The FIA has opened the process to accept one more team into the Formula 1 paddock for 2011. After the epic failure of USF1, more stringent measures are being put in place this time to ensure the same does not happen again. It has not, however, deterred teams from their interest, and we will now have a look at their applications.
This application is a tie-up between the racing team Durango, who currently compete in the AutoGP series (formerly European Formula 3000), and 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. It is understood that this team would be named after Villeneuve if they are successful.
AutoGP isn’t a bad place for a racing team, but Durango only ran 1 car in this series, which will damage their application. However, they have previously raced in Formula 3 and sports cars. They also competed in GP2 between 2005 and 2008, where they took 3 wins. While this is good, they have since dropped out of the 2009-2010 GP2 Asia Series, due to financial problems. However, despite winning races in GP2, they blatantly broke the rules regarding standard-spec parts.
In 2006, they manufactured their own parts, instead of using Dallara’s own spec equipment. At Silverstone that year, Lucas di Grassi’s rear wing came off, and it emerged that instead of sending the car back to Dallara, Durnago decided to repair it themselves, and did a terrible job of it.
Then, it got even worse in Spa 2008, when Stefano Coletti’s steering column snapped (probably another botched repair job) at Eau Rouge. When the team turned up at the next race in Monza, Dallara had impounded one of their cars, as it was too unsafe for use, as the team had badly repaired it once too many. Interestingly enough, no official explanation came out for either of these 2 incidents I mentioned, I had to dig deep to get a hold of them. Therefore, you can’t rule out Durango trying to cover up this farce, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.
It gets even worse. Last year, it emerged that Durango was being investigated for criminal tax evasion and fraud, and that it had been using a system of companies which constantly changed their names to issue bills with inflated figures in order to reduce costs and lower the payable tax. It has been reported that Durango has €12m of unreported revenue, €11m of false invoicing, €3m of unpaid tax, and they reduced their base tax illegally by €16m. Nice.
Despite all of this, the team still believes they have the funds to enter F1 (even if they can’t afford to stay in GP2), and claim that they have 2 major international finance suppliers or sponsors. It is believed that one of these is Russian.
However, Durango is the last team I would look at for an F1 spot. They look completely unprofessional, may well have covered up their troubles (I can’t allege it though, no proof), and at the end of the day, they can’t even properly repair their own car. They look as viable as USF1.
Pros: Good experience in a variation of motorsport categories. And a nice livery.
Cons: Can’t repair their own car, huge amounts of tax evasion and fraud, broke GP2’s standard-spec equipment rule multiple times, no clear investment, very little known about their actual team.
Overall: Not a hope in hell of them getting through.
A name that should be easily remembered, if you were following this blog in January-March. Stefan GP has not raced in any other categories of motorsport at all, but have more technical partnerships to prop them up than Durango. Toyota’s technical details, as well as the chassis from their 2010 car which was never raced, has been obtained by the Serbian team. It certainly wasn’t a bad piece of kit for them to get themselves experienced, as the TF110 features a triple-decker diffuser, and a radical aerodynamic profile.
Stefan GP had obtained this car before the 2010 season began, but were turned away by the FIA, as they felt they wouldn’t have time to get up to speed. However, the team are trying again next year with the same car, and they have talked to many drivers, such as Sebastien Loeb.
However, like Durango, Stefan GP have a shady background which does not inspire confidence. The team owner, Zoran Stefanovich, owns a Serbian engineering company called AMCO. This company convinced Toyota that they were involved with space and military technology, to get Toyota to support Stefan GP.
To convince Toyota, they set up web pages, that said that AMCO worked with Germany’s Federal Defence Force on flight drones and contributed to the European Space Agency’s orbit launch rocket Ariane 5. But, the German Defense Force then responded that “there are no technologies of the AMCO”.
Furthermore, after looking at the company’s registry, it emerged that the AMCO was founded with capital of… €500. The company has only one employee, took in €3315 in 2009, and after deductions (no info available), ended up with a net total of €42 profit. Yeah!
So, it is obvious that Zoran Stefanovich and his companies are complete frauds, and I’m praying that this is the reason why the FIA turned them down. Of course, the FIA cannot allege what I said, since concrete facts cannot be obtained without a criminal investigation, and I’m not convinced the Serbian government can get that done.
Pros: Very eager to get into F1, despite the probability that they wouldn’t get in, excellent technical partnership with Toyota.
Cons: A fraud company owned by the team owner, too aggressive towards FIA.
Overall: Up to a while ago I wanted them to get in, but never again.
While there are very suspicious operations behind Durango and Stefan GP, no such problems occur with Epsilon Euskadi (try saying that 5 times quickly). At the moment, this team competes in the Le Mans Series, World Series by Renault, Formula Renault 2.0 West, and the European Cup.
The team have a history of promoting well known and sometimes very successful drivers, such as Robert Kubica (won the 2005 World Series by Renault with the team), Jaime Alguersuari (won the Formula Renault 2.0 Italia Winter Series), Brendon Hartley ( winner of the 2007 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0) and Albert Costa (winner of 2009 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0).
The team itself it fantastically well-equipped, with an Innovation and Technology Centre to design their F1 car if they are accepted. Also, they have backing from Carlos Garcia, the president of the Spanish Automobile Association, which is an important factor when considering the teams.
On the other hand, their financial situation is unclear, so we will have to wait and see can they get any sponsors on board. Despite this, I firmly believe that Epsilon Euskadi are the best team for the job, and I would also love to see them replace the disastrous Hispania team, which throws out its perfectly good race drivers just to stay financially afloat.
Pros: Impressive technical facilities, huge experience in motorsport, great eye for upcoming young drivers, titles in many racing categories, well supported from the region.
Cons: Unclear financial situation may hamper their budget.
Overall: The best option for the empty grid slot, and even if they were somehow rejected, they could replace Hispania instead.