Despite F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone having described the team as being 'a doubt' for the 2010 F1 campaign [see separate story – click here
] and FIA President Max Mosley alluding to 'all sorts of rumours about them', the team principal of newcomers USF1 has insisted that to the contrary, the North Carolina-based outfit is 'ahead of schedule and excited about going racing'.
There has been much scepticism and cynicism within the grand prix paddock regarding just how a team with its headquarters the other side of the Atlantic will logistically manage to compete against twelve rivals all based in Europe, as well as accusations that the Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor-spearheaded operation is in fact little more than an elaborate publicity stunt.
Not only is USF1 deadly serious, urges former Ligier, Onyx and IndyCar designer Anderson, however – but the first car is already well on its way to completion and scheduled to roll out in November before embarking upon a fully-fledged pre-season testing programme come January.
“It has been quite a ride since we started the team last year,” he acknowledged in an official team Q&A, “and it has become far more intense since the signing of the Concorde Agreement. Our world headquarters is now complete and fully functional, and the 2010 race car is in the construction phase.
“Thanks to our in-house design and engineering staff and the aid of our technical partners, for the last ten-to-twelve months the car has gone through thousands of iterations in a virtual environment. With this virtual design, we can test and be sure that it's right from structural, design and engineering standpoints, so we don't have to make a part, test it, break it and start again. Instead, we've taken out a lot of the guesswork and can get close to a race-ready piece right off of the machines, which is happening now.
“Our timing is according to plan, with an early November 'roller' and a finished car in time for January 2010 testing. We're 'fully-equipped'. Building a team and a world-class manufacturing facility are a work in progress, but we're ahead of schedule and excited about going racing next year.”
Aiding that process, Anderson admitted, has been the acquisition of a number of key staff members from existing F1 teams who have elected to jump ship to the Charlotte-based concern – housed in the old Joe Gibbs Racing factory in the heart of NASCAR country – for its debut season at the highest level, whilst the esteemed engineer argued that far from putting USF1 at a disadvantage in relation to its competitors, the American base would in fact make the running of the team considerably cheaper than it would otherwise be.
“America is known as a 'melting pot',” he explained, “and our team is a reflection of just that. Americans, Europeans, New Zealanders, Welshmen and more are responsible for the race car, including many who have high-level experience in the current F1 environment. Many of our new hires we connected with back in June and July, and they will be joining the team formally at the end of the month. We are very grateful to the current F1 teams for releasing some of our 'newest' team members early – that has been a huge help as we continue to prepare for the 2010 season.
“The major cost savings will be that the engineering and production of the cars will be done in the United States. Our technical partners located within a 30-mile radius of our shop contribute to these savings, as there are some departments we don't have to have in-house, such as a wind tunnel, shaker rig, K&C machine, additional CFD support and a centre of gravity machine. What most people see – the transporters, motor coaches and the 'lifestyle' side of F1 – are a much smaller part of the overall budget and will be located at our European facility, which we'll tell you about soon.”
Moreover, backing has been secured from YouTube
co-founder and CEO Chad Hurley, and powerplants from Cosworth – in common with fellow new arrivals Manor, Campos and Lotus – but Anderson and Windsor's dream of employing an all-American driver line-up looks to be fading, with the necessity to hold a super-licence complicating the issue somewhat and seemingly promoting experienced hands such as Alex Wurz, Pedro de la Rosa, Jacques Villeneuve, Anthony Davidson
and Sébastien Bourdais to the front of the queue, at least to see the team through its initial developmental stage as it endeavours to find its F1 feet. Of the home-grown stars still possible, it is understood that Atlantic Championship contenders Jonathan Summerton and John Edwards and 2009 Indy Lights Champion J.R. Hildebrand all remain in the frame.