The Charlotte, N.C.-based Formula One upstart U.S. F1 has finally given us a look inside its facility, a significant step toward dispelling any lingering doubt about the project's legitimacy.
Housed in the old Joe Gibbs Racing NASCAR team shop, the team--as seen in these photos--has a design office up and running, along with a machine shop, carbon-fiber-baking autoclave, multi-axis CNC machines and rapid prototyping machine.
Spearheaded by engineer Ken Anderson and longtime F1 journalist, team employee and TV personality Peter Windsor, U.S. F1 insists it will be on the grid at the season-opening race in Bahrain on March 14. Anderson and Windsor have secured backing from YouTube cofounder and CEO Chad Hurley, who they announced as a third partner in August.
Though U.S. F1 does not expect to test a car on the track until next year, it has an engine-supply deal with Cosworth. Anderson said he expects a real-life car to emerge in November.
There is still no word on drivers, though F1 veterans Pedro de la Rosa and Alex Wurz have been linked to the project, along with young Americans Jonathan Summerton and John Edwards, who compete in the Atlantic Championship, and J. R. Hildebrand, the 2009 Indy Lights champion.
Windsor told AutoWeek recently that while he wants to ultimately feature two American drivers, it is likely that he will initially sign the two drivers who he feels can best meet the team's initial development needs, regardless of nationality. Several other experienced F1 drivers are without race seats for next year, including Anthony Davidson and Sébastien Bourdais.
Meanwhile, Anderson--who has been the less visible of the two team bosses, if for no other reason than Windsor's Speed TV gig--took time on Wednesday to answer some basic questions. The Q&A was provided by U.S. F1.
Q: Ken, we're hearing about a lot of activity in Charlotte these days. What is going on at the U.S. F1 Team?
It has been quite a ride since we started the team last year, and has become far more intense since the signing of the Concorde Agreement. Our world headquarters is now complete and fully functional, and the 2010 race car is in the construction phase.
Q: So the car is finally being built? Isn't it a little late to get something like that started?
Funny that you ask that question--we get that one a lot. Thanks to our in-house design and engineering staff and the aid of our technical partners, for the last 10 to 12 months, the car has gone through thousands of iterations in a virtual environment. With this virtual design, we can test and be sure that it's right from structural, design and engineering standpoints, so we don't have to make a part, test it, break it and start again. Instead, we've taken out a lot of the guesswork and can get close to a race-ready piece right off of the machines, which is happening now. Our timing is according to plan, with an early November "roller" and a finished car in time for January 2010 testing.
Q: So who's building the car? Americans? Europeans? Are you building the car in Charlotte?
I'll answer the last part of the question first. Yes, we're building the car in our shop here in Charlotte. America is known as a "melting pot," and our team is a reflection of just that. Americans, Europeans, New Zealanders, Welshmen and more are responsible for the race car, including many who have high-level experience in the current Formula One environment. Many of our new hires we connected with back in June and July, and they will be joining the team formally at the end of the month. We are very grateful to the current Formula One teams for releasing some of our "newest" team members early--that has been a huge help as we continue to prepare for the 2010 Formula One season.
Q: Let's talk about what we're seeing in some of these pictures. What are we looking at here?
In two words, we're "fully equipped." Our machine shop features three- and five-axis CNC machines; we have a composite shop with autoclaves and a 24-foot CNC cutting table; a complete fab shop; assembly and sub-assembly; electronics; research and development; design and engineering; CFD and aerodynamics; marketing and communications; and a full in-house HD production facility, just to name a few departments. Building a team and a world-class manufacturing facility are a work in progress, but we're ahead of schedule and are excited about going racing next year.
Q: Can you talk a little about the cost efficiency of manufacturing a Formula One car in the United States. How can the operation be cheaper than what we've seen out there?
The major cost savings will be that the engineering and production of the cars will be done in the United States. Our technical partners located within a 30-mile radius of our shop contribute to this savings, as there are some departments we don't have to have in-house, such as a wind tunnel, shaker rig, K&C machine, additional CFD support and a center of gravity machine. What most people see--the transporters, motor coaches and the "lifestyle" side of Formula One--are a much smaller part of the overall budget and will be located at our European facility, which we'll tell you about soon.
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Read more: U.S. F1 releases first photos of team facility, answers questions: AutoWeek Magazine