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If I did it…

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Lots of comments have been made by F1 fans across the ‘net about the failure of US F1 to make the grid, largely blaming team bosses Ken Anderson and, to a lesser extent, Peter Windsor. Now of course it’s OK for us armchair observers to make such judgements, and it is probably the correct one – although we do not know the exact details, the connection of Anderson to the previous failed Falcon IRL chassis project and the reports that have come out of Charlotte point a very large finger in the direction of the former Ligier and Onyx engineer. But what would we do in the same position? Would we have done a better job despite having a minimal knowledge of how motor racing teams work?

So, to try and answer the question, from at least my perspective, here are my plans for my new F1 team…OK, perhaps a bit optimistic, but here are the plans I would make if I was to set up a brand new team to enter F1 in the near future – essentially, an F1 team mission statement:

Windsor and Anderson started off with the concept of an American F1 team to showcase American technology and talent. But I will endeavour to avoid falling into the nationalism trap, so as not to limit myself to investment from a particular country or make myself look ridiculous when I go back on all the pledges I made when I launched the project. My aim is to just set up a team to race in F1 – as simple as that. It doesn’t need to be based on some complicated, quirky principle – investors may find that more attractive but then they also may find it less attractive, so the risk is eliminating as many potential investors as you’re gaining.

I will present the team as a traditional, down-to-earth privateer to be run on a small budget (a target of between £50m and £75m). I will make no bones about the fact that we expect to struggle in the short and medium term due to the from-scratch nature of the team and the challenges of the sport, as demonstrated by Virgin and Lotus, but I am optimistic the team can progress and get closer to the front – Force India show it can be done. For this to happen, investment is needed.

The whole car is essentially up-for-grabs, as far as sponsorship’s concerned. I have no definite livery at the moment, although I plan on having a more traditional-looking scheme whatever investment we receive – no fancy flames or swirly patterns, just a straight plain livery invoking memories of days gone by. The name is the same – to start with, the proposed name will be neutral, with the opportunity of either doing a deal to obtain a classic team name or, if needed, a sponsor buying the naming rights – although this does potentially go against the principles of setting up a traditional privateer team, but as Manor Grand Prix have found, sometimes needs must, although it would have to take a sizeable offer for us to change the team name, particularly if the company in question is not a traditional motor racing name (although we would encouraged non-traditional companies to invest). If we do obtain the rights to a classic team name, that will influence our livery choice.

The nature of the team would be largely informal. In much the same way as Virgin, Lotus and Red Bull have progressed, I intend the team to have a warm, fun atmosphere – our purpose is to entertain just as much as to race. To please the fans, we must be open to them, not hide away in secrecy. The fans are at the core of the team’s principles. I do not want the team to be seen as a group of businessmen or have the face of a large conglomerate like most of the teams in F1 today. I want the team to be one which the fans can relate to – it is a team for the fans. This will be done by styling ourselves as the plucky underdog team on the grid, with the aim to become, like Minardi once were, the fans’ second favourite team. Our website will appeal to both hardcore and casual fans of the sport, with our drivers and team members interacting with the public – signing sessions and Q&A sessions on race weekends; webchats, videos and blogs online. One innovation I propose is for our drivers and key team members to visit schools – there is very little done in schools relating to motorsport, so this is an ideal market to expand into.

One other final important aspect is that we will build the team up instead of expanding rapidly overnight, following the template set by Manor Grand Prix. This will involve going into partnership with an established constructor, preferably one based in Britain, in order to save investing in large facilities such as windtunnels and CFD technology. The prime candidate for this is Lola, who are one of the most experienced specialist constructors around and have already designed an F1 car for 2010 and thus have a base to work on for future years. Other constructors we could pair with include Zytek (now owned by Ginetta), Pilbeam (BRM connection), Swift and Caparo. The engine would also be from an independent constructor – Cosworth is the obvious choice but if there are other existing engine constructors looking to get into F1 and build a new engine, such as Judd, AER, Zytek, Mecachrome and Ilmor.

Proposed Names
Here is a list of neutral team names I propose:

– Acclaim Motorsport
– Anticipation Motorsport
– Glamorgan Motorsport
– Metropolis Racing
– Panorama Motorsport
– Protocol Grand Prix
– Swallow Motorsport
– Taipan Grand Prix
– Wyvern Racing
– Zephyr Racing

Also, some names of classic teams we could look into purchasing the rights of:

– Arrows Grand Prix International
– Brabham Racing Organisation*
– Connaught Engineering
– Ensign Racing
– Hesketh Racing*
– Hill Racing*
– March Grand Prix Team (rights to March name owned by Andrew Fitton)
– Team Surtees*
– Toleman Motorsport*
– Tyrrell Racing

* – Ideally, we could also go into partnership with the well-known figure to use their name in the team. This could involve an honourary role in the team

We could also use the name of the constructor we are partnered with (e.g. Ginetta), thus being the team representing them on the world stage. However, the team arm (i.e. us) would still have a separate name for use in other potential projects in the future, to give our team an identity.

Obviously further considerations will have to be made for an exact location or alternative locations, but I plan on basing the team in the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales. This is for the following reasons:

– flat land with plenty of space to develop
– good transport links: near the M4 motorway; railway links; Cardiff Airport nearby
– large labour force nearby in South Wales
– new area for F1 teams
– near Pembrey Circuit, formerly an F1 testing venue
– not far from my home

The usual considerations would have to be taken into account for designing and building the base. If possible, we could buy an already-standing factory, such as the Bosch factory at Miskin near the M4 – this is a large facility soon to close. A moderately-sized factory is all that is necessary due to the possibility to start with of the constructor partnership.

Sponsorship Targets
In particular, the companies we will target to sponsor us will either be ‘trendy’ companies aimed at the younger generations or mechanical/technical/engineering firms. I am also hoping to attract some local Welsh sponsorship – Wales is not an area renowned for circuit racing so it will be particularly important to me personally to generate interest there. Large locally-based companies include Brains Brewery, the Principality Building Society, Peacocks, Leekes and the Admiral Group. If we develop more of a Welsh identity with such sponsors, a possible course of action would be to obtains rights to the Darrian or Gilbern names, both Welsh car manufacturers.

Ultimately, though, all I would want is enough sponsors to fill the budget, even if they turn our car pink!

Team Development
If we were to go into partnership with Lola straight away, we would hope to start testing before the winter of 2010/11 before we are bound by the testing ban. This may be more difficult if the constructor we are partnered with does not have an F1 design yet. However, if instead we target 2012 as our entry year, it would also be looked into to compete in a junior series such as F3 or GP2 (with entries going out to tender this year) as preparation in 2011.

There are so many ex-F1 team members out there it would be impossible to provide a list of shortlisted team managers, designers etc, so I have chosen to just provide a shortlist of ideal drivers – I will be looking for one experienced driver and at least one young driver, with another being test/reserve driver. I have stuck to drivers that do not currently have a role in F1. The young driver will be expected to bring some sponsorship money to help fund the budget.

(It is worth noting that on the team members front, whilst I will be team owner, I will appoint a team principal who will largely run team affairs, as I have no experience of doing that myself, although I will participate in major decisions.)

Experienced drivers:
– Anthony Davidson (GB)
– Robert Doornbos (Ned)
– Neel Jani (Swz)
– Christian Klien (Aut)
– Franck Montagny (Fra)
– Giorgio Pantano (Ita)
– Takuma Sato (Jpn)
– Jacques Villeneuve (Can)

Young drivers:
– Johnny Cecotto Jr (Ven)
– Esteban Guerrieri (Arg)
– Pastor Maldonado (Ven)
– Sergio Perez (Mex)
– Nicolas Prost (Fra)
– Graham Rahal (USA)
– Oliver Turvey (GB)
– Adrian Valles (Esp)
– Davide Valsecchi (Ita)
– Giedo van der Garde (Ned)

If extra funds are needed, I have an additional shortlist of known, reasonably experienced drivers that may provide more funds:
– Luca Filippi (Ita)
– Romain Grosjean (Fra)
– Narain Karthikeyan (Ind)
– Nelson Piquet Jr (Brz)
– Roldan Rodriguez (Esp)
– James Rossiter (GB)

Of course, I am always open to offers!

I would also like to test a number of these and other young drivers if we hit the track early, and perhaps during the season due to the exemptions on the testing ban rule. We would be willing to subsidise some of this if it is a serious test, but otherwise these tests would have to be largely paid for by the drivers themselves. But our rates will be fair.

I do not really want to go into the infinite details as I don’t know enough to provide accurate details to that degree. But there are the principles and basic details of how I would run my own F1 team. So if you would like to invest in this idea, post a comment below…of course I’m not necessarily expecting this to happen just yet…but you never know…

You can see that a lot of this is idealised. It sort of proves the point of those who would defend Windsor and Anderson (whoever they may be). But at the same time, F1 teams have to stay rational and sensible about projects, not making wild promises from the beginning that they are never going to keep, like hiring American drivers, hiring non-paying drivers and doing everything in the US of A to make it a totally American team. Failure for them was inevitable, and the fall is harder because they wanted to climb higher than everyone else.


Written by James Bennett

March 5, 2010 at 02:24

Posted in F1, F1 teams

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