Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Tale of Four Teams: F1 Newcomers Rough Race onto the Grid

Photo Credit: Lotus Racing

Coming as news midway through the 2009 Formula 1 season, the world racing sanctioning body accepted entries of four new teams to complete in the F1 world circuit in 2010.

USF1 Team, Campos Meta, Manor Grand Prix and Lotus Racing were the successful applicants out of 15 organizations known to have made proposals to the FIA. Determined to increase the car count and team representation in the major open wheel racing series, the 4 teams brought into the series under this arrangement will become the first entries to deploy an unique effort devoted to lower cost racing. Running spec engines supplied by the Cosworth and common Xtrac racing transmissions, the financial relieve of not building these expensive car components will stride to allow these teams to be reasonably competitive at a lower annual budget than the established Formula 1 teams.

Rewarded the coveted spots on the 2010 Formula 1 grid, these four auto racing teams committed themselves to almost 9 months of work in building a grand prix racing group. In the case of three of these teams, 2/3rds of a year run sported some interesting drama.

Virgin Racing (Formerly Manor Grand Prix)

One of two teams upgrading themselves from an F3 series, Manor Grand Prix linage included the fostering of a younger Lewis Hamilton in 2004. As the team takes to the 2010 grid, Manor Grand Prix is now known as Virgin Racing after the team's name was changed to reflect the title sponsor and majority owner the Virgin Group. Signing the driver will piloted the now defunct Toyota F1 effort, the Timo Glock announcement can as one of the first driver linked to the new 2010 teams. With 36 Formula 1 race starts of experience, Glock will enjoy the lead driver position with Virgin Racing over F1 rookie Lucas di Grassi. Grassi joins the new F1 team with history running for Manor Motorsport in the 2005 Formula 3 Euroseries.

Lotus Racing

Lotus Racing has assembled their Formula 1 effort with minimal complications. Rising from the ashes of Colin Chapman's once iconic Team Lotus grand prix group, the Lotus badge returns in 2010 after a 15-year hiatus. The new incarnation of Lotus in Formula 1 is created through the united efforts of the Malaysia's Proton parent company and the crew members located in the Lotus Racing facilities in Norfolk, England. The team steadily built itself with some enviable pieces that even established teams were struggling to set in place including a dedicated team principal Tony Fernandes, the team rests on strong financial footing with corporate partners recently added CNN International as a sponsor. Mike Gascoyne took the reins of the team's Chief Technical Officer traveling with over 20 years of Formula 1 experience in working for McLaren, Tyrrell and Toyota's F1 effort. Naming veteran Formula 1 drivers Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen as pilots the Lotus' T127 race car for 2010, the Lotus Racing team should be at least a stable mid-pack grand prix team.

The USF1 Team

Equating to the biggest drama in the Formula 1 off-season, the fate of the USF1 Team had been the talk of the motorsport world. The USF1 Team had been eagerly followed by North American race fans who have long been seeking a greater presence in what is considered the World's top auto racing series. With the team's conception occurring well into 2008, the team was co-founded in February of 2009 by Formula 1 media legend Peter Windsor, former de Ferran Motorsport principal Ken Anderson, and Youtube creator Chad Hurley. As of March of 2010, USF1 appears to have withdrawn plans to contend in the upcoming Formula 1 season. Reports have indicated that staff for the team have been layoff as plans to get USF1 into Formula 1 for 2011 is being championed by Ken Anderson and Chad Hurley.

Initially plotting to feature an All-American driver lineup, the USF1 Team had been rumoured to be charming American racers AJ Almendinger Kyle Busch and Danica Patrick. 1997 F1 World Champion driver Jacques Villeneuve was also mentioned as connected to the team but the negotiations never materialized. In late January, Argentinian Jose Maria Lopez was named to one of the two vacant seats. A second driver has never been named for 2010 and Lopez has just recently been released from the team.

Stefan GP, an ambition Serbian-based F1 effort initially turned down for one of the four F1 team entries, has also been hinted to propositioning the team to sell their spot on the 2010 F1 grid. As the season opening race in Bahrain nears, the USF1 Team has officially sought a 12-month deferral from the FIA as they plan to ready the team for 2011. A revised entry list published on the Formula 1 official website March 3 excludes the USF1 Team from the car roster.

Hispania Racing F1 (Formerly Campos Meta)

Amidst the media coverage around the troubles of the USF1 Team, a similar but less featured Formula 1 story has been transpiring around Campos Meta. Founded by Adrian Campos, previously an owner of F3 and GP2 teams, Campos Meta's application to become a 2010 Formula 1 team was bolstered by the organization's plan to have reputable chassis builder Dallara supply their cars. Late last year, the team attracted some notable attention by announcing 2008 GP2 points runner-up Bruno Senna, nephew of the late Formula 1 great Aryton Senna, would debut in Formula 1 in 2010. However, as Formula 1 team planning extended beyond the new year, Campos Meta's progress apparently stalled.

By February of 2010, Campos Meta's capacity to make the 2010 Formula 1 season was in serious doubt as cash flow to the effort fell dry. Before that, F1 CEO and president Bernie Ecclestone voiced concerned about the financial strength of Campos Meta along with the USF1 team. Ecclestone's predictions have since been supported by team owner Adrian Campos confirmation the start-up team's financial issues admitting to BBC Sport "sometime we have the money sometime we don't". Realizing their inability to field a team for 2010, team financier Jose Ramon Carabante took control of the race entity recommitting the team under the new name Hispania Racing F1. Bruno Senna retains his ride and speculation has the free agent driver Jose Maria Lopez joining the Hispania Racing F1 team. As the Bahrain Grand Prix nears, the team is optimistic about completing in the 2010 Formula 1 tour.

Almost a week away from first practice during the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix race weekend, the more established teams of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull Racing is still destined to be the class of world open wheel auto racing. Making efforts to build the best teams possible, the three new teams in Formula 1 racing changes from team formulation to openly fighting for every position in the 24-car field through the season. When Lotus Racing, Hispania Racing F1 and Virgin Racing cars are finally unleashed into the 2010 Formula 1 grid, maybe through all the hard work that the upcoming grand prix season will bring, these new F1 entrants can celebrate a skillful victory in the motorsport business.

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