Stefan GP will be on the starting grid for the F1 2010 curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir in a week-and-a-half's time with Jacques Villeneuve behind the wheel and quite possibly backing from YouTube
co-founder Chad Hurley – that is the conviction of the sport's very own Mystic Meg, colourful BBC
pundit Eddie Jordan.
The Serbian outfit still has no official entry for the rapidly-approaching world championship campaign, but purchased Toyota's ready-designed TF110 chassis' in the wake of the Japanese manufacturer's withdrawal from competition late last year and is believed to be operating out of part of the Cologne headquarters where the cars were built. The F1 equivalent, in other words, of being all dressed up with nowhere to go.
Whilst a planned shakedown and test outing at Portimão in Portugal had to be cancelled when no tyre supply from Bridgestone was forthcoming, ex-Williams ace Kazuki Nakajima is all-but assured of one of the two cockpits – ostensibly at the behest of Toyota, of whom the 25-year-old is a long-time protégé – and discussions are at an advanced stage to parachute 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve into the other.
The French-Canadian has not competed at the highest level since midway through 2006, when he parted company with BMW-Sauber in ignominious fashion following a string of lacklustre results – but the 38-year-old has made no secret of late about his desire to rejoin the fray, and was due to have a seat fitting in the Stefan GP S-01 on Monday. Should he indeed return, Villeneuve would be the fifth previous title-winner in the 2010 field, accompanying Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and erstwhile nemesis and record-breaking comeback king Michael Schumacher.
According to former team owner Jordan, Stefan will assume the entry that had been allocated to the financially-stricken USF1 effort. To add insult to injury, Hurley – the chief investor in the North Carolina-based concern, that according to various reports has requested to be allowed to miss the opening four grands prix of 2010, and perhaps even the entire season – could well transfer his allegiance and come on-board too.
Intriguingly, the Zoran Stefanovic-led squad – which has been using alternately aggressive and conciliatory tactics in its increasingly desperate lobbying attempts to secure a spot in F1 2010 [see separate story – click here
] – appears likely to use Toyota engines should it be given the nod to race, rather than the Cosworth powerplants that were a binding condition for fellow newcomers Lotus, Virgin and Campos, and that reputedly scuppered the well-placed bids of the likes of Prodrive and Lola last summer.
“My understanding is that they will be in Bahrain with ex-champion Jacques Villeneuve driving,” Jordan told the BBC
. “Don't be surprised if the backer of USF1 – YouTube
founder Chad Hurley – joins up with Stefanovic.”
Whilst much-maligned by F1 fans for his occasionally off-the-wall predictions and assessments, it should be noted that the Irishman was one of the first to accurately forecast Schumacher's celebrated comeback with Mercedes Grand Prix this year – long before the deal was public knowledge.