USF1: The case for

Danica Patrick has been linked to a USF1 drive

Danica Patrick has been linked to a USF1 drive

Guest writer Clive Allen responds to Peter Anderson’s case against against USF1′s F1 hopes for 2010.

It is very easy to list the difficulties confronting USF1 in their attempt to enter F1 in 2010. We are all aware of these and nothing Peter Anderson says in his article, USF1: The case against is anything new.

But, if we can think of such things, you can bet that Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor have too – and four years of preparing for the project must have included ideas for overcoming the problems. They are both experienced in F1, after all, (Ken in a couple of monumental failures – can you believe that he would happily set himself up for yet one more embarrassing episode?) and must have done their homework.

That is the first thing I think we have to be wary of when criticising the USF1 project – underestimating the team principals. They have the credentials not to be dismissed as fools and it is unwise to suggest that they have not done the maths when calculating travel expenses, for instance. You cannot tell me that these guys do not know what they are up against and, if they are aware of the problems, they must have some pretty valid answers. If they have not told us the full story during the official announcement, that is only circumspect; at the moment they are selling the concept and too much detail would allow others to steal their ideas ahead of time.

Pointing at Toyota’s decision to base their team in Cologne as being a major reason for the team’s poor results is clearly incorrect. Sauber do not seem to have had a problem in being based in Switzerland and became a respectable member of the F1 club in a very short amount of time. It is history that has located most of the teams in England and has nothing to do with logistics.

The point about the wealth of F1 experience existing in England has been answered by Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor; the theory is that Charlotte has just as much racing expertise and this can be adapted to cope with the demands of F1 design and construction. That may or may not be true – we will know the answer once the team get a car on to the track – but to dismiss it out of hand is assuming a lot.

Travel and transport are part and parcel of any F1 team’s existence. In any international sport it will be so and F1 does not avoid the issue by being centered in England. Indeed, with the prospects for the British GP looking very dubious, the teams based in England may well find themselves without a “home” race in the future. Ken Anderson’s assertion that most of the races are no longer in Europe is fact, not poppycock (count ‘em), and to suggest that this somehow makes it impossible for a team to compete from a foreign base is a blinkered viewpoint indeed. Whether we like it or not, Europe will have fewer GPs in the future and the sport is becoming truly worldwide in venues as well as appeal.

As for parts being needed in a hurry, is that not the point of having a base in Europe (most likely Spain)? And, if having two bases is the point of the argument, it does not seem to have hurt BMW in dividing its operation between Germany and Switzerland.

The big question is money, not drivers. If the car is built, drivers will be found (Windsor has already admitted that the team will probably employ an experienced F1 driver, regardless of nationality, in its first couple of years). But the main factor on which the team’s existence will depend is funding – can they find enough to make the thing viable?

The plain fact is that we do not know at this stage, but certain things make it more likely that they will succeed in America rather than in Europe. Even existing teams are having a hard time putting together enough funding to continue – the chances of doing so for a new team are remote indeed. But USF1′s concept of finding funding from many different sources, most already involved in component manufacture and service to motor sport has a better chance of success.

Americans are patriotic in a way that is out of fashion in Europe; they will relish the chance to show that the good ol’ US of A can do it and do it better. They are not going to put money into a team based in Europe and having only flimsy connections with America, but USF1 is a different matter entirely. And it is exactly Windsor’s rhetoric that will appeal to them – Americans have a need to prove themselves on the international stage.

There is always more money floating around in the States than in Europe anyway. If it is difficult to raise sponsorship in the US, you can guarantee that it will be nigh on impossible in Europe. I say give Ken and Peter a break – they will either raise the money or fail and we do not help by pointing out the obvious problems in starting an F1 team from scratch. What else is new, after all?

That is really the strongest argument against buying the Honda F1 team too. Messrs Anderson and Windsor could certainly forget any chance of gaining American money if they had taken that route. Remember that they have been working on the concept of USF1 for years – the idea of buying an existing team must have been thrown out long ago.

The intent is to have a truly American team in the same vein as Dan Gurney’s Eagle team so long ago. At a time when North America has been excluded from the F1 scene completely and the grid is threatened by yet more team withdrawals, USF1 gives much-needed hope from an unexpected quarter. If you think it cannot succeed in at least putting a car on the grid, you don’t know Americans.

Engines I don’t see as being a major problem. My money is on BMW supplying them but Mosley’s Cosworth lump is as good a solution as any other. They’re supposed to be going cheap next year, too…

Windsor and Anderson may not have their trousers on yet but Martin Whitmarsh seems to think they will be pretty well dressed by the time 2010 rolls around. They won’t win any races in that first year but they never said they would. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

This is a guest article by Clive Allen. If you want to write a guest article for F1 Fanatic you can find all the information you need here.

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50 comments on USF1: The case for

  1. zerogee said on 27th February 2009, 7:19

    Ah-ha, I see the problem…

    When I say ‘poppycock’, it’s not a maths problem, it’s a geography one. There aren’t any races in America (count ‘em). At worst, my dismissal is as silly as Windsor’s about teams ‘wandering Europe in their transporters.’ Everything USF1 will be doing is long-haul. And if they’re producing parts in Spain, they’re duplicating effort.

    As for travel costs, well…they’ve done their maths for today, as they have done for everything else. In a sense, their timing is opportunistic and in a good way. Everything is cheap at the moment and if you want to have a cheap year or two to find your feet, they’ve nailed it. There is much good in the USF1 story. I wrote for the case against.

    And as for your rebuttals…well done! I love a good argument. :-)

    • Thank you, Zerogee – I love a good argument too! And, contrary to some of the most annoyed comments to your post, I thought you did a good job of setting out the case against. My feelings were exactly the same when I first read of the project but I have been won over.

      I think Windsor was referring to travel times when he mentioned trucks wandering all over Europe and, essentially, he is correct. I don’t know the travel times to North Carolina but it takes nine hours to get from England to Dallas. I doubt very much that a truck travelling from Spain, for instance, could return to base in Blighty in less than that…

      Also, I don’t think the idea is to produce any parts in Spain. It makes much more sense (and serves the aim of the project) to have everything made in the States and then use the Spanish base as a depot.

  2. Cameron said on 27th February 2009, 7:29

    My only issue with all this is Danica Patrick being linked to a possible drive. Let’s be honest now, she really isn’t that good. Putting her in an F1 car would be nothing more than a publicity stunt.

    • I agree, this is exactly what I was thinking.

      As physically attractive she may be, she doesn’t have the victory tallies and achievements that F1 graduates tend to have. I’d rather see the 2nd woman in F1 do well – have a real impact, than be mediocre/below par – it’s the same with any driver, really. But I guess people have different ways to the F1 circuit and they can turn out a lot better, or a lot worse, than expected.

      But you can certainly bet USF1 will gain a lot of supporters overnight if she ends up on the roster.

    • It was rumour that first put Danica in the car – USF1 did not mention her until the question was asked. And it makes sense that they would not rule out the possibility; it will be a long time before they start hunting for drivers and it does no harm to raise interest by mentioning a few possibilities in the meantime. Just say the name Danica Patrick and the press are all over you!

    • Arthur954 said on 27th February 2009, 18:42

      Danica Patrick is a good looking gal but she would be way way off the pace.
      The ONLY serious driver in the U.S. with the qualifications to drive these cars is Montoya. At the very least they should have him as their test driver in the U.S.

  3. Martin Bell said on 27th February 2009, 7:44

    What I don’t get is how something that has supposedly had four years of planning by some very credible people, comes across as a vanity project that two ageing suits came up with on the back of a fag packet in the pub. Historically, the American car industry isn’t perceived as being technically innovative, their racing series little more than stock formulae. I just think that we should be proud of the fact that F1 is an essentially European activity, and forget the idea that it needs American approval to be considered the pinnacle of motorsport.

    • zerogee said on 27th February 2009, 8:35

      By the way, Clive, I loved the trousers gag…

    • Hey, you fed me the line, Zerogee. ;)

      Martin, have you ever watched American TV? It is a different creature from the British version because it caters to a different audience. If anything, the announcement was a little too low key to really grab typical US viewers. USF1′s job was to make the public aware of the project and to to focus attention on the fact that it is American – they were plugging the patriot button quite shamelessly and quite rightfully so, if they are to raise their funds in the States. The long lists of facts and figures required by a European audience would have turned off Americans in very short order.

      One can deride American racing (NASCAR has been said to be “the pinnacle of yesterday’s technology”) but that runs the risk of being proved embarrassingly wrong. It suits us to think that F1 technology is so advanced that only our experienced engineers can cope with it but things may not be as cut and dried as that. As an instance, aerodynamics has been the most important element of F1 design for years – and USF1 will have access to the Windshear wind tunnel and its extensive experience. Don’t write off the Americans – they have an inferiority complex towards Europe that will drive them on and an ability to think of new and clever ways of doing things.

      Think Colin Chapman was the inventor of ground effect? Nah, it was Jim Hall…

    • If F1 is a “essentially European activity,” then why is it called the World Championship? With so much invovlement from Brazil and Japan and now the Middle East (plenty of motor racing history and interest there!) what’s wrong with a few motivated Americans trying to assert a place on the grid.

      I imagine you weren’t complaining when Force India debued last year, so why rip on USF1?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th February 2009, 10:41

      I just think that we should be proud of the fact that F1 is an essentially European activity

      I couldn’t disagree with that sentiment more – F1 has more credibility the more international it becomes. I want races, teams and drivers in America and South Africa and Mexico and and and…

  4. I do hope they make. Not because it is USF1, in fact I would prefer if they did not use the national team image but anything goes if that helps them to find funding. I simply will be happy if we get closer to full grid of 24 cars.

    But as Martin Bell says above:

    how something that has supposedly had four years of planning by some very credible people, comes across as a vanity project that two ageing suits came up with on the back of a fag packet in the pub

    They made such a noise about their “team announcement” on SpeedTV but when it came down to tell us something they had nothing to say other than things we all already knew. They said they have money but did not mention a single sponsor or investor. They spoke about all manufacturers having US as their main market, but these were same words as written in recent editorial on autosport.com. It sounded like they copied arguments someone else made for them and pasted them into their TV speaches …

    They speak about technology but yet they can’t even make their very simple website to work properly. The countdown clock to the announcement could not handle different timezones, when the site worled it was extremely slow, today the site does not work at all …

    It does look a bit too amateurish so far …

    One thing I do agree with them however is that recession always creates opportunities, their timing may be very right.

    But no matter what, it will do us no harm to give them that benefit of doubt for a moment as Clive says.

    • Martin Bell said on 28th February 2009, 12:27

      I can see that I need to choose my words more carefully. By “essentially European activity” what I mean is that F1 has a European style and ethos, not that it is geographically European. I think the problem with Americans is that they assume that everybody else in the World wants to be American. I was merely suggesting that we should celebrate what is good and right about F1, and not wish for it to become more American. Besides, there are plenty of American sporting events billed as a “world championship” or “world series” which have no international status.

  5. They have to talk big and they have to hit the media hard, if they don’t it’ll just be some other announcement and no one will know about them – or think they aren’t up to it.

    Why is that important? we’ll for most people it all seems like a big load of crap and pie in the sky ideas – because you’re all just viewers of the sport, but on the business side of things, if they were to approach pepsi for a sponsorship deal without loads of PR around them already they would look like they are nothing and not worth backing.

    They need to do all this big talking and big media to get in the face of the people with the cash, the technical stuff can be worked out later, it’s pointless announcing engine deals and car specifics, that can all change and be worked out later, they first need to cash to make that happen – and that cash comes from big PR, big announcements, and big sponsors.

  6. gabal said on 27th February 2009, 9:01

    I wish them all good luck but I think the truth is somewhere in the middle of this 2 opinions we read on the site this week. Not being located in Midlands isn’t such a logistical problem but a human resources problem. Recruiting talented technical personel is much easier if that means their families won’t have to move if they switch jobs. As far as I know, BMW is having troubles recruiting just because of moving families thing. Most of their technical personel comes ”from house” and you are neglecting that Munich and Hinwill are very close. Even Ferrari had its engine department situated in England during 90′s…

    As sponsorship goes – who says sponsorship portfolio comes from one country only? Lets take Williams for example – last season they had sponsorship from UK, Malasya, USA, Japan, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands and Iceland… How much more limited will their sponsorship portfolio be if they limited themself to ”local” sponsors. I doubt USF1 would refuse sponsorship deals from outside.
    Besides, they will almost certanly use non-US engines… Speaking of engines, I thought Cosworth engines didn’t pass due to lack of interest?

    • Cosworth won the FIA contract to produce a standard engine for F1. Although the manufacturer teams have been able to deflect Mosley from his drive towards standardised engines (for the moment), the Cosworth agreement remains there for anyone to pick up.

      As regards limiting sponsorship to the States alone, I am sure USF1 would not object if you were to send them a few quid. But the selling point of the team is that it is American and the hope is that will be enough to open Stateside sponsor pockets. Other teams have money from many different countries? Great, let’s do it another way!

      Ken and Peter are merely being realistic in this – they stand a far better chance of getting funding from American sponsors than they do by entering the competitive market for sponsorship worldwide.

    • But wasn’t there some clause in the deal which said at least 3 teams must pick it up if the deal is to materialise? There was a deadline after which nobody responded and all news of Cosworth engines disapered. Even former Honda won’t use it as things look like now…

  7. patrickl said on 27th February 2009, 9:59

    Maybe it would have been better if you actually wrote a case “for” USF1. This is a rebuttal only showing that the case “against” might be incorrect on some details.

    You show nothing that they have got going for them. Only that the obstacles presented might be overcome.

    I’m still unconvinced that USF1 will be a success, but of course if “success” is defined as “might field cars”, they might have “success”. I doubt they are entering F1 to fight with Force India though.

    • The post was indeed intended as a rebuttal of Zerogee’s, Patrickl. If you want to know more about the case for USF1, read my blog! :D

      Any team entering F1 would be unrealistic to expect to compete beyond Force India from the start. To be able to qualify within a couple of tenths of the Force India cars would be deemed an acceptable entrance for any newcomer in its early races. From there, anything can happen.

  8. Mouse_Nightshirt said on 27th February 2009, 10:47

    I must say I love the informed and civilized debate here. Applauds all round.

  9. Adrian said on 27th February 2009, 11:47

    Strikes me that while the USA isn’t known for it’s motorsport technology, where they are world leaders is in the aerospace industry. And as many people have said before, F1 has as much in common with the aerospace industry as it does with the automotive industry.

    I wouldn’t bet against USF1 making it to the grid next year, and they are being realistic in their expectations from what I’ve read.

    Good luck to them, I hope they pull it off!!

  10. Arthur954 said on 27th February 2009, 15:31

    I hope they can put all this together, my main doubt however is the drivers : it seems that you have to drive a F1 car to the limits in order to obtain that final effectiveness in setup, development, etc.
    A good, or even the best, U.S. driver might not be enough

    Could we see MONTOYA coming back ? I doubt it, he is having a good time racing in the U.S. Maybe he could be their test driver in the U.S. however ….

    • patrickl said on 27th February 2009, 21:45

      Montoya is Colombian though.

    • Arthur954 said on 28th February 2009, 13:20

      Yes he´s from Colombia — however he has been racing for years in the U.S. and I think many racing fans in the America consider him part of the landscape so to say
      Maybe ? and I don´t know if he is technical or not or simply a fast driver
      In any case they absolutely need an experienced fast F1 driver to test the cars in the U.S.
      Cheers !

  11. I’m very worried that there was no news about money or sponsors. We have one investor named form the USF1 blog, whom I’ve never heard of.

    Yeah, Danica hasn’t set the world on fire with her racing. But one thing she could bring is the cash, and that is what USF1 needs right now.

  12. F1Yankee said on 27th February 2009, 15:38

    i’d like to see the team use the cosworth engine for several reasons:

    i don’t think engines supplied from the big 5 would match the price, despite equivalent performance.

    ford-cosworth is a name with considerable history both domestic and international, the ford brand is successful worldwide, and ford is in the best financial shape of the 3 american manufacturers to sponsor an engine deal.

    i believe the spec cosworth is key to the survival of the sport, either by using the option, or by forcing the cost of a big 5 engine downward. i think it’s the logical choice for every team making up the second half of the grid.

    • F1Yankee, I would just like to say that Ford sold Cosworth engines a few years ago. Ford does not own them now. They are independent.

    • F1Yankee said on 27th February 2009, 19:44

      i’m not sure if ford ever owned cosworth, or if they just sponsored the english shop’s motors. either way, the 2 names are linked with some of motorsports’ finest moments.

  13. Muckymuck said on 27th February 2009, 15:45

    Sponsorship is the key to success for this team. With four years of planning, I suspect they have a few sponsors already in their pocket. Windsor and Anderson aren’t inherently wealthy so they couldn’t sustain a team like this on their own and to plan for their team to be on the grid in a year probably means some backing is in place.

    Clive makes a great point about the how much money is in the States. There are likely American companies that want to back an American team and want international exposure which NASCAR and IRL lack. Nigel Whitmarsh appreciates this point of bridging the American market and F1 – that’s the basis of his support of the USF1 team. The USF1 team is the key to unlocking the US market – it’s pro-American take is just as much nationalism as marketing as it will draw Americans to watch F1, opening up vierwership and then sponsorship. It’s a good can of worms to open.

    For some reason, I imagine FedEx as their sponsor. The colors match, the speed theme makes sense. Heck, if FedEx uses their planes to transport the F1 team, that would be great marketing and also cost saving to USF1!!

    • On Whitmarsh, I believe the person you are referring to is named Martin, not Nigel. His words are quite good, and unlike the depressing comments from Paul Stoddard on this subject, Whitmarsh really knows a thing or two about operating a quality team.

      On FedEx, how do the purple and orange colors match anything that USF1 may cook up? Besides, they already sponsor McLaren. Perhaps UPS may be in a similar situation however.

    • muckymuck said on 28th February 2009, 19:59

      Gman, you’re right…it’s Martin not Nigel. I had a friend named Nigel and confused their names. And you’re right about FedEx too…I confused their colors with USPS. A very confusing day indeed :)

      I guess I can’t let anything slip here…you get called out on it if you do!

  14. Wow, it’s really getting interesting.
    Clive, thanks for the great response to Peter’s argument well put.

    Also, the ‘Danica’ situation, American pride, as well as the American TV arguments in the comments are true factors that aren’t typically understood outside of the US.

    As for Danica, she already made her start overseas and as Windsor pointed out in the interview, he still has a hard time thinking of her as exclusively American as she raced so much overseas. Additionally she’s proven herself to be more than a serviceable driver (she’s won, she’s beat all the guys, yes it’s just the once,, but they don’t hand those out,, ANY weekend.) Her marketing ability cannot be underestimated, additionally she’s an interesting character which as we all know is a welcome addition.

    In terms of American pride, having a single team to properly get behind and a team to do it a little different (to me means, clever use of outsourcing, more in depth fan interaction, and a reduction in frivolous racing purchases within a facility/team) combined with some clever financing/sponsorship could do the trick for a long lived team. They’re building a legacy here, they aren’t showing up to be a one and done as everyone has the feeling of. They’ve been working on this long and hard, they admitted to having sponsorship money already to get them to the start line in 2010, no one is focusing on that fact. Muckymuck your FedEx idea is very logical, and would indeed serve the team well. Moneytarily, functionally, as well as graphically (clever catch there!)

    As for American TV, we do watch a little differently. The big difference for NASCAR is the “soap opera effect” that is common, along with fan interaction. Watch and F1 race, and then “shudder” a NASCAR race, the amount of driver/team owner/crew chief interaction with the broadcast crew is entirely different, and engages the viewer very differently than in an F1 race.

    I wish they’d get a “shop” up on their website,, I for one am excited to have a home grown team to cheer for (don’t worry, I’m still a Ferrari fan too!)

  15. Great article! And when Clive Allen says don’t count us Americans out, he means it! If India can field a team, why on can’t The USA. To have Montoya back in F1 would also be a very welcome sight!

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