Team US F1 backer Chad Hurley (LEFT) is the man who has the best chance of saving the outfit from its current troubles, claims a senior staff member at the Charlotte-based operation.
With the team's car development plans weeks behind schedule, while it bids to try and skip the opening four races, there are mounting fears that the outfit could lose its place on the grid entirely if matters are not turned around.
A senior member of the US F1 program, who spoke on condition of anonymity, thinks that it is Hurley – and not team co-founders Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor – who must now move to turn things around.
Speculation in recent weeks has suggested that Hurley himself is making moves independently of Windsor and Anderson to secure the team's future, either through a link-up with Campos, Dallara or Stefan Grand Prix.
The unnamed US F1 staff member told AUTOSPORT, "We feel Hurley and Parris Mullins [adviser to Hurley] have our best interest [at heart] and also feel Hurley has no intention of abandoning us even though the media has said he's gone with Campos. With all this talk about where US F1 is at, it's been missed that there are 60+ people who have had to suffer through this for the last two months. All of us left jobs and many of us traveled cross-country for this opportunity.
"But, having said that, throughout the turmoil, the team has really come together and we're all committed to the project; precious few have left in spite of the uncertainty of whether we'll be paid this Friday. I've never seen such dedication. The U.S. can field an F1 team in fact easily so after what I've seen."
The staff member says Hurley became aware of the troubles the team is in earlier this year when he toured the Charlotte facility on Jan. 15. He also claims that personnel were enticed to the team on promises that funding was in place for three years – but says a series of delays in the design process were a catalyst for its failure to get out on track.
"Going back to early December, it was pretty evident that something was up, inasmuch as we kept expecting a big push in production starting some time in mid-December, but it never materialized," continued the staff member. "Figure [that] we're all pretty experienced in various aspects of car design and build, and we all know what it takes from a time line standpoint. So when it became apparent the drawing office wasn't releasing drawings at the rate we expected, it started to become clear we could be in trouble.
"All engineering decisions were having to be funneled through [Ken] Anderson before anything could be signed off. And that's where the hold-up was. Tooling for the tub was completed in early December, but then it sat for nearly a month before the laminate schedules for the outer skin were approved.
"Now, Anderson himself wasn't designing the laminate schedule, but he was in the wings...as early as last October the production manager was collared about the lack of resources, but the managers were put off by saying: 'Well, Ken has a plan.' The irony of all this is that there has been precious little in the way of formal planning and documentation. No production schedules, simply very little in the way of planning."
He added: "Our Jan. 15 paycheck was late. It was paid by the 20th or so, but it certainly caused commotion and people started asking questions. That's when all the company's issues came to a head, and the conclusion was...yes, we had been lied to about the long-term budget, and indeed the company had a cash-flow issue. But as mentioned, that really was a secondary issue.
"Think of it this way – ignoring the fact that we were lied to about the budget, if you don't have a car or can't show serious progress in that direction, potential sponsors aren't going to have a tendency to give you money. At the moment there are still 60 people working in Charlotte, but 10 have already left."
The delays in the design process are also claimed to have played their part in the sponsorship troubles – and limited Windsor's ability to help.
"Having failed to put out a car, sponsorship money didn't materialize," continued the staff member. "That wasn't for Windsor's lack of trying. I do know that Windsor was told of our progress on a number of occasions off the record in informal settings, but it took a very contentious shop meeting in late January/early February for him to [understand] that indeed we had an issue.
"In a meeting between the employees, Windsor and Anderson, Windsor put the question up to the employees: 'Who here doesn't think we'll make Bahrain?' I think Windsor might have meant it somewhat rhetorically, but he was answered nonetheless, and 100 percent of the staff raised their hands. He was visibly shocked."
When contacted about the claims from the senior staff member, team principal Anderson declined to respond to the specifics – but did suggest the comments painted a biased picture of the situation at the team.
"The story that the employee tells is certainly twisted and one-sided," said Anderson. "There are also contradictions. Everybody who signed up here knew exactly what they were getting into, i.e. to have two cars on the track in Bahrain.
"Given the late start due to the FIA/FOTA situation of 2009, I asked everybody to keep the car simple, strong and reliable. The comment that the chassis molds sat for a month while waiting for a lay-up schedule is exactly the sort of thing that hurt us. Way too complex and time consuming. I did question why it was so complex if it was not necessary.
"I don't want to retaliate point by point, as they are entitled to their opinion."
Windsor himself said he would continue to work hard to help keep US F1 alive.
"I have given this project – and will continue to give – all the love and passion I have ever had for our sport," he said. "Some obstacles I won't be able to overcome, but I'm not giving up."