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Todt Jr to launch F1 team bid with ART GP
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Todt Jr to launch F1 team bid with ART GP
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 May 2010   |  3:28 pm GMT  |  54 comments

It has long been rumoured but now it’s official – Jean Todt’s son Nicolas is launching a bid to run his own F1 team, taking his highly successful GP2 team ART GP into the sport’s highest category.

Todt with Felipe Massa (Darren Heath)


With the failure of USF1, there is a 13th slot on the grid for next season and the FIA is inviting applications from teams wishing to fill that slot. Stefan GP has indicated its intention to apply, but Dave Richards’ Prodrive outfit and Lola have both said that they will not.

As with last year’s applicants, teams will be subjected to a financial stress test and have their facilities and business plans analysed by the FIA.

His son’s application presents something of a conflict of interest for Jean Todt as FIA president, so presumably he will remove himself from the panel which makes the final decision.
“Many people will say that we are favoured,” said Todt Jr, “But in fact it’s an added handicap. It’s up to us to come up with such a strong bid that the choice of the FIA cannot be in doubt.”

Todt Jr has been very successful in GP2, winning the title with Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton and taking many race wins. He currently runs Ferrari junior driver Jules Bianchi in GP2 and manages his career. He is also the manager of Felipe Massa. ART GP has three principle shareholders, Todt, Frederic Vasseur and Mumtalakat, the Bahraini investment fund which is also a major shareholder in McLaren.

One of the crucial points about F1 nowadays is that we have the British teams, the very famous and not so famous Italian team, the German team, the Austrian team, the Indian team, the Malaysian team, the Spanish team and so on. It’s become like a world cup of motorsport. Renault sort of represents France, but it is in fact owned by a Spanish internet entrepreneur. In the old days you had Ligier, Larousse and so on. France needs a strong presence in F1 and vice versa. It was the birthplace of the sport after all.

The return on Michelin and the arrival of a new French F1 team looks like a plan to me.

Todt Jr has been linked in the past with various possible routes into F1 including a buyout of Toro Rosso and an application to join the new teams in 2010. His partner in ART GP, Frederic Vasseur, told L”Equipe newspaper today that they thought about having a run at it last year, but decided against it. Now they feel that the timing is right,
“We thought about it (last year), but it was too early. It’s impossible to jump into that big bath without preparation. With a year to reflect upon it, the moment is right. We’ve had a chance to see how the new teams fit into the scheme of things in Grand Prix. I know I don’t want to see our cars being six seconds off the best. That’s not how I see us climbing F1.”

They have registered their interest in the 13th slot with the FIA and now are working to put together the chassis and engine package. They are looking for a partner to build the chassis, as they do not have the facilities at their base in France. As for the engine Voissard says, “We’ve been in the sport a long time (since 1991) and we’ve had the chance to develop some very good relationships with manufacturers.”

Mercedes has long been a close ally. In partnership with ART they have won the Euro F3 series six years in a row, including one with Lewis Hamilton. They have also brought Sebastian Vettel, Kamui Kobayashi, Adrian Sutil and Sebastien Buemi through the ranks.

A fast track would be to strike a deal similar to the Force India deal whereby the whole back end of the car, engine, gearbox, hydraulics is produced by McLaren and Mercedes. This has transformed Force India into a top ten runner. ART could put some pressure on that deal, I would imagine.


The possibility for them to blood Bianchi in F1 next year, a member of the Ferrari young driver scheme, is also likely to be of interest to the bosses at Maranello.

“We have six weeks to pull it all together, “said Vasseur.

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54 Comments
  1. Alexis says:

    All bets are off then!

    Looks like ART will be granted an F1 place. No doubt whatsoever.

    1. Formula Zero says:

      Regardless of who is the son of whom, you have to agree that ART GP deserves the entry based on their record. However, it will all come down to the financial situation of the team. All the new teams are embarrassingly slow this year. It might have been acceptable 10/15 years ago. But modern racing shouldn’t allow any team that’s not worthy having a drive with such a huge gap or financial trouble even before the start of the season. So, there are a lot of things to consider before being 100% granted for next season. You might even get good return in case Art GP fails to qualify!!!

    2. Drez says:

      Why, because they have actually ran a successful racing team for many years?

      1. Alexis says:

        Exactly. There’s no tangible reason to refuse them an entry. Which acts as fantastic cover when Todt’s mates grant them entry.

    3. Phil C says:

      Todt has surprised me this season, his reign as FIA President has gotten off to a very good start, and he is showing that he is not a continuation of Max. I’d be surprised if he involves himself in the ruling now.
      Let’s not forget Epsilon are also in the running, and they are also a favoured team with great facilities – indeed they were also on the list of surprised failures last season, with Lola and Prodrive

  2. Matt says:

    If the bid is successful I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see Massa make the jump and partner Bianchi allowing Kubica to take his place at Ferrari.

    1. Formula Zero says:

      That’s a great theory mate. I reckon it’s a possibility too. However, I doubt that Art GP will be able to give Massa a fast car. Massa’s better options would be some other team rather than a brand new one. Bianchi is a terrific driver. I’m sure we’ll see him in big teams sooner or later.

      Even though I believe it will be big mistake my Ferrari to dump Massa, he is still good enough to drive for Renault or Mercedes. Ferrari is the most successful team in the history because of the combination of a Legend (Schumacher) & a great driver (Rubens/Filipe). Kubica is not going to let that happen very easily if he drives along side Alonso.

    2. Phil C says:

      I’m in agreement – look at Sato and Honda, with the backlash of his dropping in Japan, they helped Super Aguri get onto the grid as a lifeboat. Massa may want a faster car, but I don’t see where he’ll get one

  3. Fulveo Ballabeo says:

    “Many people will say that we are favoured,” said Todt Jr, “But in fact it’s an added handicap.”

    Puh-lease! I suppose it’s similiar to the “handicap” of being “burdened” with the last name of a former world champion (Rosberg, Piquet, Senna, etc.) on your way to F1. To be fair, he has little choice to say anything different, but this is marketing spin at its finest.

    Coincidence that Todt Sr. skipped his recent visit to Epsilon Euskadi? Look for ART in F1 in 2011.

  4. Cliff says:

    James, with HRT already romoured to be having problems, plus the episodes with USF1 & Stefan GP (beliving that they could just turn up in Bahrain) fresh in the memories of the FIA, I do not beleive that ART will recieve any special favours. I’m not Jean Todt’s biggest fan, but both he and the FIA will want to be seen to have got their selection process right. ART have backers with the sufficient funds to start an F1 Team, so the test is whether or not they can compete and finance their F1 Project over a number of years. Personally, I hope they are successful as they have helped a number of young drivers into F1

    1. Rich C says:

      BTW Whatever happened to all that “equipment” Stefan GP *supposedly shipped all over to Bahrain and other places??

      It was all just PR BS wasn’t it.

      1. James says:

        An attempt at headline-catching PR BS, almost certainly. But somewhere out there is a couple of ex-Toyota trucks packed with 2 highly-designed f1 cars and parts that the new teams would kill for. Sadly, not pay for though. Seems a waste.
        If Stefan were serious about making into F1 next year (or ever), they would be running those cars now, and as much as they could so they would be able to design their own car off the back of a year of unlimited testing, like Toyota did before their official entry.

      2. Rich C says:

        You are certain there was anything actually in the alledged containers?

      3. James, the Toyota package is already in ART GP F1′s plan… Pascal Vasselon and his team are working hard in Cologne to make the TF110 chassis up to date for the 2011 season in ART’s team, including engine and gearbox. The deal is for two years, giving ART time to build up a proper F1 structure to build their own car when the rules will change in 2013 under a new Concorde agreement. Bianchi sounds like an ideal candidate, forget about Massa (too expensive, says his manager!) but consider Kobayashi with some form of Toyota support…

  5. tony presser says:

    ART will get the 13th slot,I have no doubts about that

  6. Stuart Fenton says:

    if they got in they would certainly be a proper, sustainable team. With those type of industry connections they would be sitting pretty. This is exciting, they would have dollar, which would hopefully mean a proper decent F1 team. Slow at first but certainly the foundations of a good F1 team. Like Lotus!

  7. M Harries says:

    ART just need to take over the Hispania Racing Team, who are looking likely to drop out anyway.

    Removes any suggestion of conflicts of interest in the selection process, and provides Carabante a respectable out, possible with the proviso that the team carrys some Groupo Hispania logo next year as conpensation for his expenditure this year.

    1. Henry says:

      It wouldn’t benefit them at all to take over HRT, they would take on their staff, debts and a very underdeveloped car – or they would have to change everything very quickly, in which case they might as well start from scratch themselves.

  8. Adrian says:

    You have to wonder whether the fact that they are part owned by an investor in McLaren will lead to a technical partnership…or at the very least whether they could make use of McLaren’s expertise when looking for technical partners!!

    And if Massa was unfortunate enough to lose his seat at Ferrari next year, what chance of him joining the ART team if they are the winning bidder…

    1. Formula Zero says:

      How did you relate McLaren here? Please give me some factual evidence of your comment.

      1. Mike says:

        Fifth paragraph down if you read the story above.

        “ART GP has three principle shareholders, Todt, Frederic Vasseur and Mumtalakat, the Bahraini investment fund which is also a major shareholder in McLaren”.

      2. michael says:

        That said, how many engines are Mercedes aloud to supply teams with?

  9. JoTorrent says:

    How could he submit while his dad is FIA president. Even if Jean TODT isn’t part of the panel, it proves nothing… It is not Jean TODt’s vote that matters the most, but his influence over the other members of the panel.

    After all, Bernie said about the RENAULT Gate that the matter was discussed beforehand and so were the penalties to be applied. How would we know that Jean TODT wouldn’t have an influence on people ?! If I was him, I would favor my son without any question.

    It is a shame given that TODT’s presidency started brilliantly, the way he designed delegates, the way he pointed out drivers to monitor penalties during races, the way he works on new generation engines for formula 1 and the reintroduction of KERS, the way things go smoothly with FOTA, etc….

    I think that ruines it all, either he resigns or his son withdraws his bid.

    1. Stephen Kellett says:

      If I was him, I would favor my son without any question.

      I think that ruines it all, either he resigns or his son withdraws his bid.

      How do you know his standards are as low as yours?

    2. GP says:

      Nicolas Todt and his partners have for years demonstrated their dedication, professionalism, and winning track record in both F3 and GP2. This is the most logical and natural progression for a winning racing team that has always raced single seaters in Europe.

      If ART is not worthy of making the jump, that doesn’t leave too many teams other than, what, Roger Penske? David Richards doesn’t have ART’s track record in single seaters. Who should get a spot in F1? Stephan Grand-Prix who have never as much as run a go-kart?

      Not being allowed to enter F1 because of family ties is just as unfair as getting in without the track record.

    3. David Jerromes says:

      I think a Jean Todt resignation or ART withdrawing is a bit strong, but respect your opinion.

      Just hope this isn’t Flavio’s route back into the sport….

      1. Paul Kirk says:

        David, I agree with you on both points, absolutely!!!!
        PK.

    4. Formula Zero says:

      Todt Junior is already a big name in the sport. This guy has enough success and reputation under his belt to lead a team to success. So, FIA doesn’t have to give him any special favour according to his track record.

    5. Henry says:

      Jean Todd is going to have to be tougher on him than any other team, because if his son fails then it will reflect terribly upon him – plus ART have a more proven record than any of the teams which applied last year or are considering applying this year – they should be a very respectable entrant.

    6. Paul Kirk says:

      Sorry Jo T, I can’t agree with your last statement! You obviously hang out with people who lack principals, hence your lack of trust in us humans! I’m the oposite, I trust until it’s proven that I shouldn’t.
      PK.

  10. Iain says:

    So can I link this to Ferrari and say Massa to this team to be the experienced driver to Bianchi’s youth and therefore Kubica to Ferrari…

  11. Robert McKay says:

    Both Epsilon Euskadi and ART would be very welcome in F1, for me.

    Perhaps more than HRT…although if Bernie’s comments are anything to go by perhaps that’s a problem that might solve itself.

  12. Carl says:

    If they get it, i’ve sure many will cry foul. But the Art team have been very successful in the past, have a lot of knowledge and some excellent backers.

    Unless a major player or manufacturer puts in a bid , i would say ART is the most likely to succeed.

  13. Knuckles says:

    “As with last year’s applicants, teams will be subjected to a financial stress test and have their facilities and business plans analysed by the FIA.”

    Looking at HRT, I wonder how effective these so-called stress tests were. One can only hope that with Mosley gone, sanity prevails.

    (Also: now waiting for people to write forum posts to the effect that at least Massa will have a drive next year ;)

    1. James Allen says:

      You’ve been beaten to it!

  14. Andy says:

    Looks like Ferrari are gonna have a B team, so a seat for Massa next year if the Kubia romours are true. Maybe a good stepping stone for the Ferrari Young Driver program too.

  15. Shane says:

    The best applicant so far regardless of who’s boss.

  16. Ed says:

    It looks like ART and Epsilon Euskadi are the clear stand-outs then, to me.

  17. m de p says:

    i am from spain, so i am cheering for epsilon euskadi, but we need the french back again into f1, and todt jr is a good prospect, so may be both can get in, if hispania, doesn’t last.

    1. Tim Lamkin says:

      Bernie..IMO..will not let HRT die..it would not play out well for him.

      1. m de p says:

        they can buy the hispania entry, that will make everybody happy.

  18. Ted the Mechanic says:

    ART GP’s track record is impeccable.
    Stefan GP’s is…
    What?

    1. Formula Zero says:

      Second Hand Toyota chassis in the garage.

  19. Hazzy says:

    How does this affect Massa James????

    1. James Allen says:

      Doesn’t at the moment

      1. Hazzy says:

        But i thought, if they do get the slot, a f1 team pricipal cannot be a driver manager after the crashgate scandal. Will Massa need a new manager?

  20. BiggusJimmus says:

    I think as long as people like James are given the means to assess the openness and fairness of the selection process, then Todt Jnr’s bid has the right to be considered along with everyone else’s. Jnr has the right to his own career and to make the most of his own abilities, which circumstances would suggest are considerable.

  21. Prisoner Monkeys says:

    I don’t think that ART getting the 13th place is the slam dunk a lot of people are making it out to be. Jean Todt is clearly trying to distance himself from Max Mosley’s reign of terror, so why would he throw away everything he has worked for smiply to give his son a grid berth? To believe he is capable of of doing that means you have to assume he’s deeply corrupt, and corruption is a word that fan too many fans throw around far too freely. “Corruption” is a very strong word, an accusation – it has political, legal and social consequences that cannot be ignored – yet fans use it to describe the FIA every time the FIA makes a decision they do not like. It’s not something I’m comfortable with, and with so many people using that word so readily in the past, it has come to pass that I’ve been embarrassed to call myself a fan of the sport.

    That said, I would welcome ART. I believe the strength in the grid lies in legitimate racing outfits gaining entry to the grid, and not vanity projects like USF1. I wouldn’t mind seeing ART gain entry to the grid, especially if Epsilon Euskadi joined forces with – or purchased outright – Hispania.

  22. Rich C says:

    Heres ANOTHER example of a huge conflict of interest, but not what you’re thinking.

    A team manager that manages several different drivers who may or may not drive for him. That was the way Flavio did it too. This has got to be the single biggest possible conflict of interest in the whole sport! HOW does a driver’s Manager negotiate properly with his TEam Manager when he’s the same person??? Its a scam!

  23. fausta says:

    Why hasn’t the FIA learned from last year and started the tender earlier? They seem so slow with everything they do?

  24. David Jerromes says:

    ART should be in F1, regardless of father being FIA President.

    A ‘French’ team with McLaren Mercedes rear end engine/gearbox/hydraulics package, or Renault e/g/h package, or Ferrari e/g/h package….

    Sounds like lots of options to me. Maybe Ferrari will also build them the chassis or even Renault…

    Massa will be in F1 next year irrespective of whether he loses his Ferrari seat to likely incumbent Kubica.
    I’d just like to see him stuff a few past arrogant Alonso myself and whilst I doubt it will be Monaco (although somewhat of a lottery as always..) he needs to do it very soon.
    Being just off Alonso’s pace is not good enough!

  25. Rich C says:

    James – can I just ask *why we see all these postings from other blogs that merely link back to this story on this blog?? [ie #25 above] Circular linkage is useless to us – we’ve read what you said in this story already! SOmebody is just trying to drive traffic to *their blog by reposting *your blog. It’s a cheap, stupid, and quite annoying.

    1. James Allen says:

      We’ll tighten up on this, thanks

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