Q&A with USF1's Ken Anderson
Just a few days away from the deadline to submit entries for 2010, Team USF1 is working flat out in order to be ready if it gets the green light to go racing next year. AUTOSPORT caught up with technical boss Ken Anderson, who explained the challenge ahead and how the team is planning to overcome it.
Q. How is progress going with the team now?
Ken Anderson: Yes, it's good. We are in the new factory, we are drawing away like crazy and we've got the car in CFD. We have six different iterations of the car in CFD and we are trying to lock down the chassis, the engine and the gearbox. We are just waiting for the rules to be finalized.
Q. How many people do you have on staff at the moment?
KA: Right now, we have about 20. But each one of them will bring on another three or four, so that will ramp up quite quickly. We are in the design phase now. We will start manufacturing in late June, and then the final thing is hiring staff for the team later in the year.
Q. The budget cap has been approved by the FIA for next year, despite the complaints from other teams. Was that an important step for you?
KA: Not really, because we have been planning this for years and we were coming in anyway. We know what it costs to do it, and there are reasons for doing it from the United States because it is more cost effective. I think between what the FIA has proposed and what FOTA is trying to come to, I think overall it will be good for the sport.
One of the biggest arguments we always had was how could you compete against team X spending $400 million. That was a hard argument to make, but now everyone realizes that whatever the number ends up being, it will be far lower than it is now and it will end up being something sustainable.
Q. Have you decided yet whether you will definitely be in the budget cap or outside the budget cap?
KA: We are still gathering all the information. But it is a difficult decision.
Q. Peter Windsor said you were in quite advanced talks with Cosworth about an engine deal for next year. Has that been sorted yet?
KA: We are certainly covering all our bets. But I think it is going to be an interesting six weeks here in F1, as things get sorted.
Q. So you want the deal done quite quickly, then?
KA: Well, there are two things we want. We want to get our entry in officially. We actually put in an entry in December, to get our foot in the door, and then May 22 is when the official entry opens, and everyone is supposed to be chosen by June 12. So, in a parallel path, the FIA and FOTA have to duke out what the rules are going to be next year. We just want to be here.
Q. What is the latest situation regarding the team name, because there were some reports that it had changed?
KA: Well, the name didn't change because "USF1" was the project name, and it leaked out like that. The thing is, we are not approved to use the term "F1" until we are in, so it is almost a Catch 22 situation. We can talk about it, but we can't use it until we are in – so we just took it off the website and had another domain registered – USGPE.
Q. So the team will remain USF1, if you get an entry?
KA: Yes. If you look around at other teams, if you use the "F1" in your name you have to use the word team as well. So we will be Team USF1.
Q. In terms of staff recruitment, are you looking at getting people from the F1 world or from other areas?
KA: There are actually a lot of good F1 people in the States. You hear about Steve Hallam and Nick Hayes, but there are quite a lot of people on the ground in Charlotte, from electronics guys to designers and engineers that have come over anyway and are already there. Plus it is very, very difficult in the United States to bring people in, and we don't have time to go down that route. But having said we are going to have a base in Europe, it would be equally silly to bring a lot of guys from the States and get them in there.
Q. What is the time frame for choosing drivers?
KA: We are talking to several drivers at the moment. There are actually more good Americans than people realize, and a case in point is Josef Newgarden coming over and winning the first race or two of Formula Palmer Audi, having never been in a car before. There is also Alexander Rossi, who won the Formula BMW World Finals, and Jonathan Summerton won an A1GP race. There are a lot more guys out there – including old ones like Ryan Hunter-Reay in Indy cars. We are talking, but we are not yet in a position to start signing them.
Q. Will you want an early decision on drivers to help with marketing campaigns going forward?
KA: We really need to run two American drivers, if this is really going to work. Having USF1 based in England with a couple of Brazilians just isn't going to fly! The Americans are out there – there are 370 million people in the United States and if you look back at anything we put our mind to, we generally do pretty good.
Everybody laughed when Kenny Roberts came over here on motorbikes and kicked some butt! It isn't going to be pretty in that first year or two – if we are on the grid and prove we can get it together, I think we will surprise some people just by being there. People say we should have a seasoned F1 guy, but short of Michael Schumacher coming out of retirement, why not take a flyer on some new talent?