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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

USF1: It Was Fun While It Lasted

USF1, a proposed Formula 1 team that was to compete in the 2010 Formula 1 season, has reportedly officially shut down, just over a year after its creation.

Its demise comes as no shock to insiders, who have been reporting for the past month or so that the team was on the verge of collapse. While two of the other four teams new to the grid in 2010 have launched their cars, and a third was recently rescued from the brink of disaster, USF1 could not put anything together in time for the season, soiling the names of technical director Ken Anderson and former team manager Peter Windsor.

The USF1 saga has been nothing short of a disaster, and those of us paying attention would probably rather forget the sad tale. But for those interested, here is a timeline of relevant events to the team's brief history:


February 24: Anderson and Windsor appear on the Speed Channel, announcing their intent to field a team in the 2010 Formula 1 season. The goal would be to create a completely American team, based in the States, that fielded only American drivers. The FIA had recently announced its intention to open up the grid to new teams in 2010. Windsor was, at the time, a pit reporter for Speed, and one of the only people the channel sent to every race on the F1 schedule.

June 12: USF1 is granted entry to the 2010 Formula 1 season, alongside the Campos Meta team and Manor Grand Prix. None of the three teams will enter 2010 as they were originally granted entry. USF1 will be based out of a shop formerly used by top NASCAR teams.

July 29: USF1 signs the sport's Concorde Agreement after squabbling between the sanctioning body and teams already in the championship ends.

August 7: Windsor tells Sports Illustrated that USF1 will not take on pay drivers for the 2010 season, reaffirming the team's goal of providing American drivers with F1 opportunities.

August 19: Windsor reveals that one of the team's primary investors will be Chad Hurley, founder of YouTube.

September 16: Computerized images of USF1's car, as yet unnamed in the design process, are revealed on a SpeedTV.com webcast. Anderson suggests that a rolling model will be built within the next month.

October 30: USF1 announces that it will establish a secondary base in Alcaniz, Spain, at the Motorland Aragon circuit. The team did not want to waste time and/or money shipping integral equipment back to its Charlotte, NC base during the European rounds of the season.

November 21: Argentinian driver Jose Maria Lopez announces that he will drive for USF1 provided he can secure $8 million worth of sponsorship.

December: USF1 signs British driver James Rossiter to a contract. It is not announced to the press. Chassis moulds are completed, but sit for a month waiting to be laid up.

December 22: Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of F1, expresses doubts publicly that USF1 and Campos will make it to the F1 grid in 2010. "I think the people we expected to perform will and those that we thought wouldn't, won't," he says to British newspaper The Times.

December 23: Windsor refutes Ecclestone's doubts that USF1 will be ready for the start of the 2010 season. USF1 launches a fully functional website.


January 15: Hurley tours the Charlotte facility and, according to later reports, becomes aware of problems with the team. Paychecks due to team members on this date are late.

January 18: More CGI renderings of the USF1 Type 1 are revealed on racecar-engineering.com. Author Lawrence Butcher refutes widespread public doubt that the team's race shop is fully functional, providing a photographic tour of the shop. The article also says that USF1 can build its entire car in-house, but that time constraints are forcing them to outsource some of the work.

January 20: Paychecks due on January 15 arrive to team members.

January 25: Lopez signs with USF1.

January/February: In a team meeting, Windsor rhetorically asks his team who thinks that USF1 will not make the grid for the start of the season. Every crew member raises a hand.

February: Rossiter's sponsors seek reassurance that all was going well with USF1. After guarantees could not be made, Rossiter exits the deal. Windsor tells Lopez that the team is in trouble, and Lopez, too, begins to look for a way out.

February 10: In response to rumors of USF1's struggles, and the suggestion that the Concorde Agreement allows for teams to miss up to three races, the FIA releases a clarifying statement that confirms teams will be penalized for missing races.

February 18: Multiple sources report that crash testing for the car in England, press interviews, and all other testing of the Type 1 has either been been called off or was never scheduled in the first place. The blame is placed on sponsors not coming through. The USF1 website goes down, but the team uses social media to affirm it still exists.

February 19: Anderson announces that USF1 cannot possibly make it to the first race of the season. He says that Lopez remains under contract, the team has a five-year lease in its Charlotte shop despite the fact that the building itself is listed for sale by its owner, and the team can build a car in time for the fifth race of the season with additional money. The USF1 website is restored.

February 20: Anderson petitions the FIA for a reprieve from the first four races of the season, in order to allow the team to finish building the car. The team would then debut in early May in Spain.

February 24: Charlie Whiting, F1 race director, inspects the USF1 shop for fitness. An insider suggests that only Hurley can save the team, accusing Anderson and Windsor of mismanagement.

February 26: Chad Hurley discusses merging USF1 with another team for the 2010 season, but talks are unsuccessful. Anderson and Windsor oppose the deal.

March 1: USF1 asks to have its entry into the sport delayed until 2011. Speed announces a replacement for Windsor on its F1 broadcast team, journalist Will Buxton.

March 2: All team employees are put on unpaid leave. Lopez is officially freed from the USF1 contract, and his legal team is working on reclaiming the $830,000 advance he paid to join. Blame for the team's failure is placed on Anderson. Neither Anderson nor Windsor can be reached for comment.

USF1 may yet be restored to F1 in time for the 2011 season, but at this point it appears unlikely. Its position on the grid will likely be forfeited, and the legal mess may just be beginning for the failed organization. Where this leaves Windsor and Anderson is anyone's guess.

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