Two U.S. teams on the F1 grid in 2016? It could happen

Promoter Tavo Hellmund and financier James Carney head US-based investment group looking to buy a Formula 1 team.

Two U.S. teams on the F1 grid in 2016? It could happen
(L to R): Will Stevens, Manor F1 Team with Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team and Graeme Lowdon, Manor F1 Team Chief Executive Officer at the post race concert
Will Stevens, Manor F1 Team
Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team spins in front of team mate Will Stevens, Manor F1 Team
Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team
Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team on the grid
Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team in the rain.
Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team and team mate Will Stevens, Manor F1 Team.
Will Stevens, Manor F1 Team and Roberto Merhi, Manor F1 Team sign autographs for the fans
Alexander Rossi, Marussia F1 Team

There’s a good chance that North America will have two, not one, Formula 1 teams on the grid in 2016, Motorsport.com can reveal. 

Gene Haas's plans for a Ferrari-affiliated team entry next year are well advanced, but a group of investors headquartered in the United States are actively attempting to buy an existing team in a bid to also join the grid.

The group is headed by New York financier James Carney, and Austin businessman Tavo Hellmund, who developed the Circuit of the Americas track and cut the deal with Bernie Ecclestone to bring F1 back to the country.

More recently, Hellmund has spearheaded the return of F1 racing to Mexico City after a 23-year absence, when the Mexican Grand Prix returns to the calendar at the renovated Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez November 1.

Neither Hellmund nor Carney could be reached for comment, but a representative of Carney’s confirmed there was interest, though declined to say which team the consortium was focused on.

Sources have suggested it is the British-based Manor team, which is currently controlled by Irish businessman Stephen Fitzpatrick, founder of Ovo Energy. 

The team, with drivers Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, is currently pegged to the back of the grid - using an updated 2014 chassis and last year's Ferrari engine.

It originally entered the sport in 2010 as Virgin Racing, and the team’s major highlight – a ninth-place finish by driver Jules Bianchi at Monaco to secure it tenth place in last year's constructors' championship – was later followed by an enormous low with Bianchi’s crash, which left him in a coma.

Prize money concern?

The team missed the final three races of 2014 due to financial reasons and its future was in doubt for much of the winter.

But Fitzpatrick rescued the team from bankruptcy, although it is believed that he is now looking for a financial boost from a new partner or to sell it completely. 

The Carney-Hellmund led effort reportedly is seeking majority control of a team.

The situation is complicated by F1's prize-money structure which means only the top ten teams are guaranteed prize money.

The arrival of Haas next year means there will be 11 teams, although stipulations in bilateral agreements relating to prize money means teams must finish in the top ten for two out of three years before they qualify for payments.

That means Manor is guaranteed top ten income - worth around $40 million - until the end of 2017 at least.

It will need a step up in performance, or a change to F1's prize-money structure, to ensure it keeps earning after that date.

 

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