US F1 Appears Finished
The race is on at US F1 to find an exit strategy to its failed bid to join the Formula One world championship. With the F1 season opener at Bahrain looming and pre-season testing drawing to a close, US F1 is out of money, has not completed its car and has yet to pick up its engines from Cosworth Engineering.
Instead of journeying to Northampton in England to pick up race engines, US F1 is more likely to begin negotiations with Formula One Management boss Bernie Ecclestone in London regarding the team’s obligations under the Concorde Agreement made between participating teams and F1’s sanctioning body, the FIA.
The last hope of any alternative route for US F1 disappeared on Friday, when the Campos Meta team announced new ownership and the departure of founder Adrian Campos. The new Campos majority owner Jose Ramon Carabante, formerly a minority stockholder, intends to find the money to take delivery of cars built for the team by Dallara in time to race at Bahrain.
Not even an influx of money will help US F1, according to an F1 insider familiar with the details of the team’s operations. “The team not only has a problem with not enough money,” he said. “There’s not enough time. Even if the Seventh Cavalry came over the hill to rescue them, they wouldn’t be able to make the grid in Bahrain.”
The scenario sets up US F1 as the team to be replaced by Stefan GP. The Serbian-owned team has purchased the chassis originally intended for use this year by Toyota, which made a decision last fall to withdraw from F1. But the series is limited to the 13 remaining teams that signed the latest Concorde Agreement in June of 2009, meaning US F1 would have to cede ownership to Stefan GP in order for the Serbian team to compete.
There is recent precedent for teams changing hands. After BMW withdrew in the summer of 2009, Peter Sauber bought the team back from the German manufacturer in a deal approved by the FIA. Renault also recently sold a majority stake in its team to a Luxemburg-based company.
Representatives of driver Jose Mario Lopez, who signed a contract to drive for US F1 in January, report negotiations are set to begin in London at the offices of Ecclestone to facilitate Lopez’s departure to another team along with sponsorship from his home country of Argentina. That team might turn out to be Campos, which could then use the sponsorship brought by Lopez to finance its purchase of chassis from Dallara. Currently, the only driver at Campos is Bruno Senna.
A substantial fine awaits US F1 if it fails to honor its obligation under the Concorde to compete in the full F1 schedule. The team could make an appeal to the World Motorsports Council of the FIA to join the series after the opener in Bahrain. But a successful appeal would include a unanimous vote of the existing teams to allow US F1 to continue without racing and still pick up the $10 million in travel funds from the FIA paid to each team under the Concorde at the outset of the season.
With the Stefan GP team waiting in the wings and US F1’s own car stillborn, the prospect of a successful appeal are considered very slim or nil.
– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments