America's new Formula 1 team, USF1, has not even hit the starting grid yet – but it has already hit a hurdle in its preparations, with the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone ordering a change of name to US Grand Prix Engineering.
The Charlotte, North Carolina-based operation – to be jointly run by one-time Ligier and Onyx technical director Ken Anderson and former Williams and Ferrari team manager Ken Anderson – was officially launched last week, but anyone wishing to access the outfit's website was out of luck.
The reason behind that was a command from Ecclestone to re-name the squad US Grand Prix Engineering (or USGPE, as USGP is already owned by Indianapolis Motor Speedway supremo Tony George) after the Formula One Management chief executive objected to the abbreviation 'F1' in its title – a term he claims to own.
'With the sport suffering as a result of the global financial crisis, and only nine teams currently confirmed for the season-opener, to many this latest move might appear somewhat petty,' remarks Pitpass
. 'Race fans in the United States already have plenty to feel aggrieved about.
'Other than the fact that F1 is not visiting North America this year for the first time since 1958, many US race fans will remember the shambles that was the 2005 United States Grand Prix, when only six cars took part.'
Ecclestone played an instrumental part in helping Windsor and Anderson to get F1's newest arrival off the ground, allowing USGPE to use the official 2008 season film for promotional purposes to try to attract potential sponsors and investors.
In 2007, Formula One Licensing tried and failed to be granted exclusive control over the term 'F1', with the UK Trademark Registry deeming the abbreviation to be a generic one and as such 'not registrable as a trademark'. That said, Ecclestone's company continues to apply TM signs – even though the only official trademark that has been agreed to is the 'FIA Formula One World Championship' – and has in the past endeavoured to gain sole rights over the term 'grand prix', again to no end.
Renault, Toyota and Force India all employ 'F1' in their official names, but FOM is understood to accept this as in each case the term is followed by the word 'Team', whilst Williams Grand Prix Engineering goes under the trading name of WilliamsF1. Force India has also been told by Ecclestone's company to change its official logo ahead of the start of the 2009 campaign due to what FOM feels is an overly close resemblance between 'F1' and the Silverstone-based squad's 'FI' logo.
Meanwhile, Windsor and Anderson's new transatlantic venture has received a vote of confidence from recently-promoted McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, who argues that the initiative could be just the boost that has been needed to re-establish the sport the other side of the Pond, following the aforementioned 2005 fiasco and subsequent disappearance from the schedule of both the American and Canadian fixtures.