It has been widely reported today that the USF1 team has asked the FIA for permission to miss the first four races of the season, starting at the beginning of the European season.
Team founder Ken Anderson spoke to the New York Times on Friday and admitted that the team was not currently good to go, but suggested that some funding would be available provided that the FIA gives them this massive concession soon,
“If we get a decision quickly, it triggers funding and we’re good to go,” he said.
“We’re working with the FIA to clarify how many races we can miss,” he added. “In an ideal world, we can miss the first four races and show up in Barcelona [9 May].”
There have been mixed signals on the possibility of teams missing races. Although it has been suggested by Bernie Ecclestone that in the Concorde Agreement a team can miss three races, FIA president Jean Todt said recently that this was not the case.
USF1 was caught out by the late resolution of the row between the teams and the FIA last summer. It delayed its plans by several months. There have been rumours that the team’s main backer, You Tube founder Chad Hurley, was on the pointg of pulling out but Anderson denied this.
He wants a lifeline, some sponsors have not followed through on pledges to back the team, apparently and he feels the FIA should help his team, not strangle it at birth.
“Why would they give us a franchise and just, the first time there’s a bump in the road, yank it and put it out of business?” he said. “That’s definitely not the message I’m getting from them. They want to help us, not shut us down.”
Meanwhile we have Stefan GP, which has already had its run ins with the FIA over the new team selection process, waiting in the wings to take USF1’s place.
It’s a tricky one for the FIA. To give them the leeway would create an unfortunate precedent and this is a dog eat dog business, so why should USF1 be cut some slack? But if the FIA kick them out would be construed as an admission that they were not diligent enough in checking the viability of the team. The selection process for new teams was widely criticised by media and teams at the time, but it yielded the three teams it yielded. Then when BMW failed to sign the Concorde Agreement an entry was offered to Lotus, making it four new teams. Sauber then bought BMW Sauber and got an entry.
It comes down to viability. Does USF1 have the legs to still be in F1 in ten years if it is given a second chance now? Does the FIA believe that Stefan is viable and will be able to move beyond the ‘second hand Toyota’ phase and develop into a proper team?
If the FIA believes that Stefan has the wherewithal to make a go of it, perhaps it should give them the entry. Either way, the last thing F1 needs is a team which peters out during the season.
What do you think?