There has been a lot of talk about the US F1 team lately, including Bernie Ecclestone suggesting that the team might not make it onto the grid next season.
Many existing teams in the F1 paddock seem to be sceptical as well. There have been rumours that the factory is empty, that they have had little contact with Cosworth, that one of the sponsors didn’t materialise and the team are well behind. As I posted the other day, the Sauber team is watching the situation carefully because its only chance of getting a slot on the grid next year is if one of the current signatories to the Concorde Agreement doesn’t make it.
But Peter Windsor told me at the weekend that everything is progressing well. The team has hired veteran engine liaison man Bernard Ferguson, to deal with his former colleagues at Cosworth and is pressing ahead with the build of its first chassis.
I asked USF1 if they could send me some photos of what they are up to and they have supplied what you see below along with a Q & A document with team principal Ken Anderson.
I’m not usually in the habit of reproducing Q&As but this one seems pretty timely and explains where the team is up to.
What is going on at US F1 Team?
“It has been quite a ride since we started the team last year, and has become far more intense since the signing of the Concorde Agreement. Our world headquarters is now complete and fully functional, and the 2010 racecar is in the construction phase.”
Isn’t it a little late to get something like that started?
“We get that one (question) a lot. Thanks to our in-house design and engineering staff and the aid of our technical partners, for the last 10 to 12 months, the car has gone through thousands of iterations in a virtual environment. With this virtual design, we can test and be sure that it’s right from structural, design and engineering standpoints, so we don’t have to make a part, test it, break it and start again. Instead, we’ve taken out a lot of the guesswork and can get close to a race-ready piece right off of the machines, which is happening now. Our timing is according to plan, with an early November “roller” and a finished car in time for January 2010 testing.”
So who’s building the car? Americans? Europeans? Are you building the car in Charlotte?
” Yes, we’re building the car in our shop here in Charlotte. America is known as a “melting pot” and our team is a reflection of just that. Americans, Europeans, New Zealanders, Welshmen and more are responsible for the racecar, including many who have high-level experience in the current Formula One environment. Many of our new hires we connected with back in June and July, and they will be joining the team formally at the end of the month. We are very grateful to the current Formula One teams for releasing some of our “newest” team members early – that has been a huge help as we continue to prepare for the 2010 Formula One season.”
Let’s talk about what we’re seeing in some of these pictures…what are we looking at here?
“In two words, we’re “fully equipped.” Our machine shop features three- and five-axis CNC machines; we have a composite shop with autoclaves and a 24-foot CNC cutting table; a complete fab shop; assembly and sub-assembly; electronics; research and development; design and engineering; CFD and aerodynamics; marketing and communications; and a full in-house HD production facility, just to name a few departments. Building a team and a world class manufacturing facility are a work-in-progress but we’re ahead of schedule and are excited about going racing next year.”
Can you talk a little about the cost efficiency of manufacturing a Formula One car in the U.S. How can the operation be cheaper than what we’ve seen out there?
“The major cost savings will be that the engineering and production of the cars will be done in the United States. Our technical partners located within a 30-mile radius of our shop contribute to this savings, as there are some departments we don’t have to have in-house, such as a wind tunnel, shaker rig, K&C machine, additional CFD support and a center of gravity machine. What most people see – the transporters, motorcoaches and the “lifestyle” side of Formula One – are a much smaller part of the overall budget and will be located at our European facility, which we’ll tell you about soon!”
Meanwhile Windsor has told Autosport that because of delays to the signing of the Concorde Agreement this summer and the shortage of Americans with sufficient experience to get an F1 superlicence, the team is likely to run at least one if not two non-American drivers.
“Because of all the time we’ve lost, our ambition to run two young Americans is looking more difficult,” Windsor said.
“I’m still hoping we’ll be able to run one American, but that’s a tall order because there aren’t many Americans out there with superlicences.”
I’ve heard Alex Wurz’s name linked with the team on a number of occasions. But there are plenty of good drivers out there including four Brits; Anthony Davidson, Jamie Green, Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett.