Hungry for Success - Exclusive Interview with Peter Windsor 07 Sep 2009
The US-based operation founded by Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson is one of three new teams due to join the grid for 2010. With their debut season rapidly approaching, more and more pieces of the jigsaw are falling into place for Team US, not least the recent announcement of YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley as a major backer. It brought the Charlotte-based squad to the attention of global media - and Windsor hopes it wont be the last time
Q: Peter, now that all the formalities are wrapped up, there must be no holding back at your Charlotte factory in North Carolina. Where are things with the car and team development right now?
Peter Windsor: Well, all the politics that happened this year have delayed us in some respects, but not in the critical respect of the car. Weve been working on the design and the construction of the car since the start of the year, so that hasnt been delayed at all. We are right on schedule for that. As (team co-founder) Ken (Anderson) said a couple of weeks ago, we should soon have what Americans call a roller - not a complete car, but basically the chassis, with the suspension and gearbox in place - ready to do some full-scale aero tests. Then we are ready for the final bodywork around October and, like with everybody else, our car will be ready for the first test in January. There is no other deadline we have to meet.
If you are a new team and you dont have in place existing cars, drivers, factories and everything else. When you are a start-up operation it is very important from a marketing point of view to get all the hardware in place as quickly as possible. Due to all the politics weve slipped a bit on time and now we are making up for that and working very hard on the marketing side of the company. The first phase of that was the announcement of our involvement with Chad Hurley. From there we will be all hands on deck and marketing the team as what we are: an American team with a franchise in Formula One on a global platform in the best sport in the world.
Q: How are you and Ken dividing the work at the moment?
PW: Basically Ken is the team principal, but primarily he is more on the technical side. The last time he was over here in Europe was for the meeting of the Technical Working Group, but then he flew straight back to Charlotte because there is so much going on at the moment. I am more on the driver/operational side. We both have an overview of the marketing side and, of course, we both have an overview whats going on in every aspect. For me, Ken is an unusual engineer in Formula One because he does have a very good feel for the business side of the industry and for how F1 works as an entertainment business. Both of us keep reminding each other that we are in the entertainment business - and we should never let any of the little short-term problems that we all face in Formula One interfere with that. It should always be a main focus of what we are doing, particularly in our case of being an American team and building the car in the United States. We have a certain role to play for Formula One in the United States in trying to rekindle enthusiasm for this great sport.
Q: You will be based in Charlotte, but rumours have it that you are looking for a European base as well, linking you with the new Motorland Aragon
PW: Well, there are lots of rumours about that and they are not very far from the truth. But for the moment being we havent finished any deal yet, so Id rather not comment too much. But we are very interested in that Motorland Aragon facility. It is a fantastic location for winter testing, very minimal chance of rain and lovely weather in the winter. If we can do a deal there it would be fabulous for us.
Q: Yours is one of three new teams to have gained entry to the 2010 championship. What do you know about the other two? Is there any sort of information flow between the new kids on the block?
PW: We communicate with them as much as we do with any of the other teams, but in terms of knowledge Ken and I would know much more of what is going on at Ferrari or Toyota. From our perspective the other two new teams are very, very quiet, but I suppose Im the wrong person to ask.
Q: The Team US-Chad Hurley cooperation has raised a few eyebrows. How did the two of you get together?
PW: Ken and I - with a very good support team behind us - did a series of presentations around the US last winter, in the dark days of the recession. When there was all doom and gloom globally and nobody wanted to do anything, we were out in America just doing road shows on the east and west coast. We had a good team of people putting together a collection of potential partners and investors in the company and at one of them Chad was invited through a friend of a friend of a friend and although I didnt get to meet him that night of the presentation, I think Ken shook hands with him - but that was about it. But obviously our presentation was very much in the YouTube mould - guys starting small in the back of an office somewhere, coming up with a great idea, working hard - and thats to some extent what we hope to be doing.
I think Chad liked that idea and invited us to a working breakfast the next morning in Silicon Valley. Ken and I went there and it went on for about four hours. Chad asked a lot of intelligent questions - the politics, the technology, the people, the television, the media, everything, and we obviously covered all that to his satisfaction because from then on he was pretty much on board with what we wanted to do. He could see that despite Formula One not having a great profile in America right now - for a number of reasons, like no driver, no team, no race right now - its strength as a global television sport in a recession is resilient. There are a lot of statistics that show that live televised sport is resilient to economic downturns and he loved that idea. I think he also loved the idea of Americans taking on the big guns and proving that we can do it. He did believe in us - and here he is, believing in us. I cannot tell you how nice it feels to have somebody as nice as Chad behind us. Its a great honour and privilege for us being associated with him.
Q: What form will the partnership take exactly? Financial support only, transfer of business know-how, YouTube becoming an integral part of the teams strategy - or what?
PW: Chads involvement is much more than just a stakeholder in the team. He is very keen to apply all the things that he has learned about new media and video and the way it works to this amazing television model that we have that is called Formula One. There is an enormous synergy between the two. He doesnt want to do anything in a rush, but wants to learn about Formula One, to come in and understand where the opportunities are. And - without wanting to sound pretentious - we hope that Chads presence in F1 will have a huge impact on the sport in general - not just be a useful, great partner for us, but to be somebody to bring enormous benefits to F1. And we are already starting to see that. We all know that America is an important market for the Formula One industry and to have somebody of Chads stature in America - in a part of America where F1 has no real profile at all - standing up and saying I think this is a great sport and were going to commit to it is a fantastic thing for F1. The fact that Chad Hurley has committed to Formula One was global news and had a big impact in many dimensions.
Q: and Chad will make sure that you always have enough money in the bank to run the team?
PW: Ken and I have never been specific about the details of our budget. All Im going to say is that we will be very lean and mean. We are not moving away from our business model.
Q: All new sponsors and partners in Formula One racing quickly learn that success does not come overnight, and that sometimes it takes years to start winning. Is Chad Hurley prepared for that?
PW: I have to be honest - Ken and I have never said to Chad that it might take years to win races. Ken and I are incredibly hungry for success. We will work very hard, trying to do the best job that we can given the fact that we are a from zero start-up operation, doing things in a logical way with the best people we believe we can find, to the budget we believe is the right budget. If you do all that there is half a chance that you will be rewarded with success at a proportional rate!