Exclusive Q&A - Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson 14 May 2009
One mans meat is another mans poison, or so the situation seems to be right now. While the FIAs budget cap plans are causing controversy amongst some existing teams, prospective new Formula One entrants are embracing the idea. Or as Ken Anderson, one half of the planned US-based team, puts it: Its much easier to start from zero and work your way up, than to run on £300-400 million and work your way down. Anderson and business partner Peter Windsor reveal more about their plans...
Q: Peter, its been a few months since you announced that you and Ken were to form a team with an American flavour for the 2010 grid. What is the state of affairs now?
Peter Windsor: Well, the state of affairs is that Ken was with me at the Spanish Grand Prix. Actually it is the first time that Ken and I were together at a Grand Prix since we made our announcement, so its kind of a great moment. I feel unbelievably lucky to be planning our team. It was fantastic walking down the pit lane and people coming up and congratulating us - all of which is premature of course - but it is wonderful to see how much interest everybody is taking. But to come to the core of your question, we are working very hard behind the scenes, and at the same time from a public point of view, are waiting for everything to be formalised by the FIA, in terms of the new teams for next year being officially announced and the regulations being defined once and for all. From then on we can really start jumping around and being who we are. But we are a little bit quiet at the moment for the latter reason.
Q: How much of an American flavour will the team have in reality? Is the planned factory location in Charlotte, North Carolina, still on?
Ken Anderson: Yes, Charlotte is still on and we just moved into a new building a couple of weeks ago. The car is well underway being designed and we start making parts in late June and should have our car on the ground by late September. Regarding the American flavour, very few people realize how much of the stuff used in Formula One actually comes from the United States, as a sort of side product of the US aerospace industry, for example carbon fibre. So in reality we will not be doing much different than the European teams - we are just embracing the fact that a lot comes from the US anyway. We are right now designing the car on American software and American machines, and taking it to the next level we will be looking for American drivers.
Q: How far down the road are you with the hiring process?
PW: As far as we need to be at this point, is the right answer. We have key technical people right now working on the car and we are hiring a little bit outside the technical side and on the management side as well. But the reality is that the team will grow at a relatively constant rate and we will expand at a relatively constant rate. Quite a lot of the logistic people, the race team, will not happen until the end of this year. If you hire very good people - and we have the policy, or philosophy is probably the better word, of hiring the minimum number of the best possible people. Regardless of his field, hell come with connections and resources so we will have access to them whenever we need them. In the United States we have a huge pool that we can choose from, a lot of low hanging fruit that we can pick.
Q: So what is your headcount right now?
KA: Right now about 20. But each one of those will have two or three that they will be bringing on (board). We are setting up the infrastructure, the management and the design department. In June we will be hiring those who will do the manufacturing, so we are moving from design to manufacturing and towards the end of the year be will be setting up our European facility and will start hiring the people who will be working on the team.
Q: Have the positions in the team been shaping up?
KA: That is shaping up and becoming very clear. And that is all I want to say right now.
Q: There are some months to go before the 2010 driver market really opens for business, but you must have some idea of who could be racing for you. I am sure there have been lots of hopefuls knocking at you door lately
PW: From the very start Ken and I threw the idea around of having two American drivers. It will be an American team, a car made in America, so why not go all the way and have two American drivers. There are two things: first there is the opportunity to give a chance to an individual out there with a massive amount of talent and take him to the top - what a fantastic thing to do - regardless of his nationality. As far as American drivers are concerned, it is to open a stream that makes it possible for American drivers to look at an alternative to NASCAR, which is a great series in its own right and a wonderful form of motorsport. But if you are a driver who wants to drive on road courses in an open wheel car, there is not a lot of scope in the US given how big that country is. So we will be opening up that whole stream of talent as there are a lot of real talents. We have a shortlist of guys that we are looking at.
Q: Can you drop some names?
PW: There are some Americans doing quite well right now in single-seater racing from Ryan Hunter-Reay, Jonathan Summerton, Danica Patrick, Graham Rahal and A.J. Allmendinger, who has great credentials in NASCAR right now. And then the next generation looks really strong. Youve got four guys there: Gaby Chavez, who is winning a lot of BMW races right now, Alex Rossi who is American and was the World BMW champion last year, Conor Daly, the son of Derek Daly, and Josef Newgarden, who is winning in England right now. Those four guys are all very young and very talented. I only mentioned four, but there are plenty more, because for anyone I mentioned there is someone I am not mentioning. Until three months ago, none of them had ever thought that they would have the chance to get into Formula One. And for us to open that door is a huge privilege actually.
Q: You are no doubt watching the cost cap discussions very carefully. Does FIA president Max Mosleys plan to cap the budget at £40million per year have your support?
PW: It seems a lot of money!
KA: We were been planning long before that cost cap discussion, and now everything seems to come our way. Weve been planning on starting from scratch, buying only what we need and having only the people that we need. Its much easier to start from zero and work your way up, than to run on £300-400 million and work your way down. The brilliance of the cost cap is that if you want to limit the spending you limit the money. Other series have tried to limit the spending by limiting the technology and that has not stopped people from spending. I think it is still a bit transitional - whats in that sum and what not - but it will become clearer soon. Peter and I are going into this because we believe Formula One is the greatest sport in the world, its the biggest TV show in the world, and something you can make a good business plan on. Good business is raising a certain amount of money and spending a little bit less doing it.
Q: Could that be a budget you are aiming for?
KA: Well, its not far from what our budget has been anyway, long before that cap discussion came up. There have been things that have come down over the last few years that have allowed us to start thinking about a team. For instance an engine deal, if you can get one, was $30 million a few years ago. That has come down quite a lot. One other thing we never must forget - for every car manufacturer, the United States is still their biggest market, so to have a team that will have its roots there should benefit all.
Q: So is there already an engine deal on the horizon?
KA: We are still waiting to see how it all develops. The two options are in fact - Cosworth or anything else.
Q: All the existing teams have their views on the cost cuts. What would you like to see addressed as a team in the making?
PW: I think I should make it very clear that the FIA has done a brilliant job for making it easier for a new team to come into Formula One by lowering the barriers to do that. In the past, enormous bonds had to be placed and enormous amounts of money had to be guaranteed. Right now there has never been a better moment to put together a new Formula One team and I think the FIA should be given a massive amount of credit for doing that. Again, Ken and I have been looking into this long before the barriers were lowered, and at that time there was no way we ever could have done a Formula One team. But now the conditions have changed and the synergies are very strong. Its a great moment to do it!
Q: You said previously that a financial crisis could also present a chance of joining the Formula One fraternity. Do you still see it that way? Or have there been moments when you have regretted your Formula One endeavour?
PW: Not one single moment! Coming in during a recession is an interesting thing to be doing, because for one thing it makes people look at Formula One in a different way. Is it as Ken just said before, a sport in which you actually can operate a genuinely profitable business and do well? Because if you cant, Formula One isnt going to survive in the recession. And the answer to this is clearly yes! And we are coming in with a slightly different business model to many of the existing teams. But nonetheless it is the worlds biggest TV sport, and in a recession people to turn to watching live sport on the television, thats a known fact, and Formula One is doing incredibly well on the television. Beyond that the concept of creating jobs for people at a time when a lot of people are losing their job is a privilege for us. The sad and difficult thing for us is that we cannot employ everybody who needs and deserves a job. But we will do what we can with the vacancies and the work we are going to create.
Q: Some say that at the moment we have three categories of cars on the grid - those with the double diffuser, those with KERS, and those with nothing at all. Which road are you following? And how urgently do you want the 2010 rules to be fixed?
KA: Well, one of the things that was thrown out was a spec diffuser for the cost cap teams and that makes a lot of sense as it saves you a serious amount of money in the wind tunnel to develop something. KERS, again depends on what engine you go with, which will define if you even can run KERS. KERS as it is right now is a little too close to being a waste to make it worthwhile. For the moment right now, I wouldnt go with it, but if we are a budget cap team and there is more potential with the right engine, possibly I would. The good thing with the whole budget cap is that they are not limiting the technology but limiting the money. So we have the freedom to choose in what we want to invest and we are taking a good hard look at things. Regarding the rules, at the moment we can build on what already exists. In my view the biggest impact in 2010 will be that there is no refuelling, which requires a much, much larger tank - that was a bit of an eye-opener!
Q: This season theres been a complete turn around in the paddock pecking order: the former underdogs are on top and the usual favourites in the doldrums. Is that helping you with your search for investors, as it shows that brain can beat money?
KA: Absolutely! I have to say that our investors believed in us anyway. But with the first four races proving us right, it came as a godsend. And the same goes for sponsors. The typical mentality is that you pay extra to get on a Ferrari or McLaren because you knew what you got. But that kind of thinking is out of the window right now. There is a tremendous amount of people right now who embrace what we are doing and are behind us. Its been a little too predictable over the last few years, thats why everybody loved a rainy race as it had the potential to burst the pecking order. But this year we see that with the changes of the slick tyres and the wings, all the balls are in the air. And for next year - watch out!
Q: Can you give a schedule of what development steps will happen from now until the end of the year?
KA: First and foremost is getting our entry accepted! We threw our first entry in last December. So the hot period is from May 22, when they open it, and June 12 when well be in or out. Assuming we are in, the car is in CFD right now and at the time of the closing around June 12 we will start to produce parts, as the machines will be delivered by then. We are probably one of the first F1 teams to go for a 100 percent wind tunnel model as there is no better way to develop a car than at full scale, as the beauty of it is to fit real parts to the real car. That will happen in late September. We will torture test the car and the suspension in October/November. Depending on the engine, we will be running the car in the first week of January. But if all falls perfectly into place, we would like the car to be running in November/December.