Exclusive: Zoran Stefanovic explains his complaint to the EU about the FIA

Stefan Grand Prix wanted to be on the F1 grid in 2010

Stefan Grand Prix wanted to be on the F1 grid in 2010

One of the unknown teams that filed an application to be on the F1 grid in 2010 was Stefan Grand Prix. The team’s entry has come to light since it lodged a complaint with the European Union claiming the FIA forced the potential new teams for 2010 to use engines supplied by Cosworth.

I spoke to the man behind the team, Zoran Stefanovic, to find out more about his complaint and his attempts to get Stefan Grand Prix on the grid for 2010.

He claims the team, which has racing car production facilities and has enlisted the help of ex-McLaren man Mike Coughlan, would be prepared to submit a fresh entry if the FIA opened up the tendering process again.

Stefanovic explains how he submitted his entry for 2010:

It was an official procedure we entered for Formula 1 for 2010. We put an official entry and submitted it on time. We had a meeting with Bernie Ecclestone with some people from our side. But after that we heard that we were not chosen

Basically what happened was 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.

Stefanovic said one of his potential engine suppliers is already supplying power units to at least one other active F1 team.

He does not believe the three teams that have been selected: Manor Motorsport (Britain), USF1 (United States) and Campos Meta 1 (Spain) were stronger candidates than his or some other entrants:

The three teams that have been chosen, all of them do not have the equipment or people and very definitely not one of them is a constructor itself which means that no one team has the facility to design and produce Formula 1 cars.

Our company is in the aerospace industry and we have looked at coming into Formula 1 two times. But both times we haven’t had enough ingredients to finish everything. This time the FIA put unnecessary obstacles, so practically anyone who is outside of England has insurmountable objects to overcome and we couldn’t commit to it.

If you take a close look at who is chosen it is practically people who are, one way or another, already connected with the FIA or FOM.

We practically have a team from Spain which has no facility to build anything and no facility to design a car. They are a good team, they have won other things, but they have someone else who will be doing things for them so they are not a constructor.

Another team, USF1, they also have nothing which is, at the moment, able to design and produce a car, they’re having to do things by outsourcing. And Manor again has nothing except, we presume, a design studio, which is good, but but no facilities to produce a car.

But a team with their own facilities, such as Prodrive or Stefan Grand Prix, who have something which is, on the production side, fully qualified, gets rejected. So we are very interested to see what’s going on.

Stefanovic runs AMCO, a Serbian aircraft manufacturer based in Belgrade. He believes they are well equipped to build F1 cars:

At our factory we are completely ready to assemble everything for Formula 1 from the gearbox to a complete car.

We have the capacity to design a car and people who are able to do that, and we have two windtunnels. We have a production history of nearly 100 years of producing aircraft in Belgrade.

Former McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan is working for the company, but according to Stefanovic is not on their payroll. The restriction on him working in motor racing, which was imposed after his involvement in the McLaren-Ferrari espionage scandal two years ago, was lifted by the FIA in February. But it’s not hard to see why the governing body might take a dim view of him returning.

Asked whether he would try to enter F1 again if his appeal was successful and the FIA was forced to open the tendering process once more, Stefanovic said:

Yes, of course. That’s our intention.

I think it is important people realise Formula 1 is not just for British teams, it’s much wider than that.

When the three teams that were offered places on the 2010 grid were announced there was some surprise that some of the most credible-looking names were missing off the list – especially Prodrive (which was planning to bring the evocative Aston Martin brand back to F1 within a few years), along with Lola and Epsilon Euskadi.

The supply of low-cost engines from Cosworth was part of the FIA’s plan to reduce costs but several manufacturers have been quick to offer engine supplies too. They include Mercedes, who despite supplying three teams instead of one this year have had to reduce staff numbers at Brixworth where their F1 engines are prepared.

They are believed to be looking for another team to supply next year – potentially Red Bull, but rumours claimed they were Prodrive’s choice of engine partner for 2010.

The prospect of another EU investigation could be a worrying one for the FIA. The last such encounter dragged on for years and ended with the sports’ governing body having to make significant concessions, including giving up its claim to F1’s commercial rights.

Here’s AMCO’s statement about the FIA tender in full via the F1 Fanaic drop.io:

F1 2010 Season

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76 comments on Exclusive: Zoran Stefanovic explains his complaint to the EU about the FIA

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  1. adaptalis said on 2nd August 2009, 19:35

    More politics. It doesn’t end, does it?

  2. Rohan said on 2nd August 2009, 19:41

    Just sour grapes from Mr. Stefanovic there. To claim that his entry was “better” than the other three that have been accepted is laughable – the other three teams have people with unsullied motorsport reputations heavily involved, whereas Zoran’s team is “associated” with the disgraced Coughlan.

    Furthermore, even if the EC does decide to investigate the supposed competition issues, it’s likely that specifying that any new entrants used Cosworth could be seen as pro-competitive, and not anti-competitive as is alleged.

    • Sush Meerkat said on 3rd August 2009, 11:41

      whereas Zoran’s team is “associated” with the disgraced Coughlan

      That’s exactly why the Stefan car could have been fast out of the box, its a Ferrari MClaren.

    • Forcing the use of a single engine when other teams can use a choice of engines is anti-competitive by definition. It means the new teams have fewer options than the established ones and they are therefore being served an injustice. In fact, any of the three teams that were allowed in would have had the right to sue if they discovered the Cosworths were worse than their preferred engine supplier.

  3. Casino Square said on 2nd August 2009, 20:07

    It seems more and more likely to me that it was true that all teams were told to use Cosworth engines. I don’t really understand EU law very well, but it sounds rather illegal to me. It’s exactly the sort of thing Max Mosley does all the time- makes the overall situation worse so long as it benefits him. Remember, the new teams were chosen right in the middle of the Mosley- FOTA war, just when he didn’t want 3 new teams alligned with any manufacturers.

    I dislike Max Mosley so much that I almost hope that the 3 new teams don’t make it, so that everyone will see what an eejit he was for not doing the honest thing and picking the 3 best candidates with whatever engines they wanted.

    • Martin said on 2nd August 2009, 23:13

      You will probably get your wish as the teams that were chosen are using a rediesigned powerplant that wasnt competitive anyway.
      FIA should open the grid to any team who has the resourses and go back to friday prequalifing. That way they can weed out all that dont make the cut. Say by 125% of pole for the day.
      I would rather have 30 cars trying to qualify for 26 positions thatn what we have now.

      • Would that not be an upgrading of the 2006 williams engine? Because if I recall that engine was very competitive, one of the best on the grid, but was let down by a dodgy williams hydraulic system

        • The Cosworth engine broke down its share of times too.

          However, the engine in 2006 would have to be detuned to place itself in compliance with the current engine regulations, otherwise all established teams could sue the FIA.

  4. Bartholomew said on 2nd August 2009, 20:24

    How interesting ! thanks Keith
    Hopefully we will have more news from Mr. Stefanovic.

    For sure I hope the E.U. investigates FIA some more, for whatever reason. The last I heard about the FIA was Ari Vatanen complaining about the misuse of funds from them .
    It seems that the 100 million fine from McLaren is being spent by Todt “Newman” and his girlfriend miss Mieuw in travelling around the world talking about road safety.
    From people like this I am sure Mr. Stefanovic has good reasons to complain.

  5. Bartholomew said on 2nd August 2009, 20:33

    Now that I think about it, teams like Epsilon Euskadi have huge real bricks and mortar facilities, while for example USF1 ??? I have yet to see a single photo of anything of theirs. Just the amount of makeup that their promoters put on when they appear on TV gives me a bad feeling. Are they for real ?
    This team selection process sure seems obscure to me.

    • Gman said on 3rd August 2009, 3:30

      Yes, the USF1 outfir is for real. Their shop is set up in the shop previously used by the Joe Gibbs NASCAR Sprint Cup operation. I’m sure you’ll be impressed by the facility when the offer it up for public tours, which I doubt you’ll see many other teams doing.

      • Bartholomew said on 3rd August 2009, 3:44

        OK, please send any link to pictures when available.
        cheers !

        • Gman said on 3rd August 2009, 4:00

          Will do, except I won’t be able to get down to Charlotte anytime soon, so you may need to wait until next vacation season if you want something I took myself. Best wishes ;)

  6. HounslowBusGarage said on 2nd August 2009, 20:33

    Very exciting and a damn good catch of an article, Keith!
    This is definitely EU lawyer territory as there could have been a hidden or secret condition attached to the bidding for a contract.
    There could be construed to be a practice amongst certain Europe-based organisations and of their Eexcutives making pre-conditions or exceptions to contracts that are not made obvious to the bulk of their membership or the EU community at large, and that’s got to be challenged.
    I’m chosing my words carefully.

  7. verstappen said on 2nd August 2009, 20:42

    Does anybody know, why is there a selection process in the first place?
    If I remeber correctly, any team wanting to participate must either buy another team or pay 48 million dollars.

    So why not just let everybody who can pay it, try.

    And if you bring back the 107% rule, or someting similar…

    Fastest 26 cars are on the grid. Out of 15? 17? 28? teams.

    • Patrickl said on 2nd August 2009, 21:35

      The requirement for a deposit was dropped. Also, I think the new teams were even promised extra money from the TV money.

      That’s why all of a sudden so many new teams wanted to enter. Anyone with half a chance wanted the “free admission” to F1.

    • Because the selection process reduces the number of applicants to a manageable number (Monaco can only physically take 26 cars). The current entry fee is €309,000 per year, with no bond in place (unless the new Concorde Agreement indicates otherwise).

      It is now too expensive to run a team for the 107% rule to be practical, and besides the competition is so hot it would have to be 103% or something for any meaningful reduction in numbers to occur.

  8. Brian said on 2nd August 2009, 21:06

    I think that this is nonsense. If Zoran wants a team then let him have team. The more teams we have the better, right?
    But this whole thing about only being allowed to use Cosworth engines is not the first time I have heard this. I think its stupid. Let them use whatever engine they want. Heck, they could build their own from scratch for all I care.
    Besides, if we have more teams that join that have experience in aerospace, then maybe they will show everyone else how to design a car that pass another one.
    Stefanovic, Saab, Bombardier, and heck, let NASA have a team. But let them have whatever engine they want.
    ITS CALLED MOTOR SPORTS for a reason. Its about different engines racing against different engines. I think it would be great for the sport for each of the best teams to be using Ferrari, Lambo, Aston, Mercedes, BMW, and Nissan engines.
    Screw Max, he doesn’t care what the fans want, he just wants more money.

    • Bartholomew said on 2nd August 2009, 23:52

      Very well, Brian, an aerospace supplier would sound really exciting for F1 !
      We need fun news. Cheers

      • Brian said on 2nd August 2009, 23:57

        ?

        • Austin said on 3rd August 2009, 12:46

          In a word sarcasm. Here’s another one. Stefanovic being in the aerospace industry, maybe he can build a flying F1 car. I can see it now, Schumacher makes a come back in the Ferrari F-22 Raptor using its stealth technology to thrash the competition, but the FIA will probably ban that too. :)

  9. It would be a shame if FIA are backhandedly turning down an opportunity to keep BMW in F1 as an engine supplier. Of course, their name has not been mentioned in the article so BMW don’t have to worry about their anonymity being compromised by simple mathematics. (If you can name any other engine that is only used on one team presently, go ahead.)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 2nd August 2009, 21:22

      Actually, as the article says, it’s an engine used by “at least one other active F1 team”. He wasn’t able to say which, but my money would be on Mercedes.

  10. Andrew White said on 2nd August 2009, 21:42

    It’s interesting that we had never heard about this entry before. It makes me wonder how many more entries were rejected in favour of Manor, Campos and USF1.

    • dsob said on 3rd August 2009, 7:19

      From memory, leaving out the 3 chosen:

      N. Technology
      Epsilon Euskadi
      Prodrive(Aston Martin
      Lola
      Superfund
      March
      Team Lotus(Litespeed)
      Brabham
      MyF1Dream.com
      Stefan GP
      MSC Organization
      Carlin

      Someone with a better memory, or a list, can correct any wrong entries for me.

      • Prisoner Monkeys said on 4th August 2009, 0:28

        No, that’s pretty much it, except Calrin never filed an application and MSC is the parent company of N.Technology. Ray Mallock Ltd. was intending to apply, but decided not to because the future of the sport was in doubt (but they didn’t rule out a future comeback).

        As for the entries rejected in favour of the three teams, the fifteen entries were narrowed down to a shortlist of five, and the three were taken from that.

  11. Patrickl said on 2nd August 2009, 21:45

    Is there really literally a quote that states that a Cosworth engine is a requirement?

    The way I read it, Cosworth informed them that they need to have a signed agreement for an engine supplier and that Cosworth would be happy to fulfill that requirement.

    I have seen other teams about having trouble getting a signed engine contract too. Maybe Mercedes and Renault were all unwilling to sign engine deals while they were themselves thinking about stepping out of F1.

    So what I think it all comes down to is that probably Cosworth simply was the only engine supplier who was willing to sign contracts other than that they really were an entry requirement.

    • Pitpass quoted an unnamed team member from an unnamed team as having been told by Tony Purnell on the eve of the deadline that Cosworth entries were the only ones the FIA would consider.

  12. carol treurnicht said on 2nd August 2009, 21:47

    Keith
    great interview but when he used the words “at least” to me that includes all people supplying their own teams and one other- then the list includes Ferrari, Toyota, Renault and Mercedes. In fact the only team that supplies no-one other than themselves is BMW right?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 2nd August 2009, 23:43

      To try to answer your question as straightly as possible, he didn’t want to tell me which manufacturer he had spoken to, but he confirmed it was one of those active in F1 at present. He didn’t exclude any. Hope that clears it up!

  13. Brawn said on 2nd August 2009, 23:20

    My name is Stefan so im hoping there will be a ‘Stefan Grand Prix’ team :D

  14. Prisoner Monkeys said on 3rd August 2009, 0:45

    I agree on the sour grapes count. I fail to see how he can expect to win here considering that the three teams that were chosen were either established racing teams and had serious motorsport connections, or in the case of USF1 had been in development for years. This Stefanovic guy builds airplanes.

    More to the point, I fail to see what the EC can do about this (and N.Technology’s claims). The twelve teams signed a Concorde Agreement with CVC, the idea being that whatever FOTA and CVC did in 2010 would be Formula One with or without the FIA. They’re legally bound to compete, and they signed on with a different entity to the one that conducted the selection process.

    Worse, Stefanovic’s throwing of his toys out of the proverbial pram could jeopardise a LOT. If the FIA was to re-do the selection process, they’d have to open up the procedure again from square one. Given that no backer in their right mind is going to commit to a Formula One project in the vague hope that a grid position might open up, prospective teams would have to find new sources of funding. That will take time, which no-one has; Campos and USF1 have been developing their cars since February and won’t expect to be ready until late this year or early 2010. So any new new teams would have half the time to build a car. Even with support from the FOM and FOTA, they’re going to struggle. Future new teams will see that and lose interest in the sport because it will be proof that success is simply too difficult. The sport will suffer, and all because someone is crying over spilt milk.

    Ironically, this Stefanovic character should know the dangers of a rushed car better than anyone: it was he who tried to purchase the remains of Lola’s 1997 team.

    There was a Bond villain called Zorin – Christopher Walken I think.

    Uh-huh. He was in A VIEW TO A KILL, and pretty much single-handedly formed the stereotype that all Bond villains are insane, sadistic evil geniuses. The role was supposed to go to David Bowie, but he wasn’t interested; he didn’t want to spend eight months watching his stunt double. Walken was a far better choice, anyway.

    • Gman said on 3rd August 2009, 2:33

      Great info- I’m pretty much in agreement with everything you said.

    • The trouble is that if Stefanovic doesn’t do this, it means the FIA can do as it pleases without being answerable to anybody – including the law. That would ultimately have sealed F1’s doom in a court.

      If Max Mosley doesn’t stop trying to save F1, he’s going to kill it.

  15. matt said on 3rd August 2009, 2:14

    If its re-evaluated and Prodrive gets in it will be worth it. Considering they were given a place a couple of years ago it seems ridiculous they did not get one this round.

    • Gman said on 3rd August 2009, 2:32

      Just a thought, but did you ever consider that perhaps because they pulled out after getting that spot a few years back, that they did not get a place on the grid this time? Perhaps the FIA was thinking…if they coulden’t do it last time when borrowing some else’s old cars, who’s to say that they could build their own cars this time?

      • Brian said on 3rd August 2009, 2:46

        The point is that everyone would rather see them because they would be using an Aston Martin engine instead of a Cosworth.

    • Prisoner Monkeys said on 3rd August 2009, 3:13

      Considering they were given a place a couple of years ago it seems ridiculous they did not get one this round.

      Yeah, but they never made the grid, and you can bet that played a factor in the decision not to include them. I don’t recall the circumstances under which they were granted an entry in 2007, but I do recall that Richards banked a lot on having a customer chassis. When that fell through, the project was dead in the water because Prodrive couldn’t build one of their own. I noticed Stefanovic makes no mention of this; instead, he accuses the FIA of trying to stop manufacturers from entering. The same way as he ignores the fact that Mike Coughlan is associated with him; his ban from working in motorsport may have expired, but there’s still a stigma associated with him.

      • Since it was the FIA that promised customer chassis to Prodrive before checking that it could deliver on the promise, Stefanovic was quite possibly being polite and sticking to the main point. Bear in mind that even if there was every other reason under the sun to reject Stefan Grand Prix, a rejection based on engine supplier would still be illegal under EU competition law.

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