F1's first American team in more than two decades – the Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson-led USF1 – has begun an evaluation process of home-grown talent to occupy its two seats on the grand prix grid in 2010...and IndyCar's leading lady Danica Patrick 'is on the list'.
USF1 was announced by governing body the FIA as one of three new outfits – alongside Campos and surprise package Manor – to have been successful in their applications to join the fray next season, under Max Mosley's since-scrapped £40 million budget cap initiative.
Former Williams and Ferrari team manager-turned-journalist and broadcaster Windsor admitted that it had been a 'humbling moment' to be selected over such high-profile rivals as Prodrive/Aston Martin and Lola, and one that had arrived after years of effort in laying down the groundwork between himself and erstwhile Ligier, Onyx and IndyCar designer Anderson. He urged that the firm intention is 'for the team to be around for a long time'.
“I was thinking how small I feel relative to this massive sport and all the talk going on, the big names and the small names,” he told BBC Radio
. “To finally see the name of the team which I am lucky to be involved in on the FIA entry list was quite a humbling moment. I have got a lot of time and history in this sport, and that was a very big day for me.
“We were planning this team three or four years ago, long before budget caps and the recession and all this stuff was even thought about. We've got a massive project and a massive job ahead of us, and that's the challenge we face – but from now on it will be guns blazing. Our ambition is to first of all prove that we can design and build a car in the United States as distinct from Europe – which is the normal place to design and build cars – and be competing as an American team.”
That said, though USF1's main operational base will be in the heart of NASCAR country in Charlotte, North Carolina – prompting many a sneer of derision and cynicism when the project was publicly launched back in February, with some paddock observers contending that it would never genuinely see the light of day – the squad is also reportedly seeking a secondary European base.
After its original intention of using the headquarters of Spanish sportscar concern Epsilon Euskadi was torpedoed by the latter's own – albeit unsuccessful – bid for F1 graduation in 2010, it is now said that Windsor is in 'advanced negotiations' with southern French circuit Paul Ricard, with the track's director Gerard Neveu telling newspaper Nice Matin
: “Their project is very structured and leaves no doubt. They are completely serious.”
As to drivers, Windsor admitted that the hope is to come to a resolution 'pretty soon'. The last two Americans in F1 – Michael Andretti at McLaren in 1993 and Scott Speed at Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006/07 – both returned across the Atlantic again with their tail between their legs following fruitless and frustrating endeavours, but the Englishman is adamant that the ideal would be for two Stateside names to be given a chance. Aside from Patrick, other candidates in the frame are believed to be fellow IndyCar front-runners Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal, similarly second-generation star Conor Daly and NASCAR leading lights Kyle Busch, A.J. Allmendinger and Speed.
“We've got a shortlist of drivers and we've already had the first week of our evaluation of young Americans,” Windsor revealed. “There are some very good young Americans out there, and we will be making a decision about that pretty soon. Danica is on our list for sure, because she's the best-placed American in the leading single-seater championship of the United States. She's doing a really great job.”
The Wisconsin native, though, has also been linked to a NASCAR switch next year, possibly as part of a dual IndyCar/NASCAR programme with Chip Ganassi Racing. Moreover, the Andretti Green race-winner has repeatedly professed herself cool on the idea of jumping ship to F1, admitting in an interview with Sports Illustrated
: “[IndyCar racing] is the type of racing that I love. This is the type of racing that I grew up with, but I need to know what direction this series is heading in and if it will continue to grow, because NASCAR has a lot of fans and a lot of opportunities that any race driver would have to consider.”
There is currently no North American race on the grand prix calendar, following the disappearance of Indianapolis in the wake of the 2007 edition and the loss of Montreal from the 2009 schedule over a financial dispute.