F1 Winter Break
Branson not impressed with Ferrari’s attack on “limping” new teams
Branson not impressed with Ferrari’s attack on “limping” new teams
Posted By: James Allen  |  28 Feb 2010   |  12:39 am GMT  |  98 comments

Virgin Racing’s ultimate boss Sir Richard Branson dropped in to Barcelona today to see his new F1 car testing and to deliver some well chosen words in response to Ferrari’s attack earlier this week on the new teams.

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The now infamous attack by the “Horse Whisperer” on the Ferrari website this week laid into the new teams and claimed that Virgin and Lotus, the two new teams which have been out testing are “limping” into the season.

Branson clearly felt that this was not something he could allow to go without a response. Always one with an eye for a media opportunity he made the trip to Spain. Speaking to the press this morning he said,

“Formula 1 needs new teams. Ferrari already won the battle to make sure that new teams are shackled. I think it was a pity that they were resistant to the budget cap and I think it is foolish actually.

“We have built a new car from scratch and are going to have exactly the same practice time as Brawn, Ferrari or any of the other teams who have had years and years and years to get it right. But we’re not complaining about it – we’re happy to go along with it.

“I think the one thing the Virgin team will prove is that you can have a really good racing team, running very fast, within a very tight budget.

“Ultimately I think that new teams will give Ferrari a run for their money,”

The last point is a little hard to imagine for the foreseeable future, as Virgin look several seconds off the pace of Ferrari, but he is right in his view that Ferrari was the team most against the £40 million budget cap, which former FIA president Max Mosley tried to introduce last summer and which almost split the sport in half.

Ferrari’s point is that Mosley caused so much pain and damage to the sport and to the manufacturer teams in particular, merely to introduce a lowest common denominator formula, bringing in a bunch of teams with no racing heritage, scant resources and in some cases, little hope. This view doesn’t seem to have played too well with the fans, judging from the comments on this site this week.

Ever the populist, Branson senses another opportunity to be David and challenge Goliath. He goes too far when he says that Virgin will challenge Ferrari soon, but then Ferrari went too far when they said that Virgin was limping. As both are members of FOTA it has made for some strained relations within that organisation, as you can imagine.

The reality now is that for Branson and the other new team owners, the deal they have got is different from what they expected or were promised in the sense that the budgets of the top teams are still higher than they can afford. But the Resource Restriction Agreement will level things up over the next couple of seasons, with all teams needing to get the headcount below 300 by the end of 2011. The RRA gives the big teams a glidepath down to a much lower budget, whereas the budget cap was too much of a cut too quickly.

“I think it will make the sport more exciting, particularly as budgets come down to more realistic levels,” said Branson.

* An analysis of Saturday’s testing will appear on Sunday morning on the site.

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I'm glad we've got someone of Branson's status in formula one. I feel his influence could be a positive one.


O-YEA his status...ask JB's girl friend about how upfront and good guy he is..


Definitely agree! hes not afraid to stick his neck out and be controversial.

Nice twitter post from tony fernandes this morning: "Wonder what ferrari would be like on virgins budget".


Yeah nice one - thanks for posting that, I hadn't seen that.

I agree with Branson, but really Ferrar just made themselves look very silly.


I agree. There aren't many people in F1 that I could see standing up to the Bernie's or the Luca De Montezemolo's of this world, but Branson is one of them.


I have nothing against the new teams, but the reality is, the FIA, F1 and BERNIE is successful because of FERRARI, MCLAREN, WILLIAMS, the famous names in f1 even when Ferrari lose, 100's of millions of poeple watch the race for them. Mosely was the one to encourage the manufactures in f1, he was the one with bernie that made the money from it. Mosely has been the one to drive the cost up and up with stupid rule changes, (50million entrance fee..)

I agree with Ferrari, on this point, yes the FIA should have allowed new teams to enter, but trying to impose these ridiculous rules as caused a lot of damage. The FIA and Bernie know how powerful the tope teams in f1 are. If note mosely would have continued with his dictatorship. Without Ferrari and Mclaren f1 is dead. There the names people know, along with the top drivers there the ones people follow, people dont follow campos, usf1, people dont care about these teams. The new teams need the big teams to attract sponsers and keep the viewing public watching. Without the viewing public money dries up really quickly.

I persoanlly think, the teams should tell the FIA were to go, and start a new series, because lawfully Bernie and the FIA could not prevent anything,in actual fact, the FIA would have had to offer there services to help run the sport. In addition to that they could have used the name F1, because this is a genreal term like Grandprix, we have f1 power boat racing and no body sues. Bernie CVC and the FIA will lose billions. I would not be suprised come 2012, the teams will start a new series. Because there is more money in it for them to do it then stay with CVC, Bernie and the FIA. The will do a better job for the fans and for the racing public.


I think Richard Branson is right to make a strong response to Ferraris comment as it was unfair without just cause. Virgin Racing have just as much right to be in the paddock as any of the other teams.

But I think its important to remember that yes Ferari have won many races and championships on unlimited budgets, but can they do the same with limited resouces and funds. I do believe Richard Branson is right in that over the next few years Virgin Racing will get a lot closer to Ferraris level because with the money that they are saving on not having a wind tunnel, the precious extra funds that will be available will be wisely spent somewhere else.


They're both right.

As the Horse Whisperer pointed out, the quality of some of the new teams is dubious to say the least. But now that the newcomers have been given a place on the grid what good can come from bashing them? Formula 1 is an incredibly unforgiving sport, and newcomers should be encouraged and supported for being brave enough to enter the arena.


Should they give them a chance?

Its not up to Ferrari to give them a chance.

Its up the the new teams to earn the respect of the established teams.


Yes but nobody's asking Ferrari for charity, just to be sporting. It's pretty pathetic a team like Ferrari picking on new small teams.


Lets not kid ourselves the new teams, well 3 of them were hand picked by Max and the FIA. Its the FIA and the [mod] process that selected them that Ferrari are criticising.

The new teams are fair game since they allowed them selves be used by the FIA to make a point.


I didn't say any one else should! 3 of teams were the best proposals put forward according to the FIA. Now 2 cant afford to race and 1 can.

Its plainly obvious that this process was flawed.

When Ferrari criticises the new teams its criticising the FIA because its the FIA who picked them.


Of course the FIA picked them! Who else did you think was going to? lol


I'm glad someone felt it was necessary to come out and challenge Ferrari's view, well done for making a stand; dont let Ferrari strut around like they own the sport, it makes me sick.


James, do all teams have equal voting right on issues within FOTA or do Ferrari have greater power (as opposed to influence, which they clearly have)?

If it's equal, pee-ing off the new boys who can gang up against and level the playing field doesn't seem so wise.


Good point. Will find out


Checked with FOTA and all teams do have equal voting rights


Surely FOTA will be dead and buried at some point this year (either officially or not) - probably until a new Concorde Agreement has to be signed. I mean it's easy to forget how the teams were at war with each other before last year (spygate etc.).

These team love-ins don't last, and Martin P's really good point that Ferrari will be causing upset amongst FOTA may just be a catalyst. FOTA would never have lasted through spygate would they? It's only when the teams have a common goal that they come together and make out they're doing it for the good of the sport. This year, as most every other year, there will probably be some sort of internal war in F1 and if it's between any of the major teams then it'll spell the end of FOTA - they only just lasted through double diffusers - again because they had the new agreement to sign later in the year and simply had to stay united.

This is one of the major reasons I personally would never support a sport governed by the teams (either F1 or a breakaway).


Thanks for that... but blimey, that's like poking yourself in the eye with a pencil isn't it? Surely Ferrari aren't that daft.

If they are, I can't help but think this year could be an even bigger test of FOTA unity than last year.

It's probably too big a topic for here, but what's the new dynamic within it? BMW, Toyota and Renault are gone so the "manufacturer" alliance within it is all but dead. Will the new boys stick together? A Cosworth alliance? A Mercedes alliance? Ferrari could find themselves at odds with everyone else and taking on the grumpy grumbler role they often paint Sir Frank in if they're not careful.


I was not impressed with Ferrari's message and the vibe of it seemed to be such that they believed they own the sport. I'm pleased that someone was so open to oppose it, especially one of the new teams themselves...


I'm a petty big Ferrari fan myself (I completely hate the Ferrari International assistance stuff and what seems to be a rather anti-Ferrari TV commentary) , but I do think they went a bit far on this occasion and while I like that Ferrari are a passionate, firey team, this leads to fallibility. But James, I'm very interested in where this article actually came from. Was it a di Montezemolo-influenced piece or did it come from Domenicali's side?


you're petty, big & a ferrari fan?! three strikes, you're out.


Ooh, ouch. I meant "pretty big ferrari fan". So only one strike!

Thomas in Australia

I think the worst thing about Ferrari's comments was that the were made in anonimity. That's a cheap shot and only serves to harm the imagage of the team.

I was always told that if you've got something to say to someone, you say it to their face or not at all.

Ferrari do themselves no favours and surely must be the most passionately loved and hated team in F1.


Anonimity? It was on their website. Never would've happened without approval from the top.

Thomas in Australia

Aye, but nobody is putting their name to it. That makes it pretty easy. It takes a LOT more balls to sign it as "regards, LDM".


Yeah and also there is nowhere for fans to leave comments about it on their site.

Sorry but Ferrari have no dignity - It's like when they sent the police to McLaren in the midst of the Italian GP weekend in 2007 to purposefully disrupt them.


Talk is cheap, whether its from Ferrari or Virgin. I would rather see new small teams than large teams run three cars. It would be confusing if only two of them could score points.

Lets remember Ferrari started as a small team and were not a manufacturer of road cars.


Ferarri is showing they just have no class. The 'deal' is rigged so they can still spend an enormus amount of money more than these new teams. They should just shut up and drive.


"The last point is a little hard to imagine for the foreseeable future, as Virgin look several seconds off the pace of Ferrari"

Branson surely meant within a few years. He's expecting F1 fan's to have a certain level of knowledge about the sport. Virgin Racing feels like another Red Bull Racing. Ferrari should be careful, F1 is experiencing the same debt overhang problems that are occurring all over the world in other industries. Giant firms fail (in our case the racing teams of Toyota, Honda, BMW, Renault) and smaller nimbler firms pick up the lost talent (Lotus and Virgin for sure, Campos might swing it with Willis, Kolles and co.) and instantly begin performing. All the fluff disappears from the industry since it can't afford it anymore and it's easier for small teams to succeed. Especially when headcount is shrinking for the big teams and increasing for the small teams. Another 6, 12, 18 months of recession, another 28% decrease in Ferrari profits (sales decreased 5%) and budget magnitude might start becoming an issue. Not predicting the end of the world, but Branson left a loaded comment.

"I think it was a pity that they were resistant to the budget cap and I think it is foolish actually"

You don't become a billionaire a few times over by believing propaganda. He knows that world finances/economies are in worse shape than politicians let off. He knows a few more years of uncertain economic conditions are ahead of us. It should be interesting. There is no reason to believe either of these new teams won't survive as long as their budgets are secure at current levels. No need to increase yet, they get to grab low hanging fruit for now... more bang for buck ie. they are on the lower part of the diminishing returns curve, where Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes are on the upper region.


Spot on.


I think Ferrari are right in saying that the teams that have been given entry should be capable of building cars which are competitive enough at the start of the season.

Branson need not take the comment personally, which could have been aimed at FIA themselves. For example Pro-Drive could have been given a chance and the teams could have been asked to use the chassis of the teams which left the sport last year to give them a head start over the established ones. It would have given them a platform to work on instead of building the whole car from scratch.

I would certainly not like cars to be 4 seconds off the pace of the leading pack, which would rather be a hindrance to the racers and an eyesore to watch. What is the guarantee that they will improve on the course of the season? Surely all the other teams will also do so and the gap would remain more or less the same.

If the FIA have to reduce the cost of running then they better be clear with the rules. Now who is going to bear the cost of development of the new diffusers which are only going to be around for this season and are banned from 2011 onward. KERS is another failed attempt at innovation which resulted in huge amount of money wasted for a technology which was brought in without proper thought.

BTW I should really say that this is the site I really look forward to if I need reliable information on the teams and their pace plus some exclusive contents. Doing a great job here James, thank you!


Nobody forced any team to adopt KERS, and so if the teams were so insightful to know that it wouldn't work then why did they develop it? Ferrari only won the 1 race they did last year because of KERS, not despite it (and let's not forget who they only just beat before they attack the small teams). Towards the end of the year it was becoming a benefit to have KERS, and it is FOTA's agreement that has meant it was all a waste of money.

Re. double diffusers; F1 has always been about innovation and finding loopholes in the rules without breaking them.

On both counts - if a budget cap had been introduced as planned, then 'who wasted what money where' would come down to cleverness and innovation (or lack of it) - i.e. if you have £40m do you spend your spare cash (after core car development and expenses) on developing KERS, improving X or developing Z? The team who made the right choices and were cleverest would come out on top. It would also lead to much more variation because the rules were going to be opened up vastly to any team operating under the cap.


I am sick of hearing how "F1 is nothing without Ferrari". Once upon a time they were new too. The same thing happens when a great driver retires, everyone says "it won't be the same", but then the lights go out at the first race and the driver is all but forgotten, and so it would be with Ferrari. If they are so small minded and bitter about it, yet failed to get the changes they wanted when they could have this past summer, THEY should be the ones to go, and let the racers get on with it. I'd whisper a few things to that horse...


I agree - I know other fans will feel differently, but honestly, I could not care less whether Ferrari races or not.

Ferrari need to get over themselves - they're like the popular guy at school - they think the place would collapse without them but actually if they go to another school nobody actually cares when the new term starts.


“F1 is nothing without Ferrari”.

Everyone uses this theory when it suits them, Ecclestone, the FIA as well as Ferrari themselves.

But the theory has never been tested, so how do they know?

Does the horse know that in 1950 Ferrari failed to start at Silverstone, the very first round of the World Championship, and they withdrew from the French Grand Prix because they feared their new engines weren't up to the task?

The horse might care to remember some of this next time he/she/it decides to criticise the new teams.

Having said that, if you have entered for the 2010 season and then ask to miss a quarter of it, that's pushing your luck a bit too far.


Branson's thoughts on budget cap is nonsense!

Leave F1 alone and join someother series if you want a udget cap and same neutralized engines and aero.

i dont see anything wrong in teams spending 400 million or 40 million. it depends on so many factors. and thats what makes me watch f1...

the day FIA asks teams to restrict budget - i will stop watching F1


u are just absolutely right

spot on

me too i will watch any other motor sport


i agree with arvi

why dont u watch a1 if u want equal cars

believe me ferrari and mclearn does matter


A lot of people think that a budget cap equals less variation. But the opposite is true since each team would choose which areas to develop and have to do so much more cleverly, whereas at the moment the rich teams try every single angle and just use the ones that work - that's not very clever is it?

In addition, for those operating under the budget cap the rules were going to be opened up vastly, thus allowing yet more innovation and variation.

Under the open budget, just look how much more similar the cars are this year compared to last. By the end of the year they'll be even more similar, and at the start of 2011 even more so. This simply wouldn't happen under a budget cap (or at least it would take many many years of consistent rules).

Who wants to live in a world where money trumps cleverness? Not me, sorry.


If you get your way, eventually you will have your wish, as there will be nothing left for you to watch. The new teams joined on the expectation of being able to manage their costs at a level which gave them some hope of competing. How long do you think Ferrari and Mercedes will be happy to slug it out alone? Wake up and smell the coffee, as they say.


I disagree. Spending $400m to win against a team spending $40m is no great sign of technical supremacy.

We all know from Toyota that just spending money without finding the sweet spot is useless (despite having some talented guys), but equally Force India have shown that lack of cash doesn't have to consign you to the rear.

It would be a far better test of skill to say to EVERY team... here's $xxm, here's the rule book, here's the tracks..... now go do what you can with that lot, come back in March and may the best man win.

Not the richest.

That's when true ingenuity will emerge in all areas of engineering, design, team management and even logistics. Not to mention driving!

Max had the fundamentals of this one right. The only reason the big teams are scared of it is because they worry it takes away their edge. They could still charge whatever they want for sponsorship, it just becomes extra profit. But having "loadsamoney" isn't sport.


Great, great post Martin P.

It's like you took the thoughts out of my head and wrote them down!!


Great post Martin. It would help if the rules were more open re: engines, for instance, but that's a whole 'nohter story!


Yeah I agree with you re the engines. I've never understood this homologation malarky.

My rule book would say; "x litres, n cylinders, fuel tank of y gallons - go to it boys... oh and keep it all in budget eh?"

I can't see that producing anything other than the most ingenious, powerful, fuel efficient engines in the world.

But what do we know?


Thanks Martin - Completely agree. but all teams including Ferrari want to keep their identity and edge.

every team does it and does resist to wholesome changes to scrap that by FIA...

but to be fair to the new teams. its correct to grant them extra testing days, technical input, customer cars, etc...

but assault by Ferrari is little over the line - even though they are spot on !!!

cant wait for the new season to start. looking forward to mercedes of schumacher and other battles


Well then, arvi, the time to stop watching was a couple of years ago.


They still havent forced upon any definitive $$$...

F1 has been this way for over 60 years and why change it now?

ridiculous to run a team for 40 million for the sale of some stupid teams (new) for the sake of keeping them in the championship.

im sure if and when the economy improves we will see the top manufacturers getting in to F1 at some point for sure.. this has happened before and will happen again!

but i really dont like the idea of budget cap


At the end of the season we will see..I have a huge respect for him, however this time he is going to learn how tough this sport is !


Of course he's right, for a new team to be only 3-4 seconds off the pace before their first season even starts is an achievement in itself. I'm more worried about the reliability of their cars at the moment, Virgin especially have spent most of their testing time in the garage.

Are press releases like this common from Ferrari, James? I dont remember hearing many before '07 ish. Then again I didn't check for online news back then.


No, this is something new altogether. I spoke to them and they are very proud of it


..........says it all!!


Are there cultural differences here?

To me, being a Brit, Ferrari have made themselves look like a boorish bully - and I'm sure most Brits would immediately connect with your "David & Goliath" analogy.

Is it the same elsewhere though? Or is this sort of thing appealing to other cultures, showing character, strength and fighting spirit?

Either way though... you can't help but smile... what a compelling sport we have in very rude health!


Once again Martin P, spot on for me (and I'm a Brit too).

You can show character, strength and fighting spirit with dignity that Ferrari clearly lack.


I must say I'm rather dissapointed in Farrari's attitude, which has turned me off them quite a bit, and if it wasn't for Massa being on the team, I'd probably tell them to "get stuffed".

But realistically, the comments by the "horse whisperer" (???), might only be her (I assume it's a female) opinion, and Monty might not have approved if he'd known about it. Let's hope so, anyway!


Zami from Melbourne, Australia

Let me start by saying Sir Richard Branson has been an idol of mine for work on environmental issue as well as business figure since I was very young. Let’s focus on racing now.

I quote Mark Webber, ‘we need quality, not quantity.’ That sums up the expectations of all the F1 fans around the world for so many decades. After all, F1 is an entertainment business. So, Ferrari’s comments may not be very nice or lovey dovey, but it’s proved to be damn true!!!!! As far as those comments are concerned, Ferrari mainly attacked FIA because of their poor team selection process. Fortunately, there is a team Ferrari in the sport to stand up to the garbage FIA tries to sell to its fans. Of course new teams are important to the sport, but as a fan I believe the teams that can’t get their cars ready for the pre-season testing, should not get an entry to the sport.

I’m excited to see Sir Richard getting involved in F1. Hopefully he will spend his wealth well enough to develop the sport more environment friendly and innovatively. But I am not sure if he will stick around long enough or willing to handle the politics year after year. At the moment I really doubt that there will be a F1 team called ‘Virgin’ in a few years time. £40 million Budget!!!

Come on James, isn’t that figure absurdly low? Particularly because it hasn’t been introduced gradually & timely? On the other hand, if I was an employee for any of the big teams & find out that the cost will be reduced by sacking people from the job; I’ll have to be looking for new job right now! Not everyone is Schumacher, Alonso or Hamilton you know. They don’t have to worry about jobs. But there are number of people in the factories and teams that do worry.

'New teams will give Ferrari run for their money'!?!?! That’s an outrages comment Sir Richard. You don't sound like a successful businessman with that comment mate.

There’s a good bet on right now James. I have already put $50 on Virgin being lapped by Ferrari in Bahrain judging by the lap time. Odds are really good mate. Check it out.

In conclusion I happily say, ‘welcome to the sport Virgin F1 team’. So far unfortunately my idol’s (Sir Richard) comments sounds nothing but empty vessels. And we all know empty vessels sound better.


LOL you put a bet on that Virgin will be lapped?! That's like betting that the sun will rise tomorrow. What sort of odds did you get on that?!

I know you're welcoming the new teams, so I'm not attacking you - but just wanted to draw a few comparisons with your countryman (who you quote) and his team...

Re. Mark Webber's comments, well, he should know what it's like to run around at the back shouldn't he. He is a very high quality driver but that just supports the point that new teams shouldn't be damned because they'll be lapped a few times for 1, 2 or 3 years - i.e. Webber was in a similar position for a long time and came good last year - couldn't one of the new teams do that in the years to come?

As for getting a car ready for pre-season testing - do you mean the whole of pre-season testing? If so then presumably Webber and his Red Bull team shouldn't bother turning up to Bahrain ...should they? Assuming you mean they should attend at least part of pre-season testing, then like Red Bull, Virgin and Lotus have achieved this (remember Ferrari have attacked all the new teams, not just Campos and USF1).

And if we're talking about a technical ability to compete in races - didn't Webber's Red Bull break down during the inaugural Singapore GP because of ....wait for it.... the static from a nearby tram? Slightly embarrassing I think.

PS the above is all in good humour :o)


Surely it's a question of how many times Virgin will be lapped by Ferrari, rather than if? Only a long safety car would stop that from happening.


I'd say it's far from certain that the Virgin will hold its fluids long enough to be lapped by anyone.

Have they yet managed to do even 100 km in one stint?


With no 107% rule, surely it is up to the stewards in the race to decide whether a car is dangerously slow.

If it's a case of how many times they will be lapped and not if then surely they should be black flagged?


James, I know there are restrictions to the number of employees each team are allowed to employ. Are there any restrictions on the number of employees a supplier can have? How about shell companies that the large teams can start to provide components for their cars? It would seem to be a way around the agreement. It's sad that Ferrari feel a need to belittle the new teams. Every team started somewhere. Even Ferrari. With the manufacturers gone, somebody has to fill the holes. Though I do think Mac & co. could have done a much better job of due diligence.

Zami from Melbourne, Australia

It’s not about Ferrari feeling the need to say stuff like that mate. There are other people said exactly the same thing indirectly. I quoted Mark Webber’s comments on my post. So have the other teams in various occasions. Yes, every team does have a starting point, agreed. But in these day and age high quality cars and teams should be available to get entry to F1 so that the quality of the premium sports like Formula 1 could be maintained. Yes, Ferrari went a little bit too far with their comments. But if you look at Campos & USF1 you should be worried about the quality of the sports as well. Hats off to the new teams those are able to test their cars at least. Hopefully they will stick around long enough to entertain us, show us they could be competitive & fit themselves in F1 for years to come.


It's all in the RRA formula. Outsourced work is factored into the overall at an agreed calculation.


As I've said before - and will say again - that was such a distasteful comment for Ferrari to make. It is very impressive that, in such a short space of time, both Virgin and Lotus have managed to pull together a racing team each. Why would you criticise that?

However, I do think that StefanGP are 'vultures'. It does nothing for the credibility of the sport if they are allowed to buy the cars from a defunct team - who had no slot on the 2010 grid - and then be allowed to race without any sort of formal application process to fill the space left by USF1. It's obvious that even if that process were to take place, StefanGP would win, but that's really besides the point. F1 cannot preach how it's changed and then allow them to race without any sort of procedure. That is an utter failure of logic. I really don't see how that is any less corrupt than Renault fixing a race result.




Clearly the position of Ferrari is elitist, but then again this is an elite


Well this is it, F1 has always been about the best of the best and although the sport wants to broaden its appeal, it's brand value is in being the pinnacle and anything which undermines this is bad for business. I think Bernie is very angry about the USF1 situation.


Yes but Martin P sums it up beautifully in his post; that money doesn't equal being the best of the best. Otherwise call it the richest of the rich instead.


No question, and I completely agree with that. I think they should let teams show up race by race. Go ahead and bring back the 107 percent rule if you have to, but I'm actually tired of every team having to build cars and run every race when the entire structure of the thing (for which read "Concorde Agreement" a/k/a "Bernie's Game") is (still) geared toward two teams; i.e., the richest of the rich. Ya know, the Equine/ Paragon pair.


Surely Bernie had something to do with USF1 being chosen in the first place?

The whole issue about which teams were chosen, and why Prodrive and Lola missed out seems very murky to me.


The Horse Whisperer shot wide of the mark in putting all the problems with the new teams down to Max. This situation is properly seen as the last act of the famous Max and Bernie double team.

Bernie SHOULD be mad that it has come to this with USF1 - we are as fans; and the members of the team who gave up so much for a chance to build the team certainly are. But I agree with Bill. Bernie shares some blame for this outcome. He's been badmouthing the team for months, and that had to drive off any potential sponsors, even those who had previously committed to the team.

I think he did this for two reasons.

First, with the factory teams leaving the sport, any (pretended) interest he had in bringing F1 back to the States disappeared; an interest he only (pretended) having in order to appease them. Bernie does NOT like it here, never has, never made any effort to understand the market. If he had, he would not have focused on Long Beach, and would never have moved the race from Watkins Glen to Dallas, Detroit, Las Vegas and Phoenix. It is instructive to recall that, after decades of enthusiastic support for the sport here, F1 has died on the vine in the States ENTIRELY on Bernie's watch. From 1981 to the present, his every move has been to kick fans here in the teeth. Even when the race came to Indy, he was little other than condescending.

With no more use for the US market, USF1 was a tool he no longer needed. Bernie now had to protect his investment and insure that another new team got onto the grid. Enter Stefan - an ambitious group in need of a car and a grid slot. Problem solved for Bernie, if he can prod a few things here and there to get them into the frame. Maybe they ARE egotistical enough to just keep thrusting themselves forward, but I find it difficult to believe that they'd have gotten this far without his encouragement behind the scenes.

Which brings me to Lola and Prodrive.

Be sure that if Bernie wanted them there, they would be. But he gains nothing by the presence of either. Putting it bluntly, he has enough English teams. Adding two more won't open new markets to him, or entice government support for F1. And Bernie has a long memory. I doubt he's forgiven Lola (even though it was in different guise than it is now) for their unsuccessful effort in the '90s.

Bernie aside, although everyone has beaten the drum for Prodrive, I can't help thinking about TWR era Arrows. I suspect David Richards thinks of them also. Whatever people may think of Tom Walkinshaw as a person, TWR's success in other categories closely mirrors that of Prodrive's. When it came to TWR building, testing, developing and racing competitive F1 cars, and paying for engines to power them (and getting top drivers), all that experience and accomplishment wasn't enough. And TWR, too, appeared to have their F1 effort secured with investment by foreign royalty - patronage that failed to come through at a critical time.

Bernie wouldn't want a re-run of that, and David Richards certainly doesn't strike me as someone who wants to follow that pattern. He has previously looked to enter with a customer (McLaren) chassis and technology tie-up, shrewdly and wisely recognizing that this would save costs and gain instant competitiveness.

Since customer chassis are NOT allowed (see Torro Rosso and Red Bull), DR has surely recognized that the enormous start-up costs are a risk not worth taking right now. Remember, Torro Rosso still has Minardi's facilities, so the infrastructure needed to build a car from scratch is already in place, saving them those costs. Prodrive, like TWR before it, would have to gear up for that. Building new facilities, or even buying existing assets - like Toyota's, which he presumably could have bought, as Stefan has - would still be very expensive.

For all the "they should have gotten the entry" pro-Prodrive sentiment in the face of the USF1 disaster, I haven't yet heard David Richards himself joining this chorus. Maybe he's had a little chat with Tom Walkinshaw.


First things first – is the opinion of this “Horse Whisperer” what the top cheese at Ferrari believe? If not then why is it on their official website?

If so the question must be asked – Could Ferrari perform any better than any of the four new teams had they stared a team from scratch? – we will never know – so why run down the new boys at what they are able to do in a short time?

What we do know is Ferrari is one of – if not – the worst team at making F1 the ‘guy with the biggest wallet wins’ championship.

The only thing this “Horse Whisperer” exhibits is an arrogance – which translates to ignorance that is so prolific in F1 for the last many years.


You might admire the new teams, well half of them anyway, for having build something visually resembling a Formula 1 car, but how does that enhance Formula 1 for its viewers? I don't think this 'everyone gets a medal' attitude is very healthy, especially in such a tight competition.

When you look at the test results, the two new teams that have gotten anywhere are an improvement over the '97 Lola effort, but where will they end up come Bahrain?

Lotus seems like a more credible effort, having both reasonable reliability and speed that may even allow it to lap the Virgin, if it mananged to not break for once.

Virgin on the other hand has yet to show its ability to run more than a couple of laps at a time, and barring a straight-up miracle, won't complete half a race for the foreseeable future. But even if said miracle occurred, and their reliability improves all of a sudden, their pace is simply abysmal. They're so slow, they wouldn't be allowed on the grid had the 107%-rule not be rescinded. They are on par, at best, with the dominating combo of Alex Yoong in a Minardi. How does that improve Formula 1, and not make it the butt of jokes? How does that command admiration?


It's not about everyone gets a medal, it's about a massive team kicking a small team for absolutely no reason other than a bully feeling big. Sure they're not going to be competitive this year - but that doesn't mean they never will be. Are Ferrari competitive every year? I think not.


When was the last time Ferrari (or really any established team) was 7% off the pace?


There is no way that piece would have gone out on the official Ferrari website without approval from the top.


A level playing field(finacially speaking). Tracks with better overtaking opportunities. Relax the rules ,especially around energy efficiencies. Lets see what team is the most dynamic and what the engineers and drivers (weight equalised) can do!

A combination brain SPORT with amazing drivers and a positive spin off for society.

Not the biggest cheque books and ego's.


Ferrari have never believed in an even playing field and comments like these reveal that all too clearly.

On the one hand I love their passion and their heritage in the sport; on the other they exhibit, I believe, a distinct lack of sportmanship.


Couldn't agree more Trent.

They've made themselves look pretty childish and unsporting.

As you say, they are legends, but all the more reason to show some dignity.


While I responded with a yes to the poll question, it's not that black and white for me. I think "Ferrar" are correct to resist to big a push to diminish the exclusivity of being in formula 1 (always have) but agree that these sour grapes are not doing their them any good in terms of fan's perceptions.


F1 has been expensive for a long time. That's what made it the pinnacle of motor sport. That's what made it glamorous and it withstood several recessions. I can see how Ferrari feel threatened as F1 is just as much their marketing campaign as it is their passion. A budget formula doesn't sell expensive road cars does it?

This is a difficult problem as both sides have an argument but a budget formula with budget teams won't hold the public's attention for very long. Look to A1 as reference.

Christian Hepworth

Let's rember that there was a point that Ferrari were almost the laughing stock of the paddock, unable to finish races with some of the most unreliable cars going. But Ferrari have stuck around, and worked hard for the reputation as one of ( If not the ) sports best. They should give Virgin and Lotus the chance to make their history too, good or bad, before weighing in with critism. You never no, in 4 years time, we might all be agreeing with the horse wisperer, but the new teams have to be given a chance first.


Branson has been in F1 for more or less 15 minutes. That's usually more than long enough for a blaggard to know it all ...


Branson is actually not in it at all! Remember he is not investing any money in the team, he is just "putting his brand in" as he called it.

"Always one with an eye for a media opportunity he made the trip to Spain." Yes he has already had several thousands worth, of free publicity many times the cost of the trip.

I may be paranoid but I see Bernie's hand behind the horse whisperer incident, the usual publicity grabbing outrageous suggestion from Bernie is a bit overdue, so I believe this has been commissioned. It is difficult to see any benefit for Ferrari, but it does create some headlines for F1.


Ferrari simply don't like the publicity the new teams, especially a 'Branson media onslaught' team are getting.

Ferrari were a new team once, but they seemed to have forgotten this.


Ferrari weren't even a new team when F1 first began in 1950, they'd been around for a couple of decades before that.

First racing other cars then later building their own.


Of course it's good to have "new blood" entering the sport - good luck to these new teams. I cannot help thinking these new teams missed an opportunity by not buying the Toyota's - and their intellectual property -which were on offer - I believe it would have put them closer to the established teams. Last year at the beginning of the season, while Force India brought up the rear of the grid, they were always respectable and competitive being only around 2 seconds off the pole position time. Now it looks as if Virgin and Lotus are going to be like the old Minardi's - being around 2 seconds slower than the cars just in front of them - and will probably be lapped about 2 or 3 times! Did poor Jarno Trulli know what we was letting himself in for? I can only assume he's being fairly well paid. Anyway, hopefully these teams will make a big contribution to the sport in the years to come.


Difficult situation now I think. If you build a F1 car and finish on average a lap down throughout the season taking a coverted 8th place in 'somewhere' due to rain or a pile up you probably deserve a medal, it's clearly very difficult to do.

That said do the majority of the viewing audience understand that or is it more going to be a case of 2 teams didn't even make it and the other two can't finish a race less than 4 laps down.

I think the PR will be bad for F1.

Ferraris comments are arogant but then there is no sport where the phrase '2nd is 1st loser' rings truer.


I think there are two sides to this arent they.

Nobody wants to see the F1 brand, or the racing itself suffer from poor teams with no preparation and poor cars coming into the races.

In my view USF1 have clearly shown their approach and team was not up to scratch, and as such they should not be allowed into F1.

On the other hand, I think what Ferrari forget is that all teams that are now great/have been at the pinnacle of the sport used to be new (McLaren, Ferrari etc) at one point.

Someone made a comment stating they didnt see anything wrong with spending 400M per year on F1. Thats fine, but my understanding is that Ferrari is not self financing and rely heavily on Rich Uncle agnelli, so they are spending someone elses money (always easier in my experience).

What Ferrari need to understand, is that comments like theirs do just as much damage to the sport as poor attempts at entering F1 (I do not include Virgin/Manor and Lotus in that poor attempt status).

If a 10 year old had written such rubbish I would understand, but grown men should know better.....

The fact that Ferrari seem to be pleased with their article is a mark of how much they have gone backwards since Ross and Jean Todt etc left.

And they have short memories of the pre schumacher/brawn/todt/byrne years of lacking success.

I've never been so disgusted as when I read their childish article.


Or indeed if Ferrari F1 are now self funding (which they may well be now) it is likely due to that success and a massive injection of funding for infrastructure that the Agnelli family assisted with.

I am not anti Ferrari and I love the brand, but cheap comments like those on their website this week are just completely out of line I'm afraid.

I just hope everyone just shuts their mouths, and gets ready for two weeks time. Thats when the talking should be done....on the track.


As is the way with anything to do with Branson ( He`s already started to talk Bo****ks)Remember that he is only going to get worse as the season goes on.Anything to get the Virgin name mentioned thats all his job is about.Here is a man that has a personal fortune in the billions, but will always plead poverty and make a noise about being a flag carrier for the British,yet has all his companies registered offshore therefore avoiding all that nasty tax.we only have to look back at Brawn last year to see what the man is like.I think the sport would be much better without him around.It`s going to be a hard fought run of who can talk the most crap between himself and Eddie Jordan.


I do sort of agree with Branson, I think that this year will be really interesting again because there are so many new teams. It always used to be the main manufactures and the ones with the most money would usually win. But now many have gone bust meaning that there is room for anyone or smaller companies to make a team.

Its true though, Ferrari and the major teams have had decades to develop their cars so its only natural that the new teams with no experience have to catch up! But they will be up there at the beginning of the season.


Not surprised at all. Its in Ferrari's DNA. They would have a one make 'F1' series if they could!...adds to the colour of F1!...just tell them that an Italian capable of pedalling one competively might be their next priority!!

I do find the 'selection' process intriguing though and it does raise questions. Interesting that no 'system' of team 'promotion' seems to exist from GP2, feeder formula or even WRC (Prodrive?) or similar to support existing and proven race outfits. Manor, Campos and Prodrive would seem to fit the bill but imagine if we had a promotion/relegation scenario!!!!

This would probably make a stronger 'League' of F1.

We would probably be better having Penske or Newman Hass competing than 'virtual' USF1.

With a budget cap in operation I would suggest this 'league' system may operate rather well.

I'd love to see some of the respected international racing outfits going F1.

Anyone for Rossi, Earnhart, Hamilton, Loeb, Schumacher....


If F2, or GP2, ran to a non-spec formula, you could have this. History shows that nearly every successful F1 constructor got their legs under them via F2. In McLaren's case, especially, the minnow of the Project4 F2 team swallowed the whale that was the already accomplished (CanAm and Indy champions well before their first F1 title) McLaren.

If the Powers That Be really had vision, they'd have that from F3 right now. But that's a useless category from a tech innovation point of view, worse than a spec series, because it functions as a spec series. Good on Manor/Virgin, but as it stands now, F3 - even though it allows you to build your own chassis - doesn't really prepare you for the rigors of building and developing your own car.

BREAKING NEWS: I just turned on Windtunnel on Speed. Dave Despain just reported that USF1 WILL put up a multimillion dollar bond and get on the grid next year.


i just dont understand why people want full grid of any kind of cars if u want that watch any other motor racing

and i just dont know why people want to cut budget soo much as if the pay from there pocket

and when they cut budgets soo much and maybe frrari or mclearn quit

the f1 who once was the head of innovation of the motor industry not just the motor sport this f1 will be gone and you will enjoy another gp2

{if you like equal budget and bad cars u may just watch a1}


"Do you think Branson is right that Ferrari should give new teams a chance?"

I'll normally click an online poll without hesitation; in fact just last week I assisted TMZ.com with their important research into whether Tiger and Elin had had make-up sex yet or not (83% say no). However, this one has me stumped. Ferrari are a competitor. Their opinion alters nothing once a new team has been accepted to Formula 1, so the question is inconsequential. They can potentially block prospective entries (like Stefan's) or choose not to offer engines (there are always alternatives), but that's about it.

Cast your mind back to Adelaide '95 and another smoking Berger V12. Or Prost's premature departure during the 1991 season.

Ferrari can limp with the best of them.

The words coming out of Maranello these days are full of hubris, borne out of success purchased with their parent company's money. As undignified as the "trust-fund babies" that buy their automobiles and just as irritating.


I think once we can get through a full season of F1 without an instance of something getting that annoying "-gate" appendage slapped on it, or teams threatening to leave unless they get their way on something, or some other random, pointless rule change getting implemented "to improve the show" but not really doing anything, then we can free up a little time to point and laugh at those that don't have the budgets of the front runners.


I have to add here that there no new team, in ANY discipline, even at the amateur level, can come in and immediately take the fight to established teams. F1 isn't unique in this respect, so why is everyone treating it that way? Of course the new teams will be off the pace; so what? If the idea is that new teams will immediately perform up the level of Ferrari and McLaren and the other "big boys" (we'll see if MB/Brawn and Red Bull can carry on from last year), then why bother to have more than six cars on the track at all?

Oh. Wait. That already happened at Indy...

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