Report lays USF1 bare; Anderson blamed, plus plenty more

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Upfront, let me say, I think this one slipped a bit past our eyes. Or maybe we just have had enough here concerning USF1.

But I just ran across a serious postmortem of USF1’s failed attempt to make it onto the 2010 grid. In a word? Devastating.

Speed TV, not surprisingly, is the one to dive deeply into the ugly aftermath of USF1. Ken Anderson takes basically every punch he could. Whether it’s deserved, we’ll probably have to wait and see more stories of the team that never was.

Here are some highlights, or lowlights, I suppose:

In the weeks since the team shut its doors, employees have come forward to talk about the failure to produce a car for the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix – or make enough progress to convince the FIA to keep US F1’s grid spot open. It all came down, said team members, because founder Anderson couldn’t work with the team he created.

[snip]

In the third week of January at a meeting of department heads in Huntersville with Anderson, the team’s chances of making the grid at Bahrain on March 14 received a unanimous vote of no confidence, a situation that severely shook sporting director Peter Windsor, who had asked for the vote.

[snip]

Anderson’s strategy counted on what was missing in-house could be secured in “NASCAR Valley,” where the infrastructure built up for Sprint Cup teams around Charlotte included a full-scale moving ground plane wind tunnel at Windshear and a state-of-the-art computing system at Corvid Technologies that had helped GM teams win five straight Sprint Cup championships and its factory Corvette team win at Le Mans six times. Corvid gave Anderson all the computing power he needed for a design by Computational Fluid Dynamics and he hired Corvid’s founder, Dr. Eric Warren, as his chief aerodynamicist.

But the entire set-up ran into a major logjam. Anderson appointed his son Jason as the design director, in effect making Ken Anderson the team principal and its chief designer. Jason Anderson, who came from the Dale Earnhardt Inc. team and had no F1 experience, kept the chassis design in his computer system throughout the early design stages and did not share it with the other engineers. “For the engineers doing all the other operative parts and pieces,” said Bialas, “when you don’t have the piece it fits to, that makes it very difficult.” The chassis design, still not complete when it came to internal details beyond the shape, was not available to the other engineers until late December.

[snip]

Instead, it was the work of the experienced designers that was constantly being revised, which kept the project in limbo according to a team member who asked not to be identified. “The design engineers would finish their work and go home at night,” he said. “They would come back in the next day and Ken and Jason had re-done everything.”

Bialas, who had worked for the teams of Dan Gurney and Bobby Rahal, constantly had to make revisions to the front end of the chassis due to Ken Anderson’s revisions of his own front suspension design. The suspension employed coil-over shocks versus the torsion bars currently used in all F1 cars, but the springs didn’t fit well in the era of needle-nose designs. “Ken Anderson was designing an Indy car,” said Bialas, “not an F1 car.”

One thing I have to say upfront. I was shocked by how many folks were willing to go on the record. I doubt Anderson will be behind any future efforts here in the U.S.

I encourage you to go and read the whole thing. The reporter’s done a pretty solid job of contacting a whole host of people to get the scoop, as they say. I think I capture the gist here, including the nepotism and ineptitude, but the story is worth a full read if you can stomach it.

There are two more items I’d add here. One’s pretty funny:

Efforts by Mullins on behalf of Hurley to secure the Dallaras from the Italian manufacturer or the Toyotas directly from the Japanese company ran into road blocks because of existing contracts. Mullins tried to secure a partnership with the team of Stefan GP to gain access to the ex-Toyota TF110’s. That failed, said Mullins, primarily due to team owner Stefanovic’s intransigence.

“We offered a merger based on full retention of our staff in North Carolina and branding on the car,” said Mullins. The offer collapsed because the Serbian seemed impervious to the fact Ferrari was F1’s best recognized team. “He wanted to have two red cars,” said Mullins, who had also visited Ferrari headquarters in Maranello during his travels. “That would almost be sacrilegious.”

That might just be the best Zoran story yet. I bet he also was planning on plastering a barcode across the car.

The other is… I don’t know. Sad?

With no deals or US F1 car in sight, the FIA elected to open the 13th position on the grid to new teams in 2011. Anderson is reported to be among the applicants for the spot, but declined to comment specifically about future plans on the record. He said US F1 was still intact despite having fired its employes. “The entity,” he said, “is moving forward.”

The questions all this leaves in my mind are the ones we’ve been pondering for a while: Does the U.S. have any chance of having an F1 team in the near, or even distant, future? Just how badly has USF1’s failed effort hurt?

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