Exclusive Peter Windsor Interview - Part Two 27 Feb 2009
This week saw F1 veterans Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson announce their plans to bring an all-American team to the grid in 2010. In the second and final installment of our interview with Windsor, the former Williams team manager reveals his thoughts on engines, sponsors and potential drivers
Q: What is your expected budget and headcount idea for the team? There is a big gap between private and manufacturer teams in these areas
Peter Windsor: We will have the minimum number of the best people and the budget will be the amount of money we need to do the team in the most efficient way possible. Again, I would like to pay tribute to Formula One as an economy and how it is facing recession, but also I would like to pay tribute to the way the FIA have massively reduced the costs of bringing a new team into Formula One, and in the way they have reacted to the recession with the rule changes they have made and continue to make. And also with the work Bernie Ecclestone has done over the last 20 years to make F1 the leading global sport that it is.
Q: How much of the team will be created from scratch?
PW: It will be effectively absolutely 100 percent from scratch. There is absolutely nothing here that will be generated from any other source. It is a completely from zero Formula One team and it will be a car made in the United States of America.
Q: Have you officially lodged your entry for the 2010 championship?
PW: We have already spoken to the FIA and they have already told us that they have accepted our entry for 2010.
Q: Do you have any major sponsors lined up?
PW: No, we havent done anything on sponsorship yet. We have been spending all our time in the last two and a half years raising the capital we need to do the team in 2009. Now the reason for the announcement was to say that, okay, weve got the capital now, we are going to be a race team in 2010 and we will be doing all the things that all the other teams are doing, which is engine deals, sponsorship deals and so on. Because of the way the regulations are now, because we are operating in the United States and because we are operating in the way we are, I am very confident that we will have the full budget to go racing in 2010.
Q: Over the past few years, the manufacturer teams have had a hold over the top spots in the championship. Where do you see your team in the pecking order? Just another back marker?
PW: I would actually disagree with that comment. I wouldnt call Ferrari a car team. I would call Ferrari a team that is born of a very small group of people who have remained a small group of people. I would not in any way put them in the same bracket as BMW or Toyota. And I would say that the same goes for McLaren - I dont think that is a car team either. I think McLaren and Ferrari are a good example that when it gets down to making the critical decisions they are still relatively small operations. We see our team being very much a traditional type of Formula One team - a racing team with a long future. And we will be run by racing people and not by people coming into the sport with a lot of money and not knowing anything about F1, needing a lot of advice and doing everything in a rush.
Q: Will you be hoping to lure engineering and design staff from rival teams, or do you plan to rely on home-grown American talent?
PW: No, I would say that 90 percent of our headcount will be from the United States. This country has 300 million people and believe me that among them there are at least enough people here to make an extremely good Formula One team. No doubt about that.
Q: Which drivers are top of your hit list at the moment?
PW: Well, all the drivers that have got some sort of credentials really. We are looking at running certainly one American from year one - if not two - and two Americans from the second year on. There are lots of drivers out there. We have had approaches from some of the top NASCAR drivers, we had approaches from a lot of people. This will be a target for the next couple of months to get the right driver package. There are no names at the moment as we havent spoken to all the drivers out there. With regards to Danica Patrick, she has a very good record and obviously would be a good factor in terms of promotion. She raced Formula Ford in the UK very well, she knows all about racing in Europe and did a good job in everything shes done. But one has to ask why, if she is that good for promotion, havent any of the other Formula One teams signed her up?
Q: You are going to be based in NASCARs heartland. What lessons do you think you can take from that series?
PW: Well, NASCAR is not unlike F1 in some ways now because they have very strict rules in the way they do things, but the overall technology is very basic compared to F1. It is not what you would call high-tech. But the work behind the scene is incredibly high-tech. The infrastructure and the industry they have is at least equal to F1, if not superior. For a team like us - right now and particularly in a recession - there is so much equipment out there and so many places to get things done at minimum costs but absolutely at the top of the tree in terms of technology. We are in a part of the world that I would compare with Northern Italy and the Surrey/ Milton Keynes area in F1s infrastructure. It is not for nothing that you have the great race teams like Roger Penske and Ganassi all based here, while the people of McLaren Electronics also have set-ups here.
Q: You say the team will be a very fan-focused operation - what will that entail?
PW: It means that we will be very open in everything we do, with the press and with the fans - whether we are talking politics, technology or money. The fans can come up to the race shop of the factory whenever they like, there will be a walkthrough the factory where they can watch what is going on and we will have a lot of additional television to what you see at the moment. And we will not be afraid to talk about our technology - we want the public to understand and enjoy.
Q: Its been a while since you and Ken were directly involved in running a Formula One team. How do you know you still have what it takes?
PW: Well, what I am going to do now is very different from what I did at Williams where I was team manager, race and test team manager and directly responsible to Frank Williams. This now is a different thing. I have already been doing this for three to four years, putting this team together, getting people to believe in what we are doing and trying to get people to invest in us and believe in us. And to be honest, this is the hardest job in the world. The actual running of the team, the drivers, the engines, the logistics, the decisions that have to be made in the field are of course amazingly challenging, but I am not in any way scared about it, that is for sure. With the right group of people we can do very well. Its all about people.
Q: Theres currently no US Grand Prix. How big a handicap will this be to you in generating home interest in your team?
PW: Not terribly. We have never tried to convince people that this team will only work if we have an American Grand Prix. Thats never been part of our mantra. In fact, the opposite is true. We have never said to people that we can bring the American GP back to the US. Our mission always has been to take the United States to Formula One and have a team the Americans can be proud of, can get behind, and that American companies can use on the televised global platform that Formula One provides. At the moment, there is no team that does that. Now, we are in no better place than any other F1 team or person in F1 to try to get a race back in the USA, because that is very much in the capable hands of Bernie Ecclestone. And when the time and the deal is right, I am sure it will be pretty high on his list. As there is no US Grand Prix the next best thing probably is to have an American team and an American driver. And if we can play that part we are achieving quite a lot.
Q: Do you have a favoured engine supplier in mind? Presumably, that bit of the car wont be American?
PW: Not at the moment. We are going to look at all engines available and we know who they are. We will speak to all of them under the heading of being an American team based in what probably will be the most important market for most of these companies. We will end up with the best possible partnership.
Q: Can you tell us what support you have received from the current Formula One teams?
PW: When the news broke, long before the official announcement, I received an email from one of the top Formula One team principals congratulating us and saying that it was a great idea and they were looking forward to having an American team on the grid in 2010. I had numerous phone calls from top technical people too saying that it was a fantastic project and that America has definitely the technology level to make this team happen. And McLarens Martin Whitmarsh in a recent interview said that he sees a strong revival of F1 in the United States. If you put that all together, there has been an enormous response and theres a lot of potential.
Q: Do you see any scenario in the next 12 months that has the potential to keep you away from the grid in 2010?
PW: Oh yes, hundreds of scenarios, but they will be no different from the scenarios that will prevent any of the other F1 teams from being on the grid in 2010.