Tuesday, March 02, 2010

US F1: Good News and Bad News

Following a day of rampant speculation, there is good news and bad news about the fledgling US F1 team.

First, a little background:
Formula 1 isn't open to all comers. There are a limited number of available spots on the grid, set by the sport's governing body, the FIA. Even a fully-funded, ready-to-run team can't simply show up and race. Several teams from 2009 withdrew from the sport and the FIA further expanded the total number of available spots, making room for four all-new teams. Out of the many prospective teams that applied for those spots, the US F1 team was one of those selected to join Formula 1. The FIA's decision was intended to strengthen the sport both by including a US-based team, but also by filling the grid with teams that displayed both possible competitiveness and longevity.

The bad news, summarized effectively by AutoSport, is the US F1 team will almost certainly not be ready for the season-opening race at Bahrain. The team has formally asked the FIA to defer their entry until 2011. This unprecedented move has a measure of plausibility, as the FIA is aware that some presence in the US is beneficial to the sport, however obviously if the team was ready to go it would not have made this request.

The good news is in spite of rampant media coverage to the contrary, the team has not completely disbanded, nor has it lost the services of partner Chad Hurley (founder of YouTube). In fact, the team has offered the FIA a seven-figure bond to help secure their grid spot for 2011, so it would seem that time (and/or time management) is the only resource they are lacking.

Should the FIA not grant the request, the US F1 team has not ruled out the possibility of joining the F1 season at the fourth event in Barcelona. Normally missing any races is grounds for disqualification from the season, however the FIA had previously granted several of the new teams a three-race grace period. A far-less-likely emergency fall-back plan could possibly include some presence in Bahrain, however that possibility is slight indeed.

The US F1 team quickly built a large fanbase, and we're all hopeful that the operation continues to make progress and will show signs of success sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we'll have to wait for further word from Mr. Anderson or Mr. Windsor.

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