When reports began to surface about the formation of a U.S.-backed Formula One team, we weren't surprised. Every three-to-five years, speculation about a new U.S. campaign crops up, and inevitably – almost routinely – they're shot down within a month. However, our lack of surprise didn't stem from the rumor's cyclical nature; we've known about USF1 for over a month and have been waiting to drop the details about how the franchise, the players and the financial backers that plan to bring America back to F1 in 2010.
Get the scoop after the jump.
As reported earlier, the two principals behind USF1 are Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor.
Anderson has a storied career in both four-wheeled and two-wheeled motorsports dating back to 1979. In the interim, he's served as the technical director for the Ligier and Onyx F1 teams, helped design several open wheel racecars, was instrumental in five Indianapolis 500 victories and recently completed work on the Windshear Wind Tunnel – already booked by several top F1 teams for testing – near USF1's home-base in Charlotte, NC.
Anyone who's watched F1 in the past decade is familiar with Peter Windsor. He's served as the English-language interviewer for SpeedTV and Fox, along with writing for F1 Racing and Autosport Japan. More importantly, Windsor served as a Drivers' and Constructors' Championship-winning team manager for Williams F1, once oversaw Ferrari's F1 chassis and suspension departments and is currently the director of Fifty-Four Nine, the clandestine driver coaching company that helps develop F1, GP2 and F3 talent.
The USF1's mission is to stand apart from the other 11 teams by hyping U.S. technology under the tagline of "Made in America." The vehicle will be designed and built in the States and piloted by a duo of American drivers.
The main operational center would be based in Charlotte, NC, where several associated companies and research universities could help develop the racecar. In Europe, USF1 will work out of the newly erected Epsilon motorsports facility located outside of Bilbao, Spain.
As opposed to Major League Baseball, Football and NBA franchises, the crew behind USF1 maintains there are better branding opportunities in F1, not to mention a global audience of three billion viewers, putting F1 among the World Cup and Olympic Games as one of the most recognizable sports in the world.
The average viewer age (25 to 44) and a more affluent consumer base, many of which are located in emerging markets, are both touted in the USF1's business plan. In 2007, Formula One was estimated to take in about $4 billion in revenue, with the front-running teams grossing over $200 million each through sponsorships, television rights, technical support and merchandising.
Supposedly, F1's heads are excited at the prospect, approving USF1's application for matching funds and according to our sources, the start-up has already completed a round of successful fundraising. Naturally, the exotic locales, sexy sponsors and luxurious lifestyle that surrounds F1 are key to getting backers on board.
The new media landscape will be an instrumental part of delivering content to viewers, and USF1 plans to tap several foreign and domestic distribution companies to keep viewers up-to-date on the American F1 team's exploits. The crew is partnering with television producers and documentary filmmakers from Perpetual Motion Films to create long and short films, high-definition video, photos and stories detailing USF1's progress. All of this will be delivered both online and through selected TV outlets, providing fans with extraordinary access.
Depending on your perspective, the launch of the USF1 team couldn't be better, or more poorly, timed.
On one hand, the newly imposed limits on spending, research and development make it one of the easiest times for a new team to compete at the upper echelon of motorsport. The new rules put a cap on budgets, staffing and development, while limiting the vehicles' technical requirements in an effort to make the sport more appealing to the audience.
USF1 would be the first team born under these new regulations, allowing them to be highly adaptable, focused and streamlined, and the team's principals make it abundantly clear that the USF1 crew is the future of the sport.
Of course, on the flip-side, we've got the global economic meltdown. Getting full-fledged funding for an unproven team in these market conditions is a Herculean task of epic proportions. And its success is dependent on continued interest in the sport from both the fans and the money men.
If USF1 succeeds, it hopes to be running in the middle of the pack during the 2010 season and working its way up to the podium within two years. Those are high aspirations for a team that hasn't even publicly confirmed its existence. Judging by recent history, USF1 may never get the chance, but if there was ever a time to make an attempt, it's now.