Welcoming recessionary times and FIA rules changes, and promising to run a team as spare as its name, partners Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor on Tuesday announced the launch of Formula One team USF1.
Using a live television feed via Windsor's current employer, Speed TV, the duo made formal their more than two-year-old secret that leaked its way to public knowledge in the past month. Windsor, whose title will be sporting director, said he and Anderson, team principal, have lined up necessary capital to field a team in the heretofore world's most expensive motorsport that has seen a global recession help bring it to heel. USF1 stands to be F1 sans bling.
"We've got an approach we want to bring into the sport that we want to do well," Windsor said. "The key to that was not selling any more than a very small stake in the team. So we set some unbelievably steep hills to climb, in a recession. We just wanted to sell off a small part of the team, and I'm pleased to say that as we sit here now we've done that and we're now two guys who can say we're going to do a Formula One team, because we've got the capital to do it and, to some extent, the recession has kind of helped us a little bit. For those of them out there who say, 'Where's all the money? Where's the huge facility? Where's the money falling out of the sky?' That isn't going to happen with USF1. We've always had a very different approach, and that approach will become visible, I think, as time goes on and this year unfolds."
Saying they want less to bring Formula One to America than America to Formula One, the duo outlined an operation that will hire Americans and use American technology that already features highly -- but goes unseen -- in F1. American software for CFD (computational fluid dynamics) modeling wind-tunnel effects stands to become more predominant as teams cut back wind-tunnel time.
Anderson said a 2010 F1 calendar with more than half its races outside Europe makes the racing series less Eurocentric than in the past and ripe for a US-based team, which will locate in Charlotte, N.C., a city of 630,500 in a metropolitan area of more than 1 million. Relocate-america.com in 2008 called Charlotte the best place to live in America.
"Most of the technology in Formula One comes from the United States to begin with," Anderson said. "And the logistics are that now, as of next year, less than half the races will be on the continent, so there's less reason for being there. The cost of doing business in the United States is significantly cheaper than Europe. And there's a lot of good people here."
They don't have an office -- Windsor said most meetings have been held at a Starbucks coffeeshop -- but they are looking at properties. Nor have they lined up an engine supplier or hired drivers. "These are all are the fun bits, drivers, engines, sponsors," Windsor said. The fans, too, will be the fun bits to USF1, Windsor said. He said fans will be welcome at the team's Charlotte headquarters and will be able to see car design and building take place. "Fans will be able to touch and feel a Formula One team for the first time," he said. Team HQ will include a television studio because television programming will augment the team's website.
Anderson said they expect to take advantage of the area's racing connections -- the South is home to NASCAR, the nation's most popular form of motor racing -- its textile heritage and its more recent high-tech ventures. Anderson cited a current availability of cheap carbon fiber owing to a downturn in the aerospace industry.
"Racing's a $6 billion industry in North Carolina," Anderson said. "Probably within 50 miles of Charlotte, it's all there. There's some brilliant people here. And in terms of test equipment, a shaker rig doesn't know whether it has a Cup car or a Formula One car. A wind tunnel doesn't know. The benefit of that is we have more equipment, more talented people in this area, I'd say, than anywhere on the planet."
Anderson outlined a staff comparable to that of the sport's current smallest team, Italy-based, 160-member Scuderia Toro Rosso.
"We're looking at (hiring) well over 100 people, highly skilled, highly paid people," Anderson said.
Countered Windsor, "Not too highly paid."
The duo say they expect to use a site in Spain as the team's European staging base.
Windsor said F1's commercial supremo, Bernie Ecclestone of Formula One Management, and the sport's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) have backed a plan that would see a new team enter competition in 2010. The effort, Windsor said, benefits from 2009 rules changes that stand to level the playing field by cutting costs. To wit, in-season testing was scrapped and wind tunnel use greatly reduced. Engine revolutions were reduced from 19,000 to 18,000 to prolong engine life because engines will be required to go three races between changes. Even better, "Formula One is different to the old days of a $48 million bond," Windsor said. "And you can forget $30 million retainers for drivers. Those days are gone."
Acting in December, the team principles of the sport, organized the previous summer as Formula One Teams Association, chose to adopt slashed budgets that will see large teams cut jobs.
"How do you do a Formula One team? That's an interesting question," Windsor said. "There's no book about it. There's lots of books about how to drive a race car, perhaps, but no book on how to do a Formula One team. If you look at the way it's gone in the past, in the recent past, it's been either find an incredibly rich trillionaire and have him dominate the team, own the team and, if you're lucky enough, get a job once he's put the team together. Or you are lucky enough to be invited by a car company, a large car company, to set up their Formula One organization for them. Ken and I have been around long enough, really, not to want to do either of those things. I can only speak for myself, but I think Ken would agree. We always wanted to do our own team, our own way."
In remarks that made clear driver decisions have a way to go, Windsor threw out these names: Californian Alex Rossi, a Formula BMW winner; Conor Daly, son of the Irish immigrant to Indianapolis and former F1 racer Derek Daly; Tennessean Josef Newgarden, a Formula Ford Festival winner; Colombian Gabby Chaves, as well as A1GP winner Jonathan Summerton.
"The logical thing from a marketing point of view was to see if we could have American drivers, and that's what we intend to do," Windsor said. "The two people we'll have in the car in 2010 will be inexperienced, relatively inexperienced, they won't have any road dust on them. We're a young team, nothing wrong with having young drivers growing at the same pace. It's a question of finding the two most compatible drivers to what we're setting out to achieve and do in Year 1 and Year 2."
Just to point them in the right direction, the second American to become World Driving Champion, the title conferred in Formula One, 1978 winner Mario Andretti called the announcement program with grandfatherly advice that a certain Marco Andretti would be the former world champ's idea of the perfect F1 driver. And it's something grandson Marco, an Indianapolis 500 runner-up, wants to do, too, even if he doesn't speak up much.
Windsor mentioned Scott Speed, the only active American racer with F1 experience, with Toro Rosso; Danica Patrick, who raced in Europe as a teenager and reached the podium of a Formula Ford Festival, and Kyle Busch, NASCAR's most interesting talent, indicating the team is open to NASCAR drivers who might take an interest and be willing to be groomed into the global series.
Patrick indicated she's not keen on travel. Speed has reached the Sprint Cup level with Red Bull's NASCAR team. Busch turned down an F1 test opportunity last fall.
"A question of finding the two most compatible drivers to what we're setting out to achieve and do in Year 1 and Year 2, probably, and grow with us."
So who are these guys showing typical American cock-eyed optimism?
American Ken Anderson started racing in motocross as a teenager, working at length for Fox Racing Shox in California, where he met Roger Mears of a racing family from Bakersfield, Calif. Through Roger Mears, Anderson designed shocks for Indy-car runner Rick Mears, which led to developing Penske Racing Shocks for CART team owner Roger Penske. Anderson worked as race engineer for four-time Indy 500 winner Mears then became Penske chief engineer. A Penske affiliation with Williams to use the F1 team's wind tunnel led to Anderson doing suspension work for Williams then hiring on as Ligier's technical director. He went from there to Onyx Grand Prix Engineering. When that collapsed, he joined Chip Ganassi Racing, set up a Ganassi unit in England, which became G Force. He worked for A.J. Foyt Racing and Bradley Motorsports. He returned to Indy to win again, with Arie Luyendyk driving. He designed and engineered cars for Californian Robby Gordon at Indy and for off-road events. The latter led him to work with Toyota and Dan Gurney's All American Racers CART team. In 2003, Anderson became technical director of Haas CNC Racing. Most recently he developed the $40 million Windshear wind tunnel in Concord, N.C., a 100 percent scale, rolling road used by a number of Formula One teams.
Briton Windsor grew up in Australia, where he would go to Sydney's airport to greet the arrival of drivers like Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart arriving to race the Tasman Series. Windsor once asked Clark how to go about a racing career and was told to put himself into the scene, which Windsor has done emphatically. Since 1972, Windsor has worked as motorsport journalist and for F1 teams including Ferrari and Williams. He made an effort to buy Brabham when Ecclestone let it go in 1988 but the deal fell through. Windsor's expertise in sponsor solicitation was earned as a letter-writing sponsor manager for Williams. Thereafter he worked as general manager for Ferrari before returning to Williams as team manager. Windsor's visibility in the sport has grown with fans since his journalism expanded to television from writing for London's newspaper, The Times, and other publications, including F1 Racing magazine and Autosport Japan. He reported from the pit lane for ABC in 2002, but he has been seen most often on Fox as on-scene reporter at grands prix for FSN and Sky Sports, and for Speed, the Fox-owned cable channel that airs most of the series' races in the United States. Windsor is a trustee of The Jim Clark Room, a museum in Duns, Scotland, dedicated to the two-time world champion.