Stefan Grand Prix from Serbia, has announced that it has done a deal to use many of the Toyota F1 assets, a deal that was on the table for all the new teams entering F1 this season.
Meanwhile word is reaching me that A1 GP boss Tony Teixeira has now agreed a deal to acquire Campos, the money is yet to be handed over, however. Campos has a slot on the grid this season, Stefan does not, but wants one badly.
And, intriguingly, with several new teams struggling one way or another, it appears that a deal may have been agreed whereby the new teams will be allowed three ‘no-shows’ at races in the next season.
The deal is reputed to be a very generous one, it gives a team the cars Toyota developed for 2010, plus technical support from the staff Toyota has maintained for very little cost. It’s almost a turn-key operation. I’ve spoken to some of the new team owners about this deal and they had their own reasons for turning it down, despite the fact that the alternative requires massive investment and infrastructure. In the case of Lotus, the specific terms and conditions were not attractive, as they involved Lotus dispensing with the services of key personnel. Ironically many of the Toyota staff have now gone to Lotus, so much so that Jarno Trulli says he feels very at home already with the team.
As FOTA president Martin Whitmarsh said before the Stefan announcement on Friday, “Toyota built two cars that were available from Christmas, and I am rather surprised that some of them (new teams) did not do that – they rather looked a gift horse in the mouth. That was perhaps the wrong decision, but nevertheless they had their own reasons for that decision. We have to see in the coming weeks or months whether we can help those new teams to be there to add to the flavour and diversity of F1.”
It’s pretty late in the day now, the deal was on offer last November. Team principal Zoran Stefanovich appears to enjoy some governmental support thanks to his industrial connections in the aerospace and aviation business. He has been looking at Toyota F1 since the pull out and has been a frequent visitor to the team HQ in Cologne, Germany. He has been putting out regular messages, such as the car, dubbed S-01, passing its crash tests on 29 December. But it has taken until now for him to commit. The question is, why has he committed now? Is there about to be a 13th slot on the grid for him?
The team has said that if it does not get an entry this time it will test throughout the year, as it is entitled to do as it would be outside F1 restrictions. But this statement looks like the firing gun for a period of pressure to get a race entry in 2010.
Teixeira recently lost a $4.5 million lawsuit with Team USA over withdrawing their franchise in the A1 GP series.
It’s a very delicate process and needs to be handled carefully, but the FIA and FOM will understandably want some assurances; the last thing anyone wants is for the whole new teams initiative to turn into an embarrassment.
The next F1 commission meeting this week will be very interesting.