Reflecting that 'a bit of humiliation is always good for the soul' and that things should be kept in perspective, Peter Windsor has spoken publicly for the first time since USF1 bit the dust earlier this year, admitting that he has learned a lot from the failed venture and is 'a better person' for it – and confessing that were the right opportunity to present itself, he would do it all again.
The whole sorry saga of USF1 scarcely needs running back over. Suffice to say that having originally launched the initiative in early 2009, just over a year later and following a litany of errors and misfortune – from an inability to attract sufficient sponsorship to compete at the highest level, albeit not aided by the timing of the global credit crunch, to a PR campaign that lurched from one calamity to another, and this despite Windsor having previously been a public relations specialist – the North Carolina-based concern was the only one of the four anticipated F1 2010 newcomers not to make the grid for the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir.
The critics railed against the fact that Windsor and partner-in-crime Ken Anderson had had considerably more time than Virgin, Hispania and particularly Lotus – all of whom ultimately did
make the grade despite having had their entry bids accepted at a later date, the latter not until September – to put the team together, and to realise the dream of an all-American outfit in F1 for the first time in more than two decades.
They had led José María López on, they had led YouTube
co-founder Chad Hurley on, they had led engine-supplier Cosworth on, they had led the FIA on and worst of all they had led an entire nation on – that was USF1's clinical post-mortem after the governing body sounded the death knell by refusing to grant Windsor and Anderson their requested deferral until 2011. In his first interview since the dream degenerated into a recurring nightmare, however, Windsor contends all was not what it seemed – and insists that any unfavourable comparisons with the success of Lotus are grossly unfair.
“There was never a moment I didn't think it was going to happen until it didn't happen,” the Englishman told GPWeek
. “You learn in life constantly to push and to fight. Within your control, you always do all you can to make it happen. Most of the people I know in motor racing are like that – they never give up until it's over.
“We were awarded an entry in June, but that was for an FIA championship that did not include any of the big-name teams. They were lining up for the so-called 'breakaway' series. It wasn't until late July that the two parties – the FIA and FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) – actually sat down and spoke with any sort of civility, and it wasn't until mid-August that we actually signed into the single-championship Concorde Agreement. Until that time, we couldn't exist as a company, we couldn't have a website, we couldn't trade, we couldn't hire people.
“As far as I know, Lotus was already a long way down the track with design work by then – and their design team was a harmonious unit, well-used to working under pressure and familiar with one another. I believe I'm correct in saying that Mike Gascoyne's excellent Cologne-based team was borne of his time at Toyota. That's a totally different kind of operation. That's a car being designed in an F1-friendly environment for a build-group in the UK.
“We never contemplated that sort of set-up. We were trying something completely different, not only in the context of F1 today but within the context of the history of F1. We were designing and building a car outside Europe – and doing it in-house as well. Until then, everyone was saying that Europe was the only place to do a car; we felt, with the extensive technology infrastructure that now exists on the east coast of the States, that the time had finally arrived when an F1 car could be designed and built in America.
“It was never going to happen overnight, however; if a well-oiled Mike Gascoyne operation only just made Bahrain, we were always going to need more time to do the same thing around a brand new project in the States. And it wasn't just Mike that took the Euro, third-party route; the other two new teams also used a third-party design and build facility – which, strictly-speaking, isn't what F1 is all about.