One year after announcing grand plans to build a Formula One race team in the United States, Ken Anderson conceded on Friday that it would not be able to make the grid for the 2010 season opener March 14 in Bahrain because of financial problems.
The future of the team, USF1, is in the hands of the International Automobile Federation, the sport’s governing body, known as the F.I.A.
“We’re working with the F.I.A. to clarify how many races we can miss,” Anderson said during a telephone interview Friday.
He said the Concorde Agreement, governing the relationship between Formula One teams and the F.I.A., allows for a team to miss as many as three races in a season. But an F.I.A. clarification Feb. 10 indicated that teams would be penalized for missing races.
Anderson said the team was awaiting a decision by Jean Todt, the federation’s president, perhaps as early as this weekend. The team would rather miss the first four races, also skipping the Australian Grand Prix on March 28, the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 4 and the Chinese Grand Prix on April 18, and begin competing May 9 at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. USF1 has a satellite base in Spain.
“In an ideal world, we can miss the first four races and show up in Barcelona,” Anderson said.
Asked if the F.I.A. penalty for missing races could be severe enough to put USF1 out of business, Anderson said: “I guess anything’s possible. But what would be the point of that? Why would they give us a franchise and just, the first time there’s a bump in the road, yank it and put it out of business? That’s definitely not the message that I’m getting from them. They want to help us, not shut us down.”
Anderson acknowledged that sponsorships had fallen through, causing the team’s financial problems. He said the team had paid its employees a day late in January. Anderson said he would be able to come up with additional sponsorship money to build a car and race in Barcelona.
“We have a timeline in place that if we get a decision quickly, that triggers funding and we’re good to go,” he said. “If it takes another week or two to make a decision, it keeps backing up.”
The team had remained mostly silent through its struggles. But on Friday, Anderson addressed many of the rumors circulating about USF1’s future. He said José María López, a driver from Argentina, remained under contract. But Anderson did not rule out the possibility that López could sign with another team. López could take his sponsorship, reportedly worth $8 million, and drive for another start-up.
“I’m sure he’s weighing his options as well,” said Anderson, who had no plans to name a second driver.
Anderson said that despite speculation to the contrary, Chad Hurley, a co-founder of YouTube who is a major investor in USF1, was still involved with the team. He also denied that Peter Windsor, another co-founder, had left USF1.
The team’s 33,690-square-foot race shop in Charlotte, N.C., is for sale. But a spokesman for the commercial real estate company that is listing the property said the sale had nothing to do with USF1, which does not own the building.
Anderson confirmed the team had a five-year lease and would remain there regardless of ownership.
Last week, USF1 ran into some technical difficulties that had nothing to do with racing. The server for the team’s Web site, usgpe.com, went down on Thursday, leading to even more talk of its demise. The team turned to Twitter to let fans know it was still functioning.
“We are not gone, as many have reported,” was posted on the USF1 team Twitter page. “More news soon.”
The Web site was back up and running Friday.