US F1 Furloughs Workers, Eyes 2011
The US F1 team has shifted gears and is applying to retain its position in Formula One by postponing entry until 2011. Employes at its facility in Huntersville, N.C., were put on unpaid leave Tuesday afternoon and the team itself is under a reorganization that began last week.
In place of a withdrawal or dismissal by the FIA sanctioning body as a result of not making the grid with its cars this season, US F1’s strategy is to post a surety bond that will hold its position as a member of the Concorde Agreement that governs the participation of teams in F1. The procedural road is a long one, because the proposal would have to gain approval from the FIA, plus Formula One Management and the Formula One Teams Association.
The effort to keep US F1 alive is being led by Nick Craw, the president of the FIA Senate and the president of the Automobile Competition Committee of the U.S. He described US F1’s bond bid as “plowing new ground.”
Details of who will own the team if it survives and how it would be operated remain unclear. The team was launched by principal Ken Anderson and sporting director Peter Windsor, but primary investor Chad Hurley has been active in recent failed negotiations to get the team on the grid for the season opener in Bahrain through a merger with Stefan GP. A team member requesting anonymity said a reorganization was announced at a team meeting last week and that in terms of building a car “nothing I’ve seen would indicate that we couldn’t do what we set out to do.”
Dave Skog, the production director at US F1, gave today’s announcement of furloughs in Huntersville, where neither Anderson nor Windsor were present.
The FIA’s technical delegate, Charlie Whiting, visited US F1’s facility last week to consider its capacity to build an entry. A source close to the FIA indicates Whiting recognized the technical capacity was in place to build a car, including the use of outside vendors such as Crawford Composites. Various sources within the team cite Anderson’s problems with issuing design plans and a cash flow problem as the reason behind the failure to have cars finished for the start of the season on Mar. 14.
The Serbian-owned Stefan GP team continues to maneuver independently to get on the grid in place of US F1 as the 13th and final team eligible to participate, but it remains outside the Concorde Agreement and will need FIA approval. The team announced that former world champion Jacques Villeneuve has visited its facilities in Cologne, Germany for a seat fitting and that it has completed two cars originally destined to be entered by the now departed F1 team of Toyota. While the Serbian team has publicly derided US F1’s stillborn effort, those close to the American team are pushing questions about Stefan GP’s financial stability.
In a related action, driver Jose Maria Lopez is in the final stages of concluding his contract with US F1, according to his manager Felipe McGough. The driver signed a contract with US F1 in late January and paid the team $830,000 from sponsorship under that agreement as an initial payment. McGough is trying to retrieve that money and get Lopez a contract as reserve driver for the Campos Meta team, which is scheduled to be renamed Hispania Racing F1 Team.
– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at email@example.com.One Comment