USF1 has reportedly asked the FIA if it can defer its top flight entry until the 2011 world championship campaign – a move that, if accepted, might pave the way for Stefan GP to join the grand prix grid in 2010, after the under-fire American operation scuppered a 'merger' bid from its Serbian competitor.
According to authoritative US-based website SPEED TV
, USF1 team principal Ken Anderson and YouTube
co-founder Chad Hurley – the North Carolina-based outfit's primary shareholder – have offered to pay the FIA a 'substantial, seven-figure' surety bond in evidence of their intention to race in 2011, though whether this will prove enough to convince the governing body of their seriousness is unclear.
FIA race director and technical chief Charlie Whiting visited USF1's Charlotte factory last week to survey the outwardly shambolic situation, and the contents of his report could be the key to whether the team lives to fight another embattled day – or dies a sorry, and somewhat prolonged, death.
According to the BBC
, having chronically underestimated the level of funding required to compete at the highest level, the team is still some two months away from having its first car ready – hence its earlier request to be allowed to skip the opening four 'flyaway' races of 2010. USF1 reportedly has only a team manager and a sole mechanic by way of a race team, disgruntled suppliers on-hold and unpaid employees.
Prior to José Ramón Carabante's takeover of similarly financially-troubled Spanish newcomer Campos Meta 1 just over a week ago, USF1 had been in tentative discussions regarding joining forces to create one team from two. It is now understood that similar talks subsequently initiated by Stefan GP collapsed late last week after being blocked by the intransigence of both Anderson and co-founder Peter Windsor – still hell bent on pursuing their all-American dream – despite Hurley's apparent keenness to unite a team with no car to one with no entry.
That rejection is what most likely led to the extraordinary attack posted by the government-backed, Zoran Stefanovic-led concern on its website, in which Stefan GP ramped up the pressure by very publicly slating 'the dreamers from the USA [who] are deliberately weakening F1, dreaming about a perfect world and fairytales of success' and suggesting the FIA would have 'some trouble explaining what has happened to all of us' should the Belgrade hopeful not be present on the Bahrain Grand Prix starting grid at Sakhir in just under a fortnight's time [see separate story – click here
]. An outburst that smacks of growing frustration and desperation, and not, one might suggest, the most advisable manner in which to endear yourself to an organisation that holds your fate in its hands.
'If, in the opinion of the F1 Commission, a competitor fails to operate his team in a manner compatible with the standards of the championship or in any way brings the championship into disrepute, the FIA may exclude such competitor from the championship forthwith,' reads a section of the FIA Sporting Regulations.
Stefan GP has a base in its homeland and an operating HQ out of Toyota's former F1 premises in Cologne, Germany. It is understood that one of the team's ex-Toyota TF110 chassis' that it purchased from the Japanese manufacturer is ready, but that the other remains unfinished, and that a dearth of spares could hamper initial progress. Erstwhile ITV-F1
commentator James Allen has pointed out, moreover, that Ferrari 'will not agree to [Stefan being granted USF1's slot] as long as disgraced former McLaren designer Mike Coughlan is working for the team', which given unanimous consent from existing competitors is required, could just be one stumbling-block too far.
The squad has already agreed terms with ex-Williams ace and long-time Toyota protégé Kazuki Nakajima for one of its two berths, with 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve widely expected to occupy the other, contingent upon Stefan being given the go-ahead to compete. As preparations continue apace, the French-Canadian is due to have a seat fitting today (Monday).