Exclusive Q & A with Joan Villadelprat
Q. Can you confirm that Epsilon Euskadi has submitted an entry for next year?
Joan Villadelprat: We can confirm it now. Our entry was submitted last week. We lodged it on Wednesday and received confirmation by the FIA on Thursday. I was being discreet and didn't want to talk too much because I was finalizing the financial part.
Now we can say we have a budget ready for the four next years. The difference between ourselves and other people is that, first, we have a project that's different from everybody else's, with a social output, which is what Max Mosley is looking for. We have the mechanics' school, the engineers' school, the lower categories, from karting, Formula Renault 2.0 and the World Series.
We have the infrastructure, with an investment of €65 million, something that not everybody has. We have a wind tunnel, autoclaves, etc. And right now I can say that, if we are chosen, we have the budget secured for the next four years.
Q. Will you enter under budget cap rules?
JV: At this point it doesn't matter to us. What I've done is do the maths, and I don't think I got it wrong because I have been doing it for many years, to see what we need to do things right. And we have the budget secured to do things right.
We submitted our entry with the budget cap in mind, but we are waiting for the FIA to decide what the final rules will be. As of today, we are under the budget cap, but the budget cap is a bit misleading, because it's £45 millions plus drivers, plus marketing and a series of things. The budget I think is needed is around 70-75 million.
Q. So you are not worried that the battle between FOTA and the FIA will lead to an increased cap?
JV: No, because if the budget cap is set we are going to do it with what we have, which I think is enough to do well. It would be more complicated if (the budget cap) was lower. But we are within the limits of what the FIA will allow. The most important thing is that we have the budget secured. We have a group of investors that would become part of the company, with shares. And then we would have a sponsor that is committed for four years. It's a multinational company and not from Spain.
Q. Will you need to expand your infrastructure and staff?
JV: We don't need any new infrastructure because we basically have everything. The staff no doubt will have to be increased but right now we are nearly 100 people here, 75 employees and 25 students. So we are not starting from scratch. We have been working on the Formula 1 project from March/April, so we haven't been sleeping. We have been quiet, but one thing is to be quiet and another one is to be still, and we have not been still.
And I've only been silent because I was cautious, because until I have the budget secured ... Because I didn't want the budget for a single year. What I want is the stability to work and, in two or three years, be able to fight. This is what I've been working on and I didn't want to say anything until it was secured. As of today, it's secured so I can talk about it
Q. There are basically three slots open, and you are competing against teams like Lola, Prodrive or USF1. How confident are you that Epsilon will be chosen?
JV: I don't know. I'm confident because I think I've done my homework. I believe we have a project that suits Max Mosley's philosophy for this new Formula 1, with a social outlet. In our project we already have that and we have been doing that for five years, with the school. The engineers that study here go to F1 or GP2. We have a driving school in various categories and we have made an investment of nearly €70 million in the infrastructure.
I believe we have a lot of things that many don't have, both in terms of the philosophy of the project and in terms of skill. I have been in Formula 1 for over 25 years, managing F1 teams for the last 15 years. I have my chief designer in Sergio Rinland, who has been technical director of some F1 teams. I have a very good technical team, with a lot of experience in Formula 1.
And above all, and I hope that will be the key, I have the financial backing in place for the next four years, which I'm not sure is the case for everybody else.
Q. Do you think the FIA will give preference to the teams who already have its racing infrastructure in place?
JV: I don't know. I have no idea what they are going to base their decision on. I just hope that there's common sense and justice. And I think ourselves, with what we have done, what are doing and what can do in the future, have a big chance. I can't say anymore because it's not my decision. We have done our homework and now we just have to wait until the 12th to see the decision.
Q. What is the engine and drivers situation?
JV: Regarding the engine, we are talking to a few companies. It's not something that I'm worried about right now, just like I'm not worried about drivers. I'll always try to have a national driver.
The thing about our project is that even without this (the budget cap rules), it would fit perfectly in F1 anyway. We are not using a company like Dallara or Lola to build a chassis for us.
We are building everything in-house. We have made the investment, something not everybody has, to be able to build everything in-house. This is a new team, built from scratch. I just want the opportunity to be able to produce a good program.
I know what I need. I know the amount of money I need. We are not starting from zero. We are constructors. We have proved that. We have built Le Mans cars which have been competitive. So I think there's enough to show that at least we deserve the chance.
I'm doing it with humbleness and seriousness. Because I know, and few people do, what it is to be in Formula 1. I've been in Formula 1 for 25 years, and I've led teams from the bottom to the top. Benetton was a team that nobody knew and in five years we were world champions. So I know what it is to start a project like this, and I know I can do it again.
In Formula 1 it has been made very clear that money is not everything, because not all the teams with big budgets have done a decent job over the last years. So money is not everything. It's about organisation, about know-how, about creating a good team, and about having the resources to launch the project. But the decision is up to the FIA, and I hope they can value our program and our concept.