A flawed way of choosing F1 teams

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We may not have a full, 26-car grid at Bahrain after all
We may not have a full, 26-car grid at Bahrain after all

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.
Zoran Stefanovich

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

Image (C) Toyota F1 World

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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114 comments on “A flawed way of choosing F1 teams”

  1. Perhaps a detail, but didn’t US F1 Team announce its wish to compete by 2010 before the budget cap was being discussed?

    My point for allowing new teams into F1 would be similar to which applies to drivers: proven capability to run a race team on an international level (although both Manor/Virgin and Campos/HRT had that).

    Plus, more importantly, but quite a high threshold to take: proven race car construction facilities (which disallows all new-for-2010 entrants, and favours Prodrive, Lola and Epsilon Euskadi).

    1. Why is everybody saying that Prodrive & co. would have made it? The 2008 Prodrive entry never even looked like happening and I think that they would have been the first ones to withdraw as soon as it was clear that the budget cap wasn’t going to happen. Epsilon Euskadi would have been even worse: A mediocre WSbR Team which has built an uncompetitive LMP1 car.
      At least Manor and most likely Campos stuck to their plans and made it to Bahrain. And let’s be honest here, back in July USF1 looked more credible than those two.

      1. “A mediocre WSbR Team which has built an uncompetitive LMP1 car”. Well, at least they’ve built a car before trying to get an F1 entry, aren’t they?
        It sounds quite strange to me joining to F1 Constructors Championship without having made any car…

  2. I agree with most things you have mentioned.

    You have overlooked one major aspect of F1 teams though. Sponsorship

    Any team that can has secure long term sponsorship is surely in a better position than a team that has built a chassis using borrowed money and then end up folding after two years.

    F1 is a long term investment. 50+ years i would say

    1. Investment or no Investment, i quite right agree with Keith 100%!
      BRING TWO CARS READY & FIT FOR THE TESTS; TEST AND YOU’RE IN!!
      Its that simple mates..

      1. I think… build one car during the prev season and test it before year end, that’s a more realistic request. The new team can then invest time building the second chassis before the new season begins.

      2. That is a risk to take though, as too many teams could potentially build cars, and someone would be turned away after months of work.

  3. “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.”

    Capital idea, but it’s both practical and sensible, so it’ll never make it.

    I hate Powerpoint.

    1. Hate powerpoint too.

      However, this could cause issues if, say for example lola, prodrive, stephan gp, virgin and lotus all rocked up with a working car. Not allowing them to compete would effectively bankrupt them – hence no team would ever take the risk. Also not to mention no team would ever get outside investment if garantees were not made that they had a slot on the grid. The proposal make a lot of sense in one sense but would be a disaster economically.

      1. I think fundamentally there is nothing wrong with the process they have in place, but more the politics that corrupted the decisions. Forcing the use of cosworth engines, trying to get a US presence etc.

      2. agreed. The system was flawed and riven with ‘Maxisms’, but nobody can run an effective business with something as woolly as that. Although also agree on the ‘powerpoint’ thing. Flashy presentations from otherwise unsuitable tenders are at the root of 90% of the problems created in the built environment in the last 50 years, and they’re just as alluring, and just as flawed in F1.

      3. Good Point.

        It all comes down to money doesn’t it ?

        In a deep recession really good sponsors
        are damned hard to find, and they sure as hell ain’t going to stick their label on a
        team that has no cast iron guarantee of a
        grid spot. So any new team has to get
        approval from FIA right at the start.

        The bit that’s missing, surely, is a rigorous technical inspection programme
        to monitor any new team’s build progress. With fixed deadlines for measurable targets
        to a fxed date for presenting a complete
        car. Alarm bells should start to ring loud
        and clear if a team misses any deadline.

        1. Maybe a new team should be able to use a customer car for the first year, perhaps 2, and then have to build there own. This way the costs and logisitics are much easier to manage.

    2. Couldn’t agree more.

      Look at Jordan and Sauber. From what is known neither was ‘financially viable’ to run for a year but both managed it.

      Neither team would probably have been allowed in under the FIA rules as they are now.

      FIA seems to pick based on what accountants tell it rather than looking at pedigree of people running the team.

  4. As I understand it StefanGP won’t be allowed to race unless all the teams agree, and Ferrari won’t whilst Mike Coughlan is involved.

    Another FIA cockup.

    1. I doubt Williams will agree either. They never seem keen on sharing the TV money.

  5. I hope the let Stefan F1 in,

    But how are the teams prospects for the future?

    1. I still hope, that StefanGP does get some agreement with the USF1 outfit to use their grid slot (a one year lease maybe?).

      For next year they can then join forces to build an innovative US-based car taking the best from the Toyota and ideas like the Gearbox from USF1.
      A Serbian-USA based team might even work wonders for international politics!

      1. I like your thinking

  6. I think you are right, about the presentations. Maybe the presentations should just be the start of the process. The FIA could then allow teams wich put in place
    a. a good idea
    b. facilities / contracted
    c. Core technical staff / partners prepared
    e. money and a bussinessplan in place as well as potential sponsorship plans

    to be allowed a pre-entry. Then they should have some time to get car designs and sponsorship contracts with budgets prepared by a given time, say middle of the year before entry.
    These team(s) can than build cars and test them from November/december onwards to be allowed on the grid.
    maybe bring on Pre-season qualifying to get to the race start.
    Even better, only the best of the new teams that year is given FOM-money. The rest can join, but do only get payed based on points secured during the season. That way it is possible without “official” support, but not giving a bonus for trying without any succes.

    This would however make it neccissary to evaluate the last 1-2 teams on the existing grid as well, to avoid a 30 car grid.

  7. I think that James Allen hit the nail on the head when he was discussing USF1 – The teams should be able to last for a number of years rather than just one or two

    1. Sounds like a good idea until you actually think it over for a bit. For instance, how can they prove this upfront?

      USF1 actually claimed to have a budget in place for 5 years.

    2. Based on that criterion I don’t think Stefan GP would get in either.

  8. Yes the F1 tender was flawed, but only because of the mandatory choice for Cosworths.

    You cannot let teams build cars and then say “Oh, you’re not on the grid”. That would be a waste of a lot of money. The choice has to be made before the building of the cars start.

    And teams budgets are based on a certain amount of (expected) sponsorship. If sponsors don’t come through or there are not enough willing to sponsor the team, then the team is in serious problems as USF1 and Campos are. But they don’t get sponsorship before they have an entry to begin with, certainly not in this economic bad climate.

    And there is the whole problem. The fundamentally wrong part was started with the introduction of the bonds and the limit of teams allowed to compete. Teams come (in good years) and go (in bad years), but if there are no teams coming (with the occasional exception), then teams will only leave and thus lead to less cars on the grid. And in economic difficult times it is hard for teams to enter because of lack of funding. And that is where we are now.

  9. “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.”

    umm, Campos and Manor?

    Look, I’ve said it so many times on this website and I’m sure I’ll be saying it all again sometime soon. Had the FIA NOT given a place to USF1 the outcry would have been massive. Even bigger than the outcry now, I’m willing to bet.
    The announcement by USF1 was lauded by fans and media alike, “here’s a serious push from the US, where arguably F1 has struggled” people said. Now imagine what would have been said if USF1 wasn’t selected! Keith I’m sure you would have ripped the FIA apart for not selecting them, something along the lines of “how can F1 expect to succeed in the US when it pulls moves like this” etc. Look back, and be honest with yourself. Maybe go back and look to see what you wrote when the announcement was made, I’m willing to bet you talked it up as a great thing for F1.
    I remember one of the threads actually, so many reader comments saying how great it would be for the US to have a team, finally F1 would crack through the hardcore fans into the general public. Some people questioned basing themselves in the US vs in Europe, but realistically they haven’t even reached the point for that to contribute to them failing.

    Everyone be honest with yourself, they announced it so far out, had big name backers, said the lack of a budget cap wouldn’t change anything. Had they not been selected in the first place there would be a major number of people literally apoplectic about the decision.

    1. Had the FIA NOT given a place to USF1 the outcry would have been massive.

      No chance. It’s not as if the prevailing mood when US F1 was announced was “what a great idea, they’ll definitely make it”.

      1. HounslowBusGarage
        3rd March 2010, 12:31

        Keith, I think you’re missing Ben’s point. If US F1 had been denied a place, American who had never even heard of Formula One would have ranted and raved about the bast*rd Europeans insulting the US by deliberately keeping them out of F1. They would have taken it as a direct insult to their national pride.

        1. That was Ben’s point exactly, but you have to ask yourself what’s worse? Giving USF1 an entry only for them to fall woefully short of making it to Bahrain, or “insulting their national pride” by not allowing USF1 in when the vast majority of American’s couldn’t care less about F1 and probably didn’t even realise they were given an entry?

          1. HounslowBusGarage
            3rd March 2010, 13:47

            Well, neither actually. The worst bit is believing their tender, giving them an entry and then not following it up for six months or whatever.

        2. I understand his point perfectly, I just think he’s wrong.

          1. As do I, just trying to fuel debate!

          2. Yea, I think that is wrong as well. If the FIA came out and said, USF1 is not ready for 2010, maybe they can try for 2011, and these are the reasons they are not ready….there would not have been some huge public outcry. As a matter of fact, the outcry that is happening now is more massive…and embarrassing (to F1, not the US).

          3. I’m with Keith. Had USF1 not been grated an entry, it would have gotten no more notice than a line or two, most likely an afterthought at the end of a weekly-roundup column somewhere.

            Folks on this site may not realize it, but amongst most of the American population, F1 is “F what?” Even among racing entusiasts, it’s way down on the list. (I know this because I live in the U.S.)

            And USF1 DID get the nod, and still barely got any mention in the American press. So, like Keith, I see the point being made, just simply disagree with it.

    2. HounslowBusGarage
      3rd March 2010, 12:22

      Ben, I think you’re right. There would have been huge outrage from the US if the FIA had not selected US F1 for the grid.
      I think the flaw lies with the management of the situation by the FIA. Whatever the evidence or presentation was that persuaded the FIA that US F1 was a credible entrant was not followed through.
      There must have been some kind of timeline on the basis if “By October we will have this done, that done. By January we will have done that etc”.
      The FIA should have been checking that US F1 and every other new entrant was keeping to their own timetable. I’m involved with a project that has received government support; we have to provide status reports and receive inspections to monitor progress. They don’t interfere or advise, they just check our own progress milestones. And that’s exactly what the FIA should have been doing with all the new teams, but it seems they just didn’t.

  10. “Of them only Virgin has made it to testing so far.”
    Clearly this article’s been sat in Drafts for a little while!

    “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.”

    Teams can only design and build cars when they have very large amounts of money in the bank – that’s the only thing which thwarted Campos. They can only get this money from manufacturers (who are now “undesirable”, a volte face from the 90s when the FIA tried very hard to get manufacturers in to replace independent teams), from rich businessmen (who can turn out to be “eccentric” (Stefanovich, Briatore), unreliable (Teixeira) or plain criminal (Allen Stanford from the cricket world)), or from sponsorship.

    Sponsors will never commit to giving a team several million dollars to start designing and building a racing car, creating a group of experienced personnel, recruiting drivers, etc., unless there’s a guarantee that they will at least get a season’s worth of exposure, and preferably a very good chance of scoring a point or two and making their brand look good.

    I agree that US F1 should not be allowed to defer their entry for a year. I don’t believe they weren’t serious; they had some good people on board, but the funds never quite materialised for them and they’ve missed the boat. If Stefan GP are awarded US F1’s spot purely because they turn up (with an untested car and a washed-up Canadian), it would be a real kick in the teeth to serious organisations like Lola and Prodrive. What if both of those teams, and Epsilon Euskadi, and Stefan, all turned up in Bahrain with working cars? How would the FIA then decide which team gets the last pit garage for the year and which three go home in huge debt and unable to deliver on sponsorship contracts worth, collectively, $100m? Half of that money would already have been spent on getting a team together.

    1. Well, the money was spent in trying to get there, wasn’t it?

      I think it is right to enable entrants to get a team with cars together for say 40-50
      Million $.
      Maybe even do this by asking engine/tire/electronics/ etc. suppliers, to commit to a limit on the price for their supplies combined with an obligation to deliver to teams.
      But we must not forget, that this is a buissiness as well as being a sport. Where does a competitor get in without taking such risks?
      Still, people are setting up new racing, cycling, sailing etc. entries. Often without any guarantee, that they will make it.
      This is competition of teams to be the best, not some training program. Yes, it should be possible to join, but every entrant has to be aware of the risks and weight his/her abilities to get this investment back.

    2. “Of them only Virgin has made it to testing so far.”
      Clearly this article’s been sat in Drafts for a little while!

      How so? OF THEM (those 3 teams that signed under the budget cap) only Virgin has made it. Remember that Lotus came later.

    3. “Of them only Virgin has made it to testing so far.”
      Clearly this article’s been sat in Drafts for a little while!

      No, I wrote it last night. Campos and US F1 never made it testing.

      If you’re referring to Lotus, they were not one of the original three who won their places under the budget cap proposal.

      1. Ah, sorry Keith, must admit I didn’t take in the “original three budget cap teams” intent when I first read the article.

  11. Knowing nothing about the process of developing an F1 team I may be off base here, but isn’t it a bit of a catch-22 system where a prospective team is only likely to draw in the necessary sponsorship deals, investment and people needed to get a viable team together if they already have an entry granted?

    1. Yeah, so all you have upfront is a plan.

      Nothing is sure. Especially not some plan on how one might run a team. Toyota signed a deal til 2012 and where are they now?

  12. i think FIA wanted each team to atleast have a confirmed engine… and at the time only Cosworth was a supplier who was willing to take the bait….

    Williams n Red Bull both wanted to run Mercedes engines, but could not as they were blocked by McLaren… Williams then checked for Renault engines but knew that they could not support 3 teams, same would be the case with Ferrari… so the only viable option was Cosworth Engine..

    If the teams had applied under budget cap rules and found new conditions not favorable… they should have either stopped working on the project & sued FIA or set a deadline to get required money and work on it … thats what Manor aka Virgin Racing did…

    USF1 lied about the heath of their project and can’t really blame anyone but themselves…

    1. Completely agree. All this whining about politics and Cosworth engines being demanded by the FIA are just baseless rumours.

      Cosworth might “de facto” have been the only possibility, but so what? You can’t blame anyone for that.

      The EU commission and the french courts concluded that nothing unfair happened during the tender.

      1. There was no ruling on this, as StefanGP did realize, that protesting the FIA was not the way to get an entry.
        Therefore they called their legel stepps off and went on to buy the Toyota assets.

        1. I’ll bet the EU commission threw it out.

          1. I believe N.Technology’s lawsuit on similar grounds was thrown out by the courts.

  13. Robert McKay
    3rd March 2010, 11:56

    I think it would be interesting to know how involed the FIA were in the actual process of the teams forming after their tender wins.

    It LOOKS like (not necessarily is) that the FIA have done the work in “vetting” them, if you will, and then sat back and said “see you in Bahrain”. Is the Federation regularly checking up on them, visiting the factories, ensuring progress is being made?

    If you’re sending an FIA delegate over to USF1 a couple of weeks before the first race and are not surprised by the lack of progress, fair enough. But if you already know there’s nothing it begs the question why you went over so late, and if you are surprised there’s nothing it begs the question of…why you went over so late.

  14. Aleksandar Serbia
    3rd March 2010, 11:58

    I totally get why Stefan was overlooked, but to leave him out as they will, is pure evil.
    I get all Stefan haters here who say he didn’t apply for this and that form, he didn’t do this by the book, he is whatever…
    But one thing you cannot hide, and that is his persistence, which by far no team entering the sport had even shown.
    Even Bridgestone acted like ignorant fools, not giving him tires, saying he cannot get them without Fia providing the entry!
    What a load of crap form Bernie and the gang, giving heads up, and then cannot pull some string to get them proper testing!
    I wonder what will The Supremo say when FIA say no go in Bahrain, he will act like a child, saying hey i don’t have the power, but when some other thing gets out of hand he will be the all mighty bolt of lightning.
    This is a shame on the sport, is there no common sense that says, if somebody is trying so hard to get in, he means business?
    Stefan had no guarantees and still did a better job than Campos and Us GP and will get canceled on technicality!
    All the nerds of F1fanatic will burn me on this, because strict laws mean more to them than perseverance, but i do think there are some who look at this situation not with condemnation, but sympathy and a character resolve.

    Now i can only look with eyes of sorrow,
    our maiden team denied flight,
    for its dreams were to fly among the chosen few,
    who laugh in their demise..

  15. Stefanovic is either a poor reader or he is lying. Cosworth never said that they were the only supplier. They stated that the applicants had to have a valid engine deal AND that Cosworth were willing to provide such a deal.

    These exact texts were available in the letter they sent out explaining how they “felt” that they could only choose Cosworth.

    Now in reality, they couldn’t only get a deal from Cosworth because which manufacturer is going to sign a deal with some eastern european guy who’s only link to F1 is a failed takeover attempt in the late nineties?

    At best he could have gotten a conditional deal and those were not allowed.

    “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.”

    That’s probably the best solution yes. Then limit the number of cars actually running in the race to 26 by removing cars during qualifying or some other selection process.

    The only problem might be the number of garages. Perhaps a pre season test selection race could be held to see which team has the best car at that time?

    1. At the time of selections, there were strong rumours (I think from Prodrive as well), that the engine had something to do with it i.e. “we allow you on the grid only if you choose Cosworth”.

      Prodrive had some kind of agreement with Mercedes at the time. This was said to be one of the reasons for not getting an entry.

      1. Rumours yes. Read the text of the letters itself. Keith put them up here a while ago.

        It’s exactly as I say. Cosworth warn that the teams need to have an engine contract and they present themselves as a possible engine partner. Nothing more and nothing less.

        “Prodrive had some kind of agreement with Mercedes at the time. This was said to be one of the reasons for not getting an entry.”

        I read that too yes. The problem then is that “some kind of agreement” wasn’t good enough. It had to be a valid and signed deal.

        1. Spot on. I understand why people were disappointed at Prodrive not getting an entry but I don’t understand why people are still harping on about it months later. Dave Richards got over it, so should everybody else.

    2. surely you would not expect Cosworth to actually write down something like ‘the FIA will allow you only with our engines”, would you?

    3. who’s going to spend millions building cars in the current economic climate not knowing whether they’ll be allowed on the grid if too many show up? How could you possibly secure sponsorship if you can’t promise investors you’ll be allowed to compete?

      And “some eastern european guy”? Why should being from Eastern Europe make their operation any more dodgy than “some Malaysian guys” who didn’t previously have F1 links, or “some Indian guy”? or “some Australian guy working out of America who seems to be economical with the truth”. That’s just Daily Mail talk.

      Surely there were other engines kicking around. Ferrari hadn’t then committed to supplying Sauber. Mclaren blocked Merc engines for Red Bull because they’re so good, but they didn’t block them to Force India or Brawn (when they expected them to be rubbish). And Toyota were happy to pass over their operation to the guy.

      1. Sums it all up nicely mate !
        Exactly the point I was trying to make earlier, too.

        Nobody, but nobody is going to lift a spanner until the money is there. The money can only come from sponsors.
        Sponsors will not be remotely interested in nice promises. They want cast-iron guarantees that any team they back has a certain grid slot.

        And then the catch 22 comes in. FIA won’t/can’t guarantee you a grid slot if you don’t have a proper set up and the money to back it.

        Perfect set up for the lunatics to take
        over the asylum ?

    4. Nice comment Patrickl

    5. … and yet, the only teams given entries were those with Cosworth contracts – which doesn’t prove anything on its own, but it certainly raises at least one of my eyebrows.

      1. In reality it probably was impossible to get an unconditional contract with any of the other engine manufacturers.

  16. I’m not totally convinced that a brand new F1 team should be allowed to jump into the championship at all…

    If you want to get into the Premiership you either take control of an existing club in the league, or work your way up the leagues from the bottom.

    Surely this type of system could be emulated in a similar way in F1 (and motor sport in general) with teams having to earn their way?

    1. It’s a logical idea but running a specification GP2 car built by Dallara is a long way away from building your own F1-spec car.

      I think you’re right to look for an intermediate step and I think it’s customer cars. Let new teams run other teams older for a maximum number of seasons, during which time they can develop the chassis they’ve acquired as a stepping-stone to building their own cars.

      1. That brings us back to the question of fixing the rules for a period of time. Otherwise, it is not possible to have an old car in the first place.
        Using older chassis would have to be done by auction only based on finances, to minimize the urge for “team orders” during the season (as discussed for 3-car teams).

      2. Robert McKay
        3rd March 2010, 15:12

        They missed an opportunity to pitch Formula 2 as some sort of proper feeder series to Formula 1, with 1/2 year old customer cars being run by teams looking to eventually make the step up to F1 proper, as opposed to the interesting-but-very-junior series they actually came up with.

    2. The Comedian 39
      3rd March 2010, 14:56

      Adrian Campos did run his team in F3 i think then GP2, but he sold it and it became Barwa Addax. So he has some experience, but we all now whats happened now.

      The key ingriedient to the recipe in my view is sponsorship/money.

      Manor were established in the lower leagues, Hamilton even drove for them at one point. They had good partners and then money got involved via Virgin. They had no problems at all as far as I know.

      Lotus had a short time to prepare but with Mike Gascoyne and Malaysian backing – they’ve appeared Ok.

      But the anonomus result is USF1: Windsor & Anderson, Chad Hurley backing them, American sponsors surely would jump on the bandwagon (CNN announced they’re sponsoring Lotus). So what went wrong? They also had the longest time to prepare. The world of F1 never seems to make sense, just when you thought it did.

  17. The budget cap had nothing to do with it. I mean, they were perfectly allowed to build a cheap car. But they did not even do that.
    It is tricky to start building a car if you do net get an entry.

    Therefore my solution is to have all entries available but to get it tyou have to show up at the final pre season testing session. If you show up there yuo can enter and get a share of the prices.

    Obvisouly showing up means that you MUST enter all races of the season.

  18. Motor racing experience is a definite requirement for me. This is why I was so for Prodrive getting into F1. Success in WRC, Le Mans and the possibility of getting the best name in the business (Aston Martin) onto the grid were compelling reasons to give Prodrive an entry. And on top of that, Dave Richards has heaps of F1 experience. Yes they buggered up the first time they tried to enter F1, but that was largely due to factors outside of their control. They said they would enter if the rules said X, but they said Y, and they couldn’t enter. And then when they tried to enter for 2010, Cosworth politics got in the way. I have no doubt that if Prodrive were given the place instead of USF1 or Campos/HRT they would have prepared their car in time for Bahrain and they would have been able to compete with their fellow newbies.

    In addition to my Prodrive rant, it’s my view that GP2 shouldn’t just be a feeder series for drivers. Why can’t it be a feeder series for teams as well? Jordan came up from lower Formulae and did very well for a number of years. I see no reason (well, other than money) why the likes of iSport and ART Grand Prix couldn’t enter an F1 team and be successful. They have the skill necessary to manage successful racing teams and with the right people on board they could manufacture a competitive car.

    The USF1 debacle arose because America doesn’t have a Grand Prix, and there are no American drivers in F1. The resultant loss of interest from the majority of the American population (not all, I know many of the readers of this blog are American) means that there are millions of dollars that aren’t being spent on F1, and that really bothers men like Bernie…USF1 would have given them a foot in the door in this massive market once again.

    1. I think there would be many comments if ART would apply and/or be granted a slot in the F1 grid being that Nicolas Todt is one of the Founders and Team Principals.

      I believe that the teams were chosen when Mosley was still FIA’s president, but nevertheless, once Jean Todt became candidate and president, is son being one of the owners of a F1 team, would raise many comments for sure…

      But I understand your point. Teams like ART, DAMS or Prodrive that compete in many years in feeder series and ohter categories of motorsport, are respectable candidates, I would call natural candidates to a F1 entry.

      1. Having posted my previous post, I remember that DAMS had preiovulsy tried to enter F1 but lack funding (what else is new) so actually not sure if they should get other chances, although time are different and we cannot judge people/companies/teams from previous failed projects.

        Lola too had previously tried to enter F1 on their own…

        1. That was one of the most beautiful cardboard boxes on the grid.

  19. It is a disgrace that Prodrive and Lola are out of F1 Itwhile absolute joke teams are allowed in, even though they can’t make testing, or can’t make the grid at all.

    The FIA need to be held to account for letting these teams who are clearly not up to it into F1. The idea that all teams should use a single engine reared its ugly head a year or so ago, and I believe that the FIA’s love of Cosworth points to them bringing this idea back sometime soon.

    The whole tender process has been a disgrace. Its like letting football teams into the premiership based on the manufacturer of their strips rather than their football skills.

    1. Did you read the proposals from all the teams?

      1. There is plenty of proof that these teams were badly chosen and not up to F1 (i.e. not testing, asking to defer entry for a year).

        1. That’s not proof that they were badly chosen.

          It could simply be that these teams failed to make good on their proposals.

          There is also no proof that other teams would have done better.

  20. In my opinion there was always going to be at least one casualty whoever was chosen. F1 is pretty ruthless, there isn’t a lot of time, the budget cap has gone and people are still reluctant to chuck money about.

    It’s a nice ideology to say those who can build a car should enter but if there is a sudden queue there could be too many and without the FIA being involved for the beginning then there is actually just a great a chance of failure. Say a team is building the car and is very close but it falls through for whatever breason, the FIA then aren’t responsible to help them in anyway and it could leave the said team in a lot of difficulty. I think there needs to be some way of monitoring it.

    I’m also pretty bored of the whole Prodrive argument (this isn’t at you Keith by the way) -there’s no guarantee they would have made it and they had a chance before. They bring a good name to the sport which would be nice but it’s really not the end of the world they aren’t on the grid.

    USF1 was given a chance becuas eit had a decent proposal and all the new teams granted a spot because engine plans were in place (Cosworth being forced upon them is just a rumour at this stage). USF1 also had the potential for playing a part to get America back hosting a race so it was worth a try.

    A team failed but there are three other teams going to show up. 4 was a big number anyway and in a year or so no-one will even remember this. The selection process wasn’t flawedn just the fact that this was allowed to drag out for so long and in the public eye too.
    I’m more sad and concerned for the employees who have lost their income and their dream of seeing something they have built compete on a global scale.

    Anyway, I may not agree with the article that much but I’m glad you raised the points Keith. Very nice job and good to debate about. It was inevitable really that the FIA would be questioned in all of this anyway.

  21. What about Lotus?

    Aren’t they a new team too?

    Lotus and Virgin make it, Campos and USF1 don’t.

    Not bad, but I agree with you about them being given a grid slot.

    Of all of them I would have least expected USF1 not to make it, just because of the hype for the past 18 months plus.

    1. But Lotus DIDN’T initially win an entry as a new team along with Manor, Campos & USF1 (were they even entered? I forget). The FIA didn’t consider them to be even worth putting on the reserve list. That they came onto the scene much later, when Toyota pulled out, and still managed to get a car to testing that was as reliable as anyone else and lapping similar times to Manor really points up the extent to which Campos & USF1 failed, as well as the extent to which the FIA made the wrong decision…

      1. Correction: they were, indeed, entered.

      2. I guess what could have helped lotus is the specifications of the Force India Car?
        But that’s just rumor ;)

  22. I keep harping on about this but this comes down (in part) to last-minute rule changes again.

    The rules for a season should be FINALISED well in advance. IMHO somthing like by the first race of the season, the rules are fixed for the next season (excepting maybe safety related chanegs, in exceptional circumstances). This gives a whole year for car development, and would allow new teams to ‘tender’ based on a fixed target. Then set a deadline of, say, the first round of pre-season testing for teams to show they have a working car (even if not finalised, at least something they could turn up to a race in).

    I would say fix the rules for 3-5 years anyway, or maybe have a core set of rules which cannot be changed for that time, allowing a previous year’s car to be modified easily to the new season’s spec.

    Anyway, I have said all this before but the FIA won’t do anything like that. It’s too sensible.

  23. Was the FIA’s tendering process simply that the team with the flashiest presentation won a place on the grid? I don’t claim any inside knowledge but I doubt it.

    Even if it was a case of PowerPoint slides at dawn, that wouldn’t necessarily account for entries going to Campos, USF1 and Manor and the expense of Prodrive and Lola. Prodrive certainly strike me as being no less (and probably more) able to deliver an effective presentation as Campos, Manor or USF1 – David Richards may be a racer through and through but that doesn’t come at the cost of his professionalism in business dealings.

    A formal tendering process allows the FIA to probe the proposals being put forward in detail, looking for evidence and formal assurances to back up the ideas being put forward. It would facilitate a full objective assessment of readiness, financial viability and long term sustainability.

    In principle at least, how is this a bad thing? The FIA may or may not have run the process badly, but even if it did that doesn’t invalidate the advantages a well run tendering process would offer.

    The alternative of allowing anyone to compete as long as they can field two cars by a deadline (a sort of pre-pre-qualifying) has its attractions – but in reality who (apart from the big motor manufacturers) is going to be prepared to make that sort of investment on the off chance of making it somewhere near the grid?

  24. The fair example here is Lotus. They were given the place very late and they’ve been testing for 2 weeks now.

    That’s the proof. With good foundings, a good serious project, a team can make it to F1.

    1. And Force India Drawings! ;)

  25. I think if the rule was someone just had to build and test two F1 cars to a deadline before the start of the season you could end up with the situation where too many cars turned up to race, and I would have thought not many people would go to all the trouble and expense of designing and building an F1 car without the guarantee of being allowed to race.

    I think something that could help in the future would be if as well as the rules being finalised at least a year in advance that new teams were granted their place at least a year in advance.

    When the budget cap rules, which the initial three new teams applied under, fell through I wondered how they would cope but I thought of all of them USF1 would be okay as according to them their F1 project had been planned for quite sometime and they had mentioned they intended to race before the budget cap was announced, whereas all the other prospective new teams only seemed to appear after the budget cap was announced.

  26. This surely must be the nadir of the Mosley era. We now have the prospect of HRT and Virgin on the back row and in the event of a collision the gynaecological jokes from the more irrevant media do not bear thinking about.

    If that is not enough, Mark Webber points out that Bahrein could have at least two untested cars on the grid if not four with too many new boys among them. (or even Villeneuve!)

    I would hope that Jean Todt would prevent all that happening, insisting that untested teams must attend a special roadworthiness test before joining the other teams in which they are also required to race each other, perhaos as a support race to a Grand Prix.

  27. I have been trying to spread the news of USF1 on the F1 grid in the US for quite some time. Very few people I spoke to knew about the team so it won’t be public disappointment for them.

    What I don’t understand is how USF1 were so serious and failed so badly. They were applying for entry before the budget caps. I believe at the time that Toyota was on a $400mil budget. They mentioned the caps would help, but were not depending on them for survival.

    The problem with the team is they tried to do it too American dream. Talk up sponsors, get business loan, and make a dream happen. Look at Lotus, they have backing from the Malaysian gov. thats huge! Virgin is backed by Branson another big name. StefanGP is big money and government as well. Little sponsors can get you a few mil for NASCAR but not the big money for F1.

    1. I support StefanGP so don’t take this the wrong way,
      but my understanding of the government support is that it may be ever so slightly stretching the truth….

  28. The blame as I see it is on the FIA’s decision to drop the required $40 million bond necessary to gain an entry. Up until then, it had done a pretty good job of keeping out the dreamers.

    The way I would’ve done it would be to tell the new teams: Put up a bond of $40 million, or maybe even $20 million and build a car that can run within 107% of the field and you can race. If you can’t make it to the end of the season, you lose your bond.

    1. Excellent suggestion F1 Outsider.
      Actually that makes you an F1 Insider ;)

  29. I think you’ve summed it all up quite nicely, Keith.

    The only thing I can think of that hasn’t been said, is that one thing the FIA should do is to calculate how much it costs to build and maintain a two-car team, and set that as an entry requirement for any applicants; as a preliminary vetting process. Personally I think It sucks that the sport has gotten so astronomically expensive, but there it is. So the first stage of the application process should be a demonstration that you actually have the money to go ahead.

    As for a deadline, there has to be a required minimum of testing hours before the first race, if for no other reason than everybody’s safety. I would like to see Stefan GP on the grid – why waste two perfectly good cars – but they would have to be given (forced to take, actually) the time to do a minimum of testing.

    1. Should add: the same goes for Campos/HRT.

  30. Hi Keith,

    I was a trifle befuddled by your post; possibly because you’ve attributed all the ills of the world to the FIA tender process. From what I heard, from people close to (and actually involved with) the tender, it was both rigorous and arduous, and overseen by independent auditors. All the putative teams had to prove that they had at least some meaningful funding in place, and that they had an engine contract. For the latter element that really did mean ‘contract’, ie not turning up and saying, “Oh, for sure we’ll be able to get a Mercedes engine…” Hence they were directed to arrive with proof of an engine supply, if not with an existing supplier then with Cosworth.
    The aim was to prevent any no-hopers blagging their way in with a roster of non-existent sponsors and then walzing off with a share of the TV money faster than you can say “SS United”. It wasn’t like Caligula deciding to make his horse a senator…
    In the interim, FOTA nixed the original budget cap and the sport has continued to suffer the effects of the recession. Even the established teams are struggling for sponsorship, as evinced by the bare flanks of the Renault and BMW-Sauber. Is the FIA tender process also to blame for the global economic situation?
    Campos had a car and engine available, but at the moment of reckoning didn’t have the wherewithal to pay for them. USF1 hadn’t even got that far; but that, surely, has more to do with inertia, nepotistic employment practices, and the boss man spending too much time in Starbucks (allegedly). I struggle to envision a selection process that could have forseen all that…

    SC

    1. I appreciate your point about Super Aguri but I think in trying to solve the “no-hopers” problem they’ve created an equally undesirable problem of investing confidence in people who then fail to clear the first hurdle of getting a car on the track.

      I don’t blame the FIA for all this because, as I said, US F1 had their problems. But we’ve now had two tender processes where teams were invited to submit entries under new rules which then disappeared, so I don’t think the FIA are blameless either.

      1. A more stable political climate would certainly have helped!

  31. Great article, Keith. I’m glad somebody said what I’ve been thinking the last couple of weeks.

  32. Spaceman Spiff
    3rd March 2010, 16:38

    Thanks for the most rational, lucid explanation I have seen on this issue. It appears that the rest of the media are headhunting rather than reporting–not that Mr. Anderson doesn’t perhaps deserve to lose his head over this.
    As to the tender process, in the old days, “Qualifying” for a race was just that; you brought your car and your driver to the track and ran with everyone else, and if you could prove you were fast enough, and good enough (to run with the others), then you were in the race.
    Under Uncle Bernie’s regime that process isn’t possible because he needs money for the whole season up-front, but there could be a Qualification Standard that must be met during official “Pre-season Qualifying” enable a team (and each of its cars) to run that season.
    The teams all complain about the lack of testing time, so if the FIA, FOM, and FOTA can all agree on additional pre-season Qualification standards and sessions, that would benifit them all–from the FIA who could avoid embarassing situations like this, to FOM who would get to keep a percentage of the team’s entry fee if they fail to qualify, to FOTA who would get additional pre-season track time for everyone, to the nay-sayers at Ferrari who claim the new teams aren’t good enough, to the fans who could attend or follow the televised Season Qualification sessions.

    1. I love the idea of Open Pre-Season qualifications to get the grid sorted. 25 fastest cars are in or similar situation would be awesome! Not to mention they could aire the coverage im sure fans would watch!

  33. why Stefan ?…JV back on the grid…B. E. fix this now!!!

  34. Well, I think its worth pointing out that both Campos and Manor have changed ownership, name or sponsor, so the teams that we are going to see starting at Bahrain are not the same teams that signed the deal with Max last year.
    This poses another problem as far as I can see, that with a sudden influx of smaller, cheaper teams, any of them that are successful this year are going to be targets for the bigger teams to buy into next year, especially if the need for testing time becomes more important.
    So how long is Max’s dream of small teams going to last? It won’t be very long before we have a grid of ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams, owned by the successful sponsors, running the most successful engines.
    Wouldn’t it have been easier to allow that to begin with?

  35. three cars by each team is the best solution for weak grids.

  36. I feel sorry for some of these new drivers.

    This time last year Romain Grosjean was looking like a star of the future.
    But he has gone now, and we may never see him in F1 again.

    We may have three new drivers in F1 next year, one of them Bruno Senna. I would hate for him to have a bad season because of no preseason testing.

    F1 owes more to that name and to their stars of the future.

  37. I think the suggestion of some kind of FIA failure is a little bit unfair here. I take your point that 50% of the new teams are, in one way or another, struggling. Isn’t that the challenge of F1? Recent history aside the sport is littered with small teams who’ve spent a fortune only to tootle around last for a season and then go belly up. All the new teams looked good on paper, not least of which USF1. They were all partly hamstrung by the change of the budget cap rules but they were all in a similar boat. The difference here is all about the funding. A problem that’s bugged teams in F1 for years.

    Virgin and Lotus have an excellent and secure funding base. Campos and USF1’s model was based primarily on raising the necessary sponsorship money. A gamble. As soon as confidence in your team goes, so does the money. Campos were saved, USF1 weren’t so lucky. You can’t build an F1 car in six months with only 60 staff and an unsteady supply of money.

    Like any fledgling business, they’ve suffered from a lack of investment and that’s not really something the FIA can predict if they make their presentations and applications with lots of very flash promises from sponsors. I think somebody above has pointed out the obvious. For all the Jordan, Williams, Sauber, Stewart, Minardi, Toleman and Tyrell’s of this world there are more of those that didn’t make it. Simtek, Forti, Modena, Leyton house, Pacific, Footwork and Fondmetal to name a few from my early GP watching days. Why are we so surprised that this state of affairs continues? It’s a harsh environment and there is a significant barrier to entry that only cold hard cash will mitigate.

    F1 is just being F1. We shouldn’t be surprised. A solution to all of this would be to reduce the budgets but I do believe there are some objections to that…

  38. Accidental Mick
    3rd March 2010, 19:57

    Several people (includeing me) have suggested that a team should prove itself in one of the “feeder” series before being allowed into F1. Several other people have pointed out that it is still a huge jump up to F1.

    I am warming to the concept of allowing teams to use “customer” cars for a season or two before being required to build their own. This would show that they had the ability to fund and run a team before taking the next step. After all, isn’t that what Torro Rosso did?

  39. whats sad is USF1 may be based in US and may try to act like its the American outfit… It never was felt that way here in America. Alot of racing fans around here felt USF1 wasnt a true American push and was trying to take advantage of the American team idea. As a American I’m glad they failed. Now for a True American team to rise with proper funding and American drivers.

  40. Prisoner Monkeys
    3rd March 2010, 22:01

    I don’t think USF1’s failure to make it to the grid was a result of a bad entry selection process. It was flawed, yes, but how could it possibly predict bad management a year before everything came to grief? You just can’t account for that.

    1. Agree with that point

  41. What I find interesting about this whole debacle, is that the only new teams, and the one waiting to get in, that actually have cars build and ready to go, are all toy projects of billionaires. That might say a bit about what’s going on with F1 right now too.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      3rd March 2010, 22:15

      Toy projects of billionaires? Virgin started out as Manor, a very successful F3 team. Richard Branson simply purchased the naming rights. And Hispania started out as Campos, named for Adrian Campos, a former driver himself and the former owner of the very successful Campos Grand Prix GP2 team. And Lotus isn’t the pet project of Tony Fernandes – he was appointed to the position.

      1. Yes, I ‘m not denying that, BUT Virgin, and Lotus have been the only two to get actually get cars together. It seems the backing of a billionaire may be needed in F1 (regardless of how you fair in other series).

  42. I doubt that how much quick will be Campos with non testing.We have already seen that the other two new teams Virgin & Lotus are already 4-6 second off the pace from the front runner.

  43. theRoswellite
    4th March 2010, 5:57

    The problem of new entries into F1 could be solved with a viable feeder system.

    The present “system”, or lack thereof, feeds drivers forward but that is about all.

    Perhaps some of these things would allow lower teams to move up:

    1) Link the feeder system more tightly to the F1 show, which would allow greater exposure for feeder sponsors and definitely add to the activities at the track for the attending fans.
    2) Make the feeder cars more interesting technologically through variations in rules while still limiting cost. Make it a formula of experimentation, not necessarily expense.
    3) Make it a requirement that a team which wants to enter F1 must first run at least a year in the feeder system.
    4) Explore using former F1 cars in the feeder system.

    Oh, and a side note, allow teams in the first year of existence, or any team finishing in the bottom 1/4 of the field the previous season to test as much as they would like…to include a special period on Friday of each race weekend.

  44. One great point, which should be shouted from the rooftops by every F1 fan:

    IF YOU CAN GET TWO F1 CARS BUILT AND TESTED BEFORE THE START OF THE SEASON, YOU’RE IN.

    This can potentially produce more than 26 cars, but we still have qualifying session to sort it out. Only the best of the bunch would be allowed to race.

    I think it would make the sport much more open. Add to that a little bit more freedom in the technical regulations… and maybe a little stronger engines and weaker breaks… I know I’m daydreaming.

    But I still believe we should clearly express what we want. We should repeatedly bang FIA over the head with it, so that maybe someday they will hear us.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      4th March 2010, 8:52

      That will never work. It costs roughly forty million dollars to start a team up. Hell, Campos were on forty-eight million and are still struggling. How many teams do you think would spend that much money if there was a realistic chance they’d never see the grid?

      1. But the current system doesn’t work either. The teams that don’t have the money struggle anyway. If the rules were more open, I bet we would see some guys taking the risk every year.

        After all there were over dozen of new applicants for 2010.

  45. J.A. Summers
    4th March 2010, 20:59

    This should teach the FIA a very important lesson: Have a definite set of rules in place BEFORE opening up the application process for any new teams.

  46. Teams come and go and change their guises over the years as they morph from one owner to another. Like any other sport there needs to be people at the top and by definition people at the bottom. The fact that some are ill prepared is no real concern for me as I believe the teams are all hard working and hungry to improve. Being well resourced is not a guarantee of success as we saw with Toyota but then again who would have thought little teams like Torro Rosso and Force India would have had the results they had. The sun will rise tomorrow and life will go on and we will learn from these occassions, sometimes not instantly but eventually…

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