Zoran Stefanovich with Mike Coughlan
The Stefan GP team, who have yet to be placed on the entry list for this year’s world championship, have fired up their SF01 car for the first time.
The SF01 was actuallt designed by Toyota, which Stefan took over when Toyota dropped out of F1 last year.The engine start-up happened in Toyota’s old Cologne factory, which Stefan GP now uses, apart from two small exclusive areas.
Speaking to Autosport, Zoran Stefanovich says that everything is going according to plan, and the car will be ready for its initial test in Portimao later this month. However, they are still working on a tyre supply deal for this test. In a radio interview, he said:
“This morning, 19 February 2010, was another stepping stone for Stefan Grand Prix. This morning at 8:00, the first car – Stefan 01 – was fired up for the first time.”
“The car ran faultlessly, there was no problem whatsoever, and we could race or test on a racetrack, but we’re just waiting for tyres.”
At the moment, the Stefan GP team is compiled of 60 people, plus the former workers of Toyota, because of the two teams’ collaboration deal.
However, even if the test runs smoothly, Stefan GP still do not have a place on the entry list for 2010. It is believed that the team will only get a place if Campos or USF1 drops out, which seems likely. Stefanovich stated that he is expexting news from the FIA soon:
“We are expecting it to be clarified relatively shortly because all of us know what the situation is. In the meantime we are working very heavily on sorting out the drivers’ contracts.”
I mentioned last month that one of the drivers would be Kazuki Nakajima, and I was right, with Stefanovich confirming this today. Also, he revealed that the team are in negotiations with former F1 champion Jacques Villeneuve.
“At the moment we have to say that we are very near. We are very near to a contract with Jacques Villeneuve, and probably also with another driver as our reserve driver. But the first one which will be with us is Kazuki Nakajima.”
I’ll be honest, I really don’t trust this team. First of all, Bernie Ecclestone has been in talks with the Serbian Prime Minister regarding Stefan GP, and when Bernie gets involved, the results rarely go well. Then, of all the engineers Zoran could have got, he went for Mike Coughlan. I hope you remember him as the McLaren engineer who stole information from Ferrari in 2007, and then went straight to Honda (with Nigel Stepney) for a job application. He allegedly attempted to sell the technical information on to other teams as well. I’ve never trusted him since, and I won’t trust any team around him.
Even if Campos or USF1 do drop out, the FIA don’t hand out places on the grid that quickly. Hopefully we can wait until 2011 and see more about this team.