Vaporware is a term associated with Silicon Valley startups that are not quite what they claim to be. USF1's first major sponsor was a huge coup: YouTube... Or at least that's what everyone thought at first. The truth was somewhat less exciting as you will remember, Chad Hurley, one of YouTube's founders had agreed to invest in the team, an unknown amount of course. In reality once the news went out about YouTube there was little effort to really clarify the situation and that's perhaps understandable for a startup looking to attract attention.
Fast forward to the end of the 2009 season and we start hearing conflicting rumors of the health of some of those new teams who are to step in and fill the gaps left by Toyota and Sauber. USF1 in particular has been at the center of a lot of talk. Yes, they showed pictures of CNC machines and autoclaves but, frankly, they could have just as well been pictures from anywhere.
Then came the announcement that USF1 would not, as was their founding principle, hire American drivers. This was blamed on the delay signing the concorde agreement and on the fact that no available American driver possessed, or is in a position to be approved for, an FIA superlicense. OK right.
Before the final GP in AbuDhabi there was the announcement that USF1 had chosen as a European base of operations, Motorland, a motorsport complex in Aragon, Spain. That is great, where are the trucks, hospitality facilities, tooling, crew...
But what I think really got people talking online is the clip the Speed TV crew (of which Peter Windsor is a part of) slapped together for their Abu Dhabi broadcast.
Ostensively a visit by commentator Steve Matchett to the USF1 headquarters in North Carolina, it struck many as odd, especially the section with the computer modeling. Take a look...
Of course you cannot expect a company to show you their secrets but from that clip it looked to many like USF1 has a different sort of secret to hide.
This week we have a quote from World Champion Ross Brawn about how USF1 has yet to crash test any of their components, "For a beginner that's strange" said Brawn. The same report has Peter Windsor as the only person at a recent FOTA meeting who questioned the rule preventing teams from selling their entry spot.
If it turns out USF1 will not make the 2010 grid was it correct of SPEED TV and Windsor to create segments that perpetuate the illusion there is any fire behind the smoke? Maybe that's what David Hobbs' double take was really about.
UPDATE: USF1 Issue Denial.... more after the jump
Interesting, right after we noticed an increase in "chatter", USF1 has issued a denial. Motorsport-Total.com asked Ken Anderson for a reply to Ross Brawn's comments and about the apparently widespread feeling in F1 circles that the ultimate goal is the sale on their 2010 entry slot at a profit.
"The stories, as usual, are wrong" replied Anderson. "We have passed all necessary tests for the moments and have more planned for November and December" and goes on to say that even if the equipment is not there at USF1, they are within walking distance from many companies work can be outsourced to in Charlotte, NC.
"Ross is right, you have to experiment and that's what we are doing, every team has their own schedule, some will not do their crash tests until February. This is not unusual. You have to spend as much time as possible developing"
Brawn had said that BrawnGP had already crash tested a number of components in preparation for the official FIA tests and was surprised USF1, a novice, had not done the same.
As far as the sale of their 2010 entry Anderson launched a broadside at BMW-Sauber " There are people who hope Sauber can be saved and dream of ways tis could happen. I hope they get Toyota's entry slot and stop annoying us" and goes on to deny the issue of selling entry slots ever came up at a FOTA meeting. "Our entry slot is not for sale and never will be" concluded Anderson. Motorsport-Total's agrees that the entry slot sale is a pipe dream at best: nobody would need to buy it from USF1 if the American team failed to attract proper US based sponsors and make it to the grid, Sauber now has access to Toyota's slot and it's far to late for any other teams to be ready for 2010.
(pardon any bad translation... via Motorsport-Total)