks.

Secondly, we will start a new series of posts, named “Debate”, where we will pick a subject in which we have opposite points of view and, as the name suggest, debate about it. In this debate, Stephanie and I will talk about on either USF1 should have been granted an entry in the first place, and if the FIA has any fault on it.

USF1: Hopes were higher than what could be achieved

USF1: Hopes were higher than what could be achieved

Stephanie Farnsworth: yes.

The FIA are undoubtedly going to come under fire for their selection and selection process as USF1 failed to materialize. The teams looked unsteady, particularly when it was reported that not one of their employees believed the team would race at Bahrain. However, that doesn’t mean that the FIA made the wrong choice at all.

F1 is notoriously a ruthless world and entering would be a huge task for anyone, and four teams is also a large amount to bring in at one go. The truth is that it doesn’t matter so much if they fail. In the short term there will be some negative publicity but F1 really doesn’t need new teams – or anyone – and if all of them did make it then that would be a miracle.

Inevitably, many fans will argue that a team like Prodrive should have been given a chance but there is absolutely nothing to suggest they would have been in a better situation. I admit, I’d like the Aston Martin name in F1 but sentiment can’t dictate reason. The FIA wouldn’t have granted these teams a grid spot to just block Prodrive, there was a process and the four squads passed. They had decent enough proposals with plans in place to reach the season opener. The new teams mainly got their spaces because they already had the engine situation worked out and Prodrive couldn’t even manage that. Also, this wasn’t Prodrive’s first chance in F1; they got one back in 2008 and blew it so it’s only fair that someone else can have a try.

We have plenty of big names in F1 now; Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Renault so Aston Martin may give a bit of extra shine but the sport is looking pretty healthy right now.

There was also the potential for a big bonus if USF1 made it and were relatively competitive. F1 made an absolute mess of trying to ‘crack America’ last time so this would be an attempt at getting America interested again. The return of Montreal, a national team and the potential for one day having a driver from the US would have put down the foundations for the US GP to return. This could have had bigger consequences than just getting a new team and that had to be explored.

The only fault was perhaps the FIA should have tracked the progress of the team more to try to put an end to weeks of speculation surrounding it, but they made the right choice giving the team a try. The FIA had all the information at hand and acted how they saw best – I can’t argue with that.

Guilherme Teixeira: no.

Building up a Formula 1 team is no easy task – it’s expansive, you must be experienced in high-level motor racing and you need partners to support you. The problem for USF1 is that they never had the necessary money, they were building up a team from scratch and barely had any partners compared to Virgin or Lotus.

Technical and sporting problems aside, USF1 was always under strictly short budgets. Team owners Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson once said that the row between the FIA and FOTA over the budget cap rules last season hampered its progress and ultimately damaged the team. A good excuse, right? Not quite.

The budget cap rules proposed by Max Mosley supposed to limit a team’s yearly budget to £40 million. The rule was ditched, however, and then replaced by the Resource Restriction Agreement. But Virgin Racing is showing us that a team can be effectively run for a season under £40 million. If USF1 can run a team this year, it means that they don’t even have a budget as large as £40 million, thus meaning that they would struggle (and possibly failing) even under the budget capping rule.

But was it USF1 fault? Not entirely. In my point of view, it is the FIA, the entity that granted an entry to them, the one to blame. Based on political reasons rather than sporting ones, the FIA did choose a team which was never able to compete in Formula 1.

Having an engine contract in place is no guarantee that a team would be able to line up in the first race of the season. What a team needs is structure, budget and know-how – something that, for an example, Epsilon Euskadi has. Engine contracts can be sorted out with only a few weeks for the first race – just look at Brawn GP last year. Being able to build a chassis is much more important nowadays than to have a engine contract sorted out early.

Also, the commercial appeal of having a pure American team must have played a part on choosing the North Carolina’s squad. Formula 1 is trying to find its place on United States for a long time, but something always go wrong – the 2002 US GP race fix between Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello the 2005 US GP scandal certainly didn’t help. Having something (in this case, a team) for the United States population to root for is a good idea, in principle, but now the “American dream” looks more like a joke than something to be proud of. Besides that, Formula 1 would attract much more attention in the United States if it raced on one of their classic oval tracks, like Daytona or Michigan (of course Indianapolis would be better but I can’t see Formula 1 racing there again in a hundred years) instead of fielding an ‘American’ team created by a Australian with an Argentinean driver on board.

But you really can’t blame Windsor and/or Anderson for not finding the necessary funding or not having the required infrastructure and equipment for racing in Formula 1 – they shouldn’t have gotten the entry in the first place, but since they did they tried as hard as they could to build their cars. You must blame those who should have analyzed the team’s ability to race in Bahrain but failed to do so. You should blame the entity that should have said “no” to them back in June but, for either incompetence or political squabbling, granted them an entry: the FIA

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Ratboy permalink
    March 3, 2010 11:32 pm

    First of all welcome back you two :)
    Secondly I think the FIA were right to select USF1 they had all the applicants and picked what they beleived to be the best 4, there was obviously something in Prodrives application that the FIA didnt like be it the failed ’08 attempt or the un-willingness to use Cosworth engines.
    With hindsight its easy to critisce the FIA but USF1 made all the right noises i.e picking there own local test track releasing videos on updates and building, even to name a driver.

    In my opinion there should be no “spots” to apply for, back in the 1980’s there were dozens of teams and the pre-qualifing system worked well, it may of been harsh to those that went home on friday but it meant that they’d push harder to try and make it.
    So please FIA let any team that wants to enter, enter, with some form of budget cap in place now is the time to entice new blood into F1 not drive them away i.e. Stefan GP.
    So the FIA is right to bring on new teams but there only doing half the job they should to make sure new entries arrive.

    • March 4, 2010 12:36 am

      Thanks Tom =)

      I believe that the pre-qualifying system is not suitable today. We can’t have teams spending millions and freighting equipment all around the globe just to be kicked out of the race for not qualifying for one of the 26 spots. These teams would surely fail to live for two months, let alone a whole season. Who would aply to F1 in that way? If there’s one good thing Max Mosley has left us is that the bar of quality between the teams raised to state-of-the-art levels, so we don’t have cars which are 10 seconds off the pace anymore neither unsafe equipment.

      About USF1: in my opinion, the FIA should have known how much money they had when they applied. If a team does not have the necessary budget 6 months earlier, what guarantees you will have that they will ever get this money in place? Before 2009 teams had to pay £40 million in advance before entering the sport… at least that way we didn’t have any team failing because they had no money…

      • Ratboy permalink
        March 4, 2010 6:49 pm

        Maybe not to the extent of pre-qualifing again but everyone in a single quali session with the top 26 or maybe 28 going to the race, it could lead to some interesting results if a top driver were to suffer a problem he may not start in the race, this would improve reliability yet more and bring costs down. plus in 1989 16 teams scored points through the season showing not all of the pre-qualifiers were slow.

        What were the applicants made to produce for the 2010 entry?
        the teams should of at least showed they had sufficent funds, ONE rolling crash tested chassis and contracts for engines, tyres and such like already set-up
        that way they are already proving they can make it with the big boys

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