The US F1 dream finally appears to be over. Now the post-mortem will begin on why a team we’ve known about for more than a year failed to make the grid for 2010.
Should they have been given a place on the grid to begin with? And if not, is there something wrong with the FIA’s tender system for appointing new F1 teams?
US F1 were one of the original three teams given places on the F1 grid for 2010 along with Manor (now Virgin) and Campos (now HRT).
All three of these teams applied to race under the budget cap proposals that former FIA president Max Mosley was putting forward at the time.
But the budget cap was pulled and replaced by the Resource Restriction Agreement. Campos were the first to complain that their terms of competing had suddenly become less favourable, and it surely affected US F1 in the same way.
So the three new teams were hampered right from the start. Of them only Virgin has made it to testing so far.
Much the same happened to Prodrive when it won the FIA’s tender for new teams in 2007. Prodrive intended to use customer cars supplied by McLaren after the FIA proposed regulations to make customer cars legal. When the FIA failed to get the customer car rules approved, Prodrive were no longer able to compete.
Questions have also been asked about whether the teams chosen last year were the most credible entries or just the most politically convenient ones. Tenders from established racing organisations such as Prodrive (who were rumoured to have a Mercedes engine supply deal) and Lola were overlooked in favour of start-ups.
One bidder which did not receive an entry, Stefan GP, found another obstacle in the tender process. Owner Zoran Stefanovich told F1 Fanatic last year:
We got information from Cosworth saying they were the only one engine that is allowed, which is not in the rules and not possible to be put in the rules. However, when we started to discuss it with them Cosworth sent us an email stating they were entitled to sign a contract and take money for this.
Apart from Cosworth we had two different opportunities but we were forced to stop because we were told Cosworth was the only one which was allowed for us.
Political problems aside I think there is a fundamental problem with using a business tender process to appoint F1 teams.
The FIA shouldn’t waste its time trying to guess who can run F1 team based on a Powerpoint presentation given months before anything has been built. The rule should be, if you can get two F1 cars built and tested to a deadline before the start of the season, you’re in.
I’m sure that over the coming days and weeks we’ll hear more criticism about how US F1 weren’t up to the job of competing in Formula 1. I don’t want to pre-judge any of that.
But it’s not enough to shrug our shoulders and say “they weren’t good enough” when another team which won the original FIA tender still hasn’t tested its car yet, and one of the teams which didn’t win it is apparently ready to go but can’t race.
The cars designed by Toyota for 2010 before their departure have been snapped up by Stefanovich complete with a supply of engines. But they could be gathering dust while the teams gather in Bahrain next week.
Something clearly went wrong at US F1. But the tender process that got them in the sport in the first place is flawed as well.
The 2010 F1 teams tender process
- Exclusive: Zoran Stefanovic explains his complaint to the EU about the FIA
- How many F1 teams will race in 2010?
- Prodrive miss another chance to enter F1
Image (C) Toyota F1 World