Monthly Archives: February 2010

Stefan GP Blast FIA then says “Sorry” as talks with Hurley collapse

Stefan GP Container in Bahrain

The last two days have been a hive of media releases and activity from the Serbian Team, as well as rumours as to what exactly was in the container sent to Bahrain.

On Friday night, Stefan GP posted a news article (which has now disappeared) on it’s official website, stating that it’s containers have arrived in Bahrain.

“StefanGP would like to inform the public that the containers we sent on the beginning of February arrived in Bahrain. In the corner of the page you will see official check from DHL and the confirmation that freight arrived. During next week we will show our Stefan Formula 1 car to the press as the final evidence that should put us on the grid in Bahrain.”

Sounds all well and good, until rumours started circulating as to where exactly those containers are. The DHL reciept states that they are in the country, but not at the circuit. Will Buxton, of the Buxton Blog, is currently in Bahrain reporting on the GP2 Asia series and he writes, “Officials at the track confirmed to me that StefanGP’s containers, which the team stated on February 2nd it had sent to Bahrain, have not arrived at the circuit. Of course the containers may still be at customs awaiting their signing out, but the firmly held belief that the team’s containers of spare parts for their ex-Toyota racers were already at the Bahrain International Circuit are false. They are not here.”

Well, according to the receipt slip, it clearly states that they have arrived in the country and not at the circuit. As Mr. Buxton rightly says, they are probably still in the port at the customs desk.

Spot the container...

Buxton continues, “But perhaps the firmest nail in the coffin of the team’s hopes that they would be permitted to race should one of the new teams fail to make it, was an admission from another official at the BIC that they have received word from the FIA informing them to take StefanGP’s team profile, which had been prepared by the BIC on the off chance of the team’s participation, out of the media kits for the season-opening Grand Prix. According to this official, the FIA’s reasoning for this was that StefanGP ‘will not be racing in Bahrain.’”

If this is true, then no matter the contents of the container, then it would appear that the FIA have certainly ruled out that any Stefan Grand Prix car will drive the Bahrain circuit.

There has also been speculation as to what exactly is in the container. What it certainly does not have is a car, as is the same with the other teams. What it is likely to have is spare parts and other none-car related items such as computers, walkie-talkies & headphones etc.

The most biting part of Fridays press release is a firm attack on the decision makers at the FIA. The press release states, “If case we don’t receive the chance to compete in Bahrain, and also when some of the teams fail to show up, somebody should be in a trouble explaining what is happen to all of us.And dreamers from USA will have to explain their actions, because they are deliberately weakening F1 with dreaming of perfect world and fairytales about success. And success doesn’t come by talking but with hard work and lot of guts.”

Max Mosley & Bernie Ecclestone

If you’ll pardon the odd grammatical mistake from the Serbian team, Stefan GP clearly want an explanation as to why USF1 got the gird slot ahead of themselves. This writer believes it was purely political with a bit of arm twisting from Bernie Ecclestone.  Without a US Grand Prix and the appeal of Formula One in America having lost any vague sense of appeal since the return of F1 to the Americas in 2000, an All-American team was what the sport needed. Little did he and the FIA know what kind of a mess the people they entrusted this adventure with would make.

This rant against the “USA Dreamers” was explained the next day when reports surfaced of the collapse of negotiations between Stefan GP and Chad Hurley, the main investor into USF1. Reports put the entire blame in the hands of Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor. (I’ll be analysing this later.)

SUNDAY RETRACT

As we all do after an outburst and after our anger has died down, Stefan GP offered what has clearly been read as an apology. Not exactly the words “Sorry”, but more an apology of a small child, standing before it’s elder, head down to the ground and saying “It won’t happen again.”

Here’s the full statement. “SGP would like to re-confirm its desire and, importantly, its ability to compete in the whole of the FIA 2010 Formula One World Championship. It recognises that this can only happen with the consent of the FIA and the FOM, but has faith that the Formula One ‘family’ will make the correct decision in the end. There will be no more press releases on this subject and we look forward to being allowed to show everyone our team in Bahrain.”

This can clearly be interpreted that the FIA have been on the phone to the team and have sternly warned them not to stir the pot any more while it is making it’s decision as what to do with the USF1 slot. However, things might be going their way if the team have had to publicly say that it will no longer be addressing the subject. Almost as if the FIA have said, “Look, we’re agreeing with you but still going through the paperwork. You’re just about going to be there but you’re beginning to annoy us with your press releases. Any more from you and we can stop it altogether and you can wave goodbye to F1 in 2010. Keep you’re mouth shut and you’ll be there.”

With so many stories, rumours and articles (this one included!)  flying around the internet at the moment, it’s hard really to say what is truth, speculation, publicity or just sheer nonsense.

Come on FIA, put us all out of our misery…

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Sources tell BBC Stefan GP will take over USF1 grid slot

Zoran Stefanovic

Sources have told the BBC that Stefan Grand Prix are certain to take over the grid slot of USF1, should they be thrown out of the 2010 Formula One championship.

An update of Andrew Benson’s article last night read “US F1 have no chance of attending the first few races even if the FIA does give them permission to miss them. They have no race team – only a team manager and a single mechanic – and all the suppliers have been put on hold. The team’s employees have been paid up to the end of last month, but are waiting nervously to see whether their salaries will be paid on schedule on Friday.

“Sources have told BBC Sport that hopefuls Stefan Grand Prix will almost certainly be given the slot vacated by US F1.”

There is still no word from Charlie Whiting’s inspection of the Charlotte based outfit’s headquarters, although Andrew Benson paints an even bleaker picture than one we had already suspected. There seems to be differing opinions as to how many staff there really are on the shop floor.

We’re still waiting for a decision Mr. Todt…

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FIA Inspect USF1 Toaster Factory…

USF1 Toaster

If you haven’t seen these, then you should click on the link and watch Crash.net’s excellent satirical take on the USF1’s shambolic effort to make the 2010 Formula One grid.

Now, according to Adam Cooper’s excellent and informative blog, the boys on the factory floor are to immortalise crash.net’s videos and are hard at work manufacturing the first F1 toaster. “Short of anything else to do related to their F1 car some team members are said to be working on the composite moulds for the prototype toaster, which if true at least demonstrates that the guys on the shop floor have a sense of humour.”

Yesterday was Charlie Whiting’s inspection of the Charlotte USF1 factory and all eyes are eager to read Mr. Whiting’s report. Adam Cooper’s sources stated that his visit lasted for 4 hours while Peter Windsor was said not to have been present. Indeed, he has been missing in action for the last few days.

Adam Cooper also reports that talks between Chad Hurley and the new Campos Meta team have broken down without a deal being reached. “It’s also been suggested that negotiations between Chad Hurley’s representative Parris Mullins and the new Campos management have not led to a satisfactory resolution. When asked for a comment, Colin Kolles told this blog, ‘We’ll see….’ If Hurley has given up on Campos then a deal with Stefan – which could yet involve a merger with/takeover of the US F1 entry – could yet come to pass.”

The idea of a merger has been speculated over the last few days. The question is, exactly what assets do USF1 have to merge with? Stefan GP have a car, engine and drivers, with just Jacques appearing to be taking his time sharpening his pencil. The only thing worth a grain of salt at the Charlotte factory is the golden ticket of two 2010 grid slots, both being wide enough to fit a Formula One car. The Stefan S-01 would fit nicely into one of those, no?

If USF1 are thrown out of the 2010 Championship and the grid slot is opened up for this year, then the bidding process will start all over again, with Stefan GP being the only entrant that is able to race in Bahrain in March.

Tighten your seatbelts, it’s going to an interesting few days.

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Stefan GP Expects

Mr. Stefanovic with John Howett (left)

Stefan GP has announced that it is expecting to recieve confirmation this week as to whether or not it will race in 2010.

Speaking to Reuters, Mr. Stefanovic said, “Definitely, we are waiting for something to happen because the time is very short and the deadline for Bahrain is approaching. If you are going to Bahrain you have to be packed by next Wednesday and we think we will be able to reach something by then.”

Asked if the team could join F1 later in the year, he added: “Technically it’s possible but we are going to be in Bahrain. We are not saying it’s for sure, but we are looking forward to it.”

Regarding last weeks cancelled test of the Stefan GP SF-01 car, Mr. Stefanovic said, “We have been unable to get the Formula One tyres because the FIA and Formula One have a contract stipulating that only the teams that are already in Formula One can get the Bridgestone tyres. We believe the FIA has to release the proper tyres to us for safety reasons. We expect it to happen and we have very good faith that it is going to happen.”

Mr. Stefanovic also shed light on the Jacques Villeneuve deal, stating “It’s not happened yet but everything except his signature had been done. Probably in the next two or three days, we will be reaching some sort of an agreement.”

Speaking about the impact a Serbian Formula One team will have on the country, Mr Stefanovic said, “”The impact will be huge and a lot of people in Serbia don’t realise that yet. The positive image of Serbia being a part of Formula One is something any country would wish for, so it’s a plus one way or another. Also, it’s a huge opportunity to get into high-tech business.”

With the news coming yesterday that the FIA is to inspect the USF1 factory in a bid to find out if the Charlotte based team are ready to complete in any of the races in 2010.

As I have said previously, don’t expect Jacques to sign until it has been confirmed that Stefan GP have been given a slot on the 2010 grid. He is probably keeping his options open with another chance to race at Le Mans, chasing the triple crown of the Indy 500, F1 World Championship and Le Mans, not achieved since Graham Hill.

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FIA to Inspect USF1

Autopsport have announced the FIA’s intention to inpect USF1’s readiness to compete in the 2010 season. The FIA are intending a detailed look into the teams’ activities to see if the Charlotte based outfit have any chance of making it onto the new season’s grid.

It is understood that FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting  is making an unannounced visit to the Charlotte factory to get a first hand look at the teams progress. Autosport were unable to get a confirmation that this visit was going ahead. “We have no comment to make, at this stage” a spokesperson unsurprisingly said.

It is unclear as to whether Mr. Whiting will be judging the teams ability to make it to Bahrain in just under 2 weeks time or whether the FIA have accepted USF1’s request to start their season at the Spanish Grand Prix in May and whether this will be the basis of the FIA’s evaluation.

It will be interesting to see what they find…or probably what they won’t find. More likely they’ll find a group of Motor Racing and Engineering enthusiasts working hard after being mugged into believing that the two monkeys running the operation were genuine…

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Sponsors and Drivers Flee Sinking Car…

Lopez with "Chairwoman Kirchner"

Reports are circulating that Argentinian driver Jose Maria Lopez and Youtube founder Chad Hurley are in talks with new Campos Meta owner Jose Ramon Carabante in the hope that a deal can been done to save Lopez’s 2010 drive.

Felipe McGough, Lopez’s manager, told Argentina’s Diario Hoy, “The two groups that talked today will do everything possible so that ‘Pechito’ [Lopez] can be in Formula 1. Both Chad Hurley and Jose Carabante talked for several hours to find a solution for the budget issues both teams have. For us this merger is very important as it works in favour of Lopez racing this year.

We have been doing everything possible and we haven’t taken any false steps. The financial difficulties, and the trust we had put after the recognition from the FIA have made things complicated and we must accept that [US F1’s] cars will not be ready for Bahrain. Right now things are in the hands of the two investing groups. They have the final word. We have hopeful we will reach a resolution to come back to Argentina with good news about Lopez.”

This is interesting as I mentioned earlier, given the fact the USF1 insider who spoke to Autosport last night said that all hopes for the beleaguered US team lay within the hands of Chad Hurley.

Another interesting point to this is that Hurley and Lopez are coming at Carabante together as a package and not separately. Is Chad Hurley a fan of Lopez or has he been significantly impressed by Lopez’s attitude over the whole USF1 debacle that he is willing to back Lopez, even as a newcomer?

Or, is Chad Hurley acting on behalf of the USF1 team and trying to merge the remnants of Campos Meta and USF1, in the hope that all the pieces can add up and make a decent enough showing? Given that Bahrain under 2 weeks away, this smells of sheer desperation.

Also announced today, USF1 sponsor Locstein have withdrawn their support for the crumbling team. A statement read, “As a matter of course, Locstein evaluates a variety of business opportunities around the globe, including sponsorship in Formula One racing.

“Locstein did engage US F1 Team regarding sponsorship, but when it was apparent that the team was not able to participate in the entire 2010 season, Locstein elected to withdraw from further involvement with US F1. Locstein wishes the US F1 organization the best of luck in their endeavours.”

How many more sponsors there are hidden in the woodwork waiting to bail out remain to be seen, but this is the first public announcement from a company itself that it has withdrawn it’s support from USF1. (The Hurley story coming for Lopez’s manager)

I doubt just the best of luck is needed. A divine intervention is …”putting it very mildly indeed.” Thanks Murray.

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Insiders View of USF1

Last night, Autosport ran a story alleging the poor management of USF1 by team principle Ken Anderson. This information comes from an anonymous source claiming that employees are uncertain as to when they will be paid next and that the car is weeks behind schedule.

Chad Hurley

The insider said that USF1 investor Chad Hurley (Youtube founder) was the only person to turn the team around. “We feel Hurley and Parris Mullins [adviser to Hurley] have our best interest [at heart] and also feel Hurley has no intention of abandoning us even though the media has said he’s gone with Campos.”

This is a strange statement given the fact that the next story on Autosport reads “Jose Maria Lopez’s manager Felipe McGough says talks are underway between Campos owner Jose Ramon Carabante and US F1 investor Chad Hurley to secure a deal that will ensure Lopez can race in Formula 1 this year.”

Given that Ken Anderson and journalist Peter Windsor are the two media faces of USF1, the insiders information shows that the teams employees have no faith in Anderson or Windsor to guide the ailing  team to the 2010 grid.

Indeed, the insider goes on to say that Peter Windsor is not entirely to blame for the downfall of the team, given the fact that he was acting as sponsorship attractor and driver scout and largely away from the outfit’s headquarters in Charlotte.

“Having failed to put out a car, sponsorship money didn’t materialise,” continued the staff member. “That wasn’t for Windsor’s lack of trying. I do know that Windsor was told of our progress on a number of occasions off the record in informal settings, but it took a very contentious shop meeting in late January/early February for him to twig [that] indeed we had an issue.

“In a meeting between the employees, Windsor and Anderson, Windsor put the question up to the employees: ‘Who here doesn’t think we’ll make Bahrain?’ I think Windsor might have meant it somewhat rhetorically, but he was answered nonetheless, and 100 per cent of the staff raised their hands. He was visibly shocked.”

Ken Anderson

The USF1  insider clearly puts the blame for the delay in the manufacturer of the car at Ken Anderson’s feet. “All engineering decisions were having to be funneled through [Ken] Anderson before anything could be signed off. And that’s where the hold up was. Tooling for the tub was completed in early December, but then it sat for nearly a month before the laminate schedules for the outer skin were approved.

“Now Anderson himself wasn’t designing the laminate schedule, but he was in the wings… as early as last October the production manager was collared about the lack of resources, but the managers were put off by saying: ‘Well, Ken has a plan’.

“The irony of all this is that there has been precious little in the way of formal planning and documentation. No production schedules, simply very little in the way of planning.”

Anderson and Windsor announced their intention of setting up USF1 on Speed TV back in February of 2009. That is just over a year ago. What has they been doing since? They attracted Mr. Hurley and surely there must have been other US based companies willing to invest in the team. This writer believes it was the decision NOT to give any drives to US drivers. (More on that later in the week.)  Lotus F1 were only granted entry in October last year and were testing their new car last week, so clearly time was not an issue.

The insider also gave a picture to a side of the story that has been less documented in the media. The story of the employees at the USF1 factory.

” Our January 15 pay cheque was late. It was paid by the 20th or so, but it certainly caused commotion and people started asking questions. “That’s when all the company’s issues came to a head, and the conclusion was… yes, we had been lied to about the long-term budget, and indeed the company had a cash flow issue. But as mentioned, that really was a secondary issue.

“Think of it this way, ignoring the fact that we were lied to about the budget, if you don’t have a car or can’t show serious progress in that direction, potential sponsors aren’t going to have a tendency to give you money. At the moment there are still 60 people working in Charlotte, but 10 have already left.”

It’s an interesting read, given the fact that all of the stories hitting the headlines about the people most affected by this being Argentinian driver Jose Maria Lopez and the reputations of Anderson and Windsor. But many people have forgot about the regular employees of the team, working back as base who, by all appearances from this article, are very jacked off about being lied to regarding the finer details of the teams finances and progress. Given the fact they all admitted they felt the team would not make Bahrain, the insider does not reveal that they have given up hope of the team surviving. In the world’s recession hit state, they have no other option but the keep working as hard as they can or they loose their jobs.

There's nothing to smile about anymore boys...

If this is the case and 60+ people are made redundant due to the incompetence of Anderson and Windsor, this blog writer will put what little money he has on the fact that both men will walk away from this shambles and carry on their lives as normal. But for the ordinary working men and women at the USF1 factory, they’ll be at the unemployment office (or it’s US equivalent) claiming their benefits cheques while re-mortgaging their houses just to pay for their children’s school lunch.

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