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: