Finally breaking a long and unsettling silence from the financially-troubled F1 2010 newcomer, USF1 team principal Ken Anderson has acknowledged that he is in discussions with the sport's governing body the FIA in an effort to gain special dispensation for the beleaguered North Carolina-based outfit to skip the opening four 'flyaway' grands prix of the forthcoming campaign.
A Twitter message from USF1 on Friday sought to assure that any talk of the Charlotte operation's demise is somewhat premature [see separate story – click here
], despite many surmising that the end of the road has now been reached, with claims that Anderson's co-founder Peter Windsor has informed the only confirmed driver José María López 'with tears in his eyes' that the Argentine would be best-served to seek alternative employment.
The key issue is money – or rather a distinct lack thereof – with a number of significant sponsorship deals having fallen through. Worse still, YouTube
originator Chad Hurley is believed to have grown tired of the lack of progress at the much-maligned team and is now evaluating the viability of switching his allegiance to a rival competitor in the top flight.
Publicly recognising that finances are the sticking point, Anderson has revealed that USF1 has approached FIA President Jean Todt with a view to missing the first four races in Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia and China – all long-haul events and therefore, by extension, logistically amongst the most expensive on the calendar.
The FIA recently explained that to bypass any grand prix would be to leave a team in breach of the commercial rights-governing Concorde Agreement and would consequently result in a penalty. Such a request would also require the unanimous approval of all fellow competitors to avoid the scant-desired forfeit of the $10 million in travel funds granted to each of the new entries this year.
Anderson, however, is hopeful that some kind of compromise agreement can be reached – and soon – to guarantee USF1's participation in the remainder of the world championship, as he contends that it would be in nobody's best interests to punish the American concern.
“We're working with the FIA to clarify how many races we can miss,” the former Ligier, Onyx and IndyCar designer told the New York Times
. “In an ideal world, we can miss the first four races and show up in Barcelona [for the Spanish Grand Prix
on 9 May].
“I guess anything's possible, but what would be the point of [sanctions]? 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 I'm getting from them. They want to help us, not shut us down.
“We have a timeline in-place that if we get a decision quickly, it triggers funding and we're good to go. If it takes another week or two to make a decision, it keeps backing up.”
The outward signs, however, are far from encouraging, with the first USF1 car yet to be completed, López understood to be endeavouring to secure a drive at the newly taken-over Campos Meta 1 with the help of the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, a second driver remaining unsigned and the team having still to collect its engines from Cosworth Engineering in Northampton in the UK. As Serbian hopeful Stefan GP waits patiently and expectantly in the wings, USF1's prospects do indeed look bleak.
“The team not only has a problem with not enough money,” an insider told RacinToday.com
. “There's not enough time. Even if the Seventh Cavalry came over the hill to rescue them, they wouldn't be able to make the grid in Bahrain.”