Benjamin Durand, Panthera, 2019

Interview: Panthera on their plans to enter a new F1 team in 2021

2021 F1 season

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Potential new F1 team Panthera is aiming to be a credible force when it arrives in the championship in 2021, its co-founder has told RaceFans.

Benjamin Durand, the former managing director of SMP Racing and BR Engineering and a co-founder of Panthera, told RaceFans in an exclusive interview the team has secured support from Asian backers to enter the series in 2021.

As revealed last month Panthera has already established a temporary factory in the UK, where the majority of their rivals are based. But Durand (pictured right with co-founder Michael Orts) said their long-term plan is to establish an Asian base.

“Our first factory obviously would be in the UK,” he said. “But we will develop in Asia. It’s long-term, we want to develop in Asia.

“We will talk about our plan when we know exactly more, but obviously for starting we need to start where the business is, where we can recruit.”

The team has begun discussions with manufacturers about an engine supply. They have also been in talks with potential title sponsors, which could lead to a change from the current planned name, Panthera Team Asia F1.

The team’s plans will be heavily influenced by the decisions F1 takes regarding its planned overhaul of the regulations for 2021. “[Unless] they come out with something completely crazy, so far from what we see we have the backing sufficient to to sustain the team for the first years,” says Durand.

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A key question is how much of the team’s car it will have to construct and how much may be obtained from rival teams or third parties. “It will be a mix because we need to develop the team,” says Durand, who envisages Panthera ultimately becoming more of a traditional constructor like Williams than a semi-customer team in the Haas mould.

“We need to be able to buy what we need giving us the time for us to build the team,” he said. “The objective is to become closer [to] Williams [than] Haas. But it will be a long process.”

Teams are currently required to produce certain ‘listed parts” themselves, but the definitions of those parts may change in 2021. Durand says the team is preparing itself for a range of possible outcomes.

“For ‘listed parts’, for example, we have our own way of producing our parts because we have to produce them. And for the parts that would not be able to be produced by the manufacturer we have some other solution.”

At present the team “don’t know what we can get from the regulations, what we have to produce,” he explained. “But we are now building several different scenarios where we would be able to [say]: ‘Okay if it’s this then we go there’. We will have the resources.”

The team is conscious of the need to start on a solid footing and not be at risk of failing to meet the 107% time in qualifying.

“Obviously it will not be the most optimised for the first year,” said Durand. “But we will have the resources to do it the way that we will [perform] enough to be on the grid, not to be ridiculous.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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27 comments on “Interview: Panthera on their plans to enter a new F1 team in 2021”

  1. This seems like a serious entry and not just a smokescreen like teams who later failed. I just hope they pull through and we have 22 cars on 2021!

    1. What have you seen that makes them seem a serious entry? Even usf1 had a factory and some parts made before they went belly up which is a lot more than these guys have even talked about yet.

  2. Time will tell, but good luck to them.

  3. I whish them all the best!

  4. Bla, bla, bla…

    I will believe it when I see it. To me it smells like Rich Energy and US F1 together.

  5. “Our first factory obviously would be in the UK,” he said. “But we will develop in Asia. It’s long-term, we want to develop in Asia.

    Well I think it is inevitable that F1 will become a major event in Asia/China so it will makes logistical sense to base teams locally.

    A key question is how much of the team’s car it will have to construct and how much may be obtained from rival teams or third parties. “It will be a mix because we need to develop the team,” says Durand, who envisages Panthera ultimately becoming more of a traditional constructor like Williams than a semi-customer team in the Haas mould.

    I’m not sure this is the ‘vision’ Liberty have for F1, but if this is the general feeling amongst the current and hopefully future teams Liberty will have to stick basically with the current format rather than going down the Rd of a spec series.

  6. Sounds promising, and “we will have the resources” is a good, confident statement. I like that they want to become their own constructor, rather than a team that doesn’t even try to reach the top.

    But the nosy, time-soured F1 fan in me won’t be convinced until it at least finds out where the funding is coming from.

  7. Good luck to them, it will be nice to have another team in F1. Sounds like they are approaching it the right way to and are realistic to where they will be early on

  8. Asia? What country in Asia?

    1. @jorge-lardone That big one, on the other side to Europe.

      1. Assuming they pull everything together and make the 2021 grid, do we really need two additional cars bringing up the back and causing more traffic for everyone else?

        If the regulations don’t allow for those outside of top teams to have a chance at winning or at least get points paying finishes then it’s pointless how many new entrants we get ultimately.

        1. Yes, why would we not need them?

          More cars means more drivers, action, overtakes, and variety.

          Besides, even if they are last when they enter, as long as they’re quick enough to make the grid, so what? It’s virtually impossible to come in and start winning straight away. Even Toyota, one of the largest manufacturers on the planet, with one of the best funded entries in the championship, off the back of a year of flat out testing, were 10th in their first year. Again, as long as they’re quick enough to meet the 107% requirement, let them race, let them develop, let them attempt to climb up the order. The attitude of ‘we don’t need more backmarkers and traffic’ is poisonous. Someone has to come last, after all.

          1. Ditto @kevinc F1 needs all the entrants it can get.
            Arthur, by your argument F1 would restrict itself to 5 teams only to fill the ten point paying places – and that would be completely rubbish both as spectacle and competition; stupid comment.

          2. Agree, let’s give Williams a break !

  9. Well, currently it’s easier to be closer to Williams than Haas so that’s not an unreasonable goal.

    They don’t talk about drivers, perhaps a “back in” for the Hulk?

  10. The first problem with Panthera is that it’s a Formula 1 team, and just a Formula 1 team. Who is going to pay for this team, and why? Haas makes sense as a team because Gene Haas has his machine tool business, which has a global market and plenty of room for growth outside the US. An F1 team makes sense for him as a marketing expenditure and a way of promoting his brand in Europe & Asia. Or at least that’s a plausible rationalization for a man who fundamentally just wants to go racing.

    Guenther Steiner was instrumental in persuading Gene Haas to start Haas F1, and his was an intelligent approach, because he started by identifying Gene Haas as someone who could pay for an F1 team and could plausibly justify sustaining the expense for years on end.

    I’m more skeptical of Panthera because I can’t see who’s lining up to spend millions of dollars per year indefinitely on this venture. Durand & Orts have backgrounds in racing, but as far as I can see neither of them has their own global business & brand to promote; they expect to find someone else willing to pay them to race. But deep-pocketed and committed title sponsors have not exactly been beating a path to F1 teams’ doors in the recent past.

    The team is said to have Chinese backing, but if any of its Chinese backers had a global brand to promote, I expect their name would already be on the team. The fact that it’s called Panthera and not named after some other business tells me that they don’t have a sustainable source of funding; they’re hoping to build a race team first and then figure out how to pay for it. Good luck to them; they’re going to need it.

    1. @flatdarkmars, Risk of being branded racist here but can’t find another way to say it. Oriental people/business’ are very concerned with not “losing face” and therefore, having seen Toyota fail so miserably, a company like Geeley etc. may prefer to dip their toe in the F1 pool secretly to test the waters before throwing the towel off and diving in head first.

      1. @HoHum, I hope you’re right, because having a Chinese auto manufacturer in F1 would be a good way to add a new team with some plausible staying power, and would make sense for an auto company looking to make the leap from domestic to global market.

      2. @hohum – that doesn’t come across racist… In fact, that’s quite an intriguing idea.

        1. Thank you @phylyp, but there’s always somebody looking to be offended, or moreso, somebody keen to be offended on someone else’s behalf.

          1. It certainly looks like the kind of statement that should be examined carefully. There is something a bit problematic about lumping the whole of Asia into one group, just as there would be if we generalised about European business practices, treating the UK, Greece, and Russia as the same.

            It would be absurd to suggest that you’re being deliberately racist here. But we all have to watch out all the time for unintentionally being a bit racist by, for example, overgeneralising to the point of having preconceived notions of how other people will act.

            At the end of the day, the idea you put forward is simply not correct. Fear of ‘losing face’ isn’t a cultural constant in Asia, by a long way, and doesn’t enter into most Asian business cultures.

          2. To add, since I can’t edit, ‘losing face’ has all kinds of connotations implying something specially foreign and different about it, more than just the regular old ‘not wanting to look foolish’ that exists everywhere.

            It’s quite possible you’re spot on about a big company not wanting their name attached at this point, but that could be true wherever the company comes from.

  11. Now, Williams might have someone to race against besides their own drivers.

  12. roberto giacometti
    22nd September 2019, 4:04

    Hmmmm…….!!!!!
    A lot of words there – not much substance though!
    Who in their right mind would want to start a Formula 1 team these days? You need a billion , just to start and scrabble around at the back of the grid.
    Long gone are the days where you could plop 100K on the counter of the local Ford dealer, grab yourself a Cosworth, bolt it to the back of your aluminium bathtub, and score yourself a Grand Prix win or 2!!!

    1. That is a sport I would watch, Roberto!! :)

  13. Listening to some F1 personnel at Singapore, they generally consider this as a serious entry – even more so than when Haas was announced back in 2014.

    My bet on that is that Panthera might have already started to recruit key staff from other teams – which goes in line with what Keith and Dieter reported already.

    As for why would they do that, look at Techeetah in FE (another feline name…interesting): backed by SECA Worldwide (a global sports management and marketing company in China) – and with successful results so far. I could see someone willing to have a simiilar approach in F1.

  14. Good luck to them.

    My one worry is that they are presuming nothing outlandish will be in the 2021 regulations. This is what the 2010 teams thought also, and at least one of those teams would have been properly viable had the FIA kept its end of the bargain (or rather, checked with the ther stakeholders it could make that offer before making it).

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