Ingram's Flat Spot On: Down and out

Ingram's Flat Spot On: Down and out

Ingram's Flat Spot On Down And Out by Jonathan Ingram Well, the entry list for the 2010 season of Formula One is out -- and so are US F1 and Stefan GP. Order in place of chaos has prevailed at last after the FIA issued the list and postponed...


Ingram's Flat Spot On


Down And Out
by Jonathan Ingram

Well, the entry list for the 2010 season of Formula One is out -- and so are US F1 and Stefan GP. Order in place of chaos has prevailed at last after the FIA issued the list and postponed announcing any details of how a 13th team will be added to the entry for next season.

FIA and F1 Flags.
Photo by xpb.cc.

But even so, one team that shows up in Bahrain for the Mar. 14 opener will not have turned a wheel in pre-season testing, the newly re-named HRT (signifying Hispania Racing Team). Is this any way to run a world championship?

I guess the fairest answer would be: what are the other options?

The three-ring circus at the back of the potential grid involving Campos, now Hispania, US F1 and Stefan GP resulted from the FIA's effort to bring badly needed new blood into the ranks of F1. This, of course, has Ferrari seeing blood red as articulated in its Horse Whisperer campaign, now dripping in infamy. Although the former Honda and BMW teams have survived the departure of manufacturers, how else to guarantee a grid in the future than introduce a process to allow new teams to enter that are not shod by factory money?

As it is, three new teams appear to have made the grid out of the four invited, albeit with all the quickness of a trailing time zone during pre-season testing. Even with some helpings of cubic money, these teams have spent approximately the same amount as a front-running team might have fronted two decades ago. What's wrong with getting it done for less?

For those who say the struggles of Hispania, US F1 and Stefan GP have made the sport look ludicrous, it's better now than later. If the FIA does not figure out at present its process of bringing in new teams -- a process now extended to 2011 for at least one future prospect -- then how will the sanctioning body get it right for the future? It's a messy business, herding all these rich cats and wannabes into the world's most technical racing series.

Given that there's an opening declared for 2011, US F1 founder Ken Anderson appears to be a cat with at least eight and three quarter lives. (This is not his first failed bid to introduce a new car. The project to build a Falcon chassis in conjunction with ex-Ford racing boss Michael Kranefuss for the Indy Racing League ran asunder from political problems with the League and its engine manufacturers.)

Anderson could theoretically be one of those who applies for an entry in 2011 under the procedure to be defined later by the FIA. (The FIA has rejected the idea of the American holding an entry without competing for an entire season. On the other hand, the strategy of asking to post a bond to hold his position may have carried the political debate long enough to have kept Stefan GP off the grid as well.)

In place of putting his new transverse gearbox up for sale on Craig's List, Anderson may well continue to fight to make it to the grid in 2011 under new guidelines. That would likely be greeted by not very many huzzahs after the last year of dashed aspirations for investors, sponsors, would-be drivers and fans of F1 in the U.S.

What about Stefan GP's Zoran Stefanovic -- the Serbian wild card? Time will tell if his possession of the cars intended to be raced by Toyota this year is mostly a matter of physical possession rather than an actual bill of sale and a budget to go racing.

Have we learned anything yet? There appears to be more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to starting teams. Hiring a technical company to build your car from Computational Fluid Dynamics, hiring an existing car maker to build a car, or hiring an existing F1 designer to create a car all seems to have worked for the Virgin, Hispania and Lotus teams, respectively.

Will these guys ever be fast enough to compete with McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and the like?

That brings us to the next stage of the drama. Cost containment is the only way to ensure a grid in the long run. Some have taken it to be the introduction of socialized racing, i.e. the back of the grid shall be allowed to overtake the front via cost containment. This is a debate for another day, a story that began what seems like ages ago when the Formula One Teams Association was threatening to break away to start its own series led by the Prancing Horse of Ferrari, recently of whispering fame. Or infamy.

Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jonathan@jingrambooks.com.

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Series General , Formula 1