From the sublime…

Ken Anderson

…to the ridiculous.

Autosport: “US F1 co-founder Ken Anderson has admitted that he is in discussion with the FIA to reach an agreement that will allow for the new team to miss the first four races of the 2010 Formula 1 season.”

I don’t know about you, but this blogger is getting terribly confused over this subject. Before all of our brains stop working and our foreheads crash down onto the desks in front of us, lets have a bit of a recap as to how all of this came about.

As we’ve discussed before on this blog, USF1, along with Campos Meta, have had severe financial difficulties which have hindered the manufacture and testing of it’s 2010 cars. It would appear that Campos Meta has now been saved, but it does leave a question as to how far down the line the Dallara chassis and other components are if they are to make it to Bahrain next month. (see below!) However, it would appear that USf1 have not been so fortunate. For more background on this, see here, expertly dissecting the subject on the Stefan GP Blog!

With the panic that these teams might not make it to the first round in Bahrain, the FIA stated that any team could miss up to 3 races per year. The FIA then responded to itself, saying that any team missing even a single event would be punished and reprimanded severely. So, as usual, the Formula One circus had it’s head on the wrong way with it’s feet heading in one direction and the rest of it’s body not sure whether to call in sick or give it a go for the morning.

Ken Anderson told The New York Times, “We’re working with the FIA to clarify how many races we can miss. In an ideal world, we can miss the first four races and show up in Barcelona.”

When asked about possible fines incurred if the team misses a race, Anderson stated,  “I guess anything’s possible. But what would be the point of that? Why would they give us a franchise and just, the first time there’s a bump in the road, yank it and put it out of business? That’s definitely not the message that I’m getting from them. They want to help us, not shut us down.”

You can see Anderson’s point, but he seems to be glossing over the fact that this business runs on very strict deadlines. This one being at 9am on the 12th March, Middle Eastern time. And usually in business, if you miss the deadline, you’ve broken your contract and you are terminated.

USF1 appear to be treading on very thin ice here. If they were given this reprieve and a USF1 car turned up in Barcelona, having only just been fitted together and had a quick shakedown, how good a car will it be? We’ve seen this week with both Lotus and Virgin running for the first time at Jerez. Judging on recorded lap timesalone, both cars are around 3 seconds off the pace. Given the new tyre and refuelling rules this year, this time difference is only an estimation. Both teams have a full set of staff back at their factories working on improvements that will be added to their cars at the next test and indeed in Bahrain in March, and we can fully expect both cars to be yielding updates by then.

My point being that if USF1 only just manage to bolt their cars together at the last moment and turn up in Barcelona in May with an under developed car, straight out of the box with no testing and inexperienced drivers, just how far off the pace will they be? And will there be any point to them trundling around the track lightyears off the pace?

There is some relief around the F1 community that the Campos Meta team has been saved and that the Dallara name, with years of Motor Racing experience, will be back in Formula One. Questions remain about how developed the chassis is, but given their experience in Motor Racing and expertise in designing racing cars, there is some confidence that the former Campos Meta team will be able to make a reasonable stab at making inroads from the back of the grid.

This whole scenario seems typical F1 politics and arguments with one underlying fact. Everything comes down to money. Time after time, we have all witnessed these events and time after time, we will no doubt be witnessing them again. How ever much this sport tries to embarrass itself, it’s employees and it’s fans, deep down, we all have that same unsettling feeling in our stomachs that is only described as pure, unadulterated LOVE!

It will be very interesting to see how the FIA responds over the coming days to USF1’s request and it will be even more interesting to see how the other teams react. I’ll leave the last word to James Allen from his excellent blog:

“It’s a tricky one for the FIA. To give them the leeway would create an unfortunate precedent and this is a dog eat dog business, so why should USF1 be cut some slack? But if the FIA kick them out would be construed as an admission that they were not diligent enough in checking the viability of the team.”

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