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McLaren welcomes USF1 team
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McLaren welcomes USF1 team
Posted By:   |  25 Feb 2009   |  5:32 pm GMT  |  8 comments

Martin Whitmarsh, who on Sunday will take over as McLaren team principal, has welcomed the USF1 initiative of broadcaster Peter Windsor and former Ligier engineer Ken Anderson.

In a spirit of togetherness and encouragement which sums up the mood of the times at the moment with all teams sticking together and backing each other, Whitmarsh said that the USF1 team could only be a good thing for F1 because the sport must have a race and a presence in America, as the world’s No 1 marketplace.

“A United States-based Formula One team, ideally fielding at least one United States-born driver, would be an excellent vehicle via which all Formula One stakeholders could make important promotional and commercial inroads into what remains the world’s biggest economy,” he said.

“For that reason alone, we at McLaren Mercedes applaud Peter Windsor’s and Ken Anderson’s efforts to set up their all-new USF1 team, and I’m sure the management of all Formula One teams feel the same way.”

USF1 has already had talks with several manufacturers about a supply of £5 million engines and £1.5 million gearboxes, McLaren’s partner Mercedes is already committed to Force India and could be about to supply Team Ross Brawn, if the great man can make the numbers add up and buyout Honda. I’m hearing that it’s looking more positive in the last few days, with some Middle Eastern money involved…

Incidentally, some of the F1 journos are not at all happy about this spirit of harmony between teams since FOTA (the teams’ association) came into existence.
Hatred, backbiting and internecine warfare make great copy, Ferrari and McLaren having a group hug does not. Space is tight in the papers anyway these days with lower ad revenues meaning fewer pages for all papers. They could really do without the teams loving each other…

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8 Comments
  1. Peter says:

    Can someone tell me if there’s any decent US drivers out there at all? That can’t be good for the team if they’re only hiring American drivers, surely?

  2. Darren M says:

    I hope USF1 does materialise- the more teams on the grid the better, even if they are American- but is it just me are does this plan remind anyone of the Donington 2010 revamp? Both projects are being talked about as though they are guaranteed to come off, presumably to look confident for potential investors, yet people remain sceptical.

  3. Travis R says:

    Peter: That is a good point. Obviously, American drivers will be F1 rookies, no matter how they slice it. As an American, I’ve wondered about who they will choose to represent us without making America look like a bunch of incapable asses.

    One rumor I had read at one point was that they were looking at an American driver currently running in the European Formulae, although I have no idea who that would be. Of course, if it isn’t a household name, that won’t help the US Fans, or help bring in sponsorship dollars. Here’s my thoughts on some key drivers from a few of the American series:

    IRL

    Danica Patrick could probably bring in the money, but she’s a mid-pack IRL driver at best, and road courses are not her strong point.

    Marco Andretti is better than Danica on the road courses, and his A1GP driving will help him hone his skills. His last name is certainly an asset. It will be interesting to watch Marco this year in the IRL – he has some growing up to do, but with the experience he’s gaining in A1GP, he’s quite possibly the best choice for an American F1 driver right now.

    Graham Rahal has some potential – he has a good last name, is well-spoken, young, and polite. He’s mature and gentlemanly for his age. But, he’s also not quite well-known enough to bring enough sponsorship dollars. He was mostly unsponsored last year – his car usually bore the Hole in the Wall Gang Camps logo, which was founded by Paul Newman, who was part owner of the team he drives for (Newman/Haas/Lanigan).

    NASCAR
    In the NASCAR world, Kyle Busch might be the best option. He’s a very good driver and he’s still young enough to have a decent career in F1. But, he’ll probably be relatively expensive, too.

    Of course, people will throw out other favorites like Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Robby Gordon, and others who have spent time in open wheel, but all of those guys are ancient by F1 standards and are all occupied owning their own teams now.

    USAC, US Karting, and ALMS
    I imagine that Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson could be watching the USAC ranks – there are a lot of talented young drivers there. But once again, very few of them are household names and can bring in F1 money. The other downside is that USAC is all ovals.

    The karting circuit in America is pretty weak compared to Europe. Nonetheless, I’m sure Peter and Ken are watching this area, too.

    Someone from the American LeMans series might be a good choice when it comes to raw driving skill, but name recognition will be an issue for securing funds.

    So, like you say, I can’t help but wonder if hiring only American drivers is a good initial strategy – at least bring in one driver with some actual F1 experience. Someone like Sebastian Bourdais could be helpful, as he’ll have a couple of years under his belt and he spent quite a bit of time racing (quite successfully) in the US.

  4. I don’t know if this would fly, but what about JV?

    OK, he isn’t American, but he is from a country in the North Americas. I don’t know how Americans would react to a Canadian being classified as an American (they do share the same international dialing code) – although I do know some Candians aren’t very happy if you call them Americans – does it go the other way, or is it ignorable for racing (or like me, I couldn’t give a monkey’s about your nationality)?

    Now JV was pretty lacklustre the last time we saw him, will he still be any good? He has tried NASCAR but seemingly can’t get sponsorship to continue. He his time passed? Is he still fit enough? Is this just a daft idea, because he once was very good, but is no longer?

    Having mentioned JV, what about JPM? From the South Americas? Think he would return, or would he even be considered, after all he is a latino – that will go down well with some folks and badly with others.

    I’m not particularly a JV fan, although when he was at Williams he was great. JPM, likewise was an interesting character, great on the days he was plugged in and using a Klingon cloaking filter on the days he wasn’t. Just thought I’d see how well this one flies, or sinks :-)

    In case anyone thinks my other post is anti the USF1 team, it isn’t. I’m just not convinced on a few issues. If they can make it happen, good for them.

  5. Peter R: “One rumor I had read at one point was that they were looking at an American driver currently running in the European Formulae, although I have no idea who that would be. Of course, if it isn’t a household name, that won’t help the US Fans, or help bring in sponsorship dollars.”

    Are you sure? I reckon that most people had never heard of Lewis Hamilton 2 years ago, and most of them knew about him after his very first race, or even before it. A good management/marketing team can turn that around very quickly.

  6. Norman says:

    I have a suggestion! A reality TV show for USF1 aspiring
    drivers! What do you think?

  7. Clinton says:

    Being a small startup operation the ability for a driver to bring in sponsorship would be important.

    I think they should go with one American river with the name to pull in big sponsorship, such as Danica Patrick etc, and then another, whether American or not, with at least some F1 experience.

    Could this be the return of Scott Speed or Rubens Barrichello?

  8. Dermot says:

    Marco Andretti showed some promise in a Honda test previously did he not? The Andretti name returning to F1 would be great for boosting interest in the US…provided he could adapt to F1 a bit better than Michael.

    I think a lot of Americans who followed F1 in the 70′s and 80′s and have since lost interest would be able to relate to the Andretti name in a big way…i think he should be their first choice as a USF1 driver. Marco is younger than Danica Patrick, already has F1 experience (albeit limited), and as previously posted he has acquitted himself better on road courses in the States better than Patrick.

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