The pace picked up Wednesday at Albert Park in Melbourne for the sendup for the 2009 Formula One ING Australian Grand Prix. Track inspections and safety checks were just part of it. The two-seater Minardi F1 car was busy giving rides, and owner PAUL STODDART of Australia, was helping lucky passengers suit up.
The Pit Lane was in full swing getting set up with all teams back in their garages, most with screens blocking all views, especially the well-known red Ferrari screens which block all views. Although there is talk of caps and cutbacks, there is no mandate to cut back on the crew brought to races. Nonetheless, there didn’t seem to be as many – at least not visible.
This year there was one less chartered jumbo jet with Formula One cars and equipment, according to the man who would know – BILL GIBSON of Gibson Freight. All the jets came into Avalon airport and the shipping containers trucked into Albert Park. He said everything has gone well so far.
There was talk in the media about BERNIE ECCLESTONE calling the bluff on FLAVIO BRIATORE of Renault and RON DENNIS of McLaren, when they said they would boycott the AGP if not paid monies owed. Ecclestone was reported as saying he’d just call off the planes and save the cost of freight. However, Gibson said he never received such a call.
The local papers are reporting that neither Bernie nor FIA President, MAX MOSLEY, will be attending AGP. That means one prime parking space is available, right in front of the F1 paddock.
CAMS race Marshal, SKIP TAYLOR, who drives the Safety Car, said he will clock about 1400 klicks during the four days of the race weekend.
Local hero, MARK WEBBER/Red Bull Racing, is still not 100 percent healed after his terrible accident in the Tasmanian Challenge at the end of the 2008 racing season, when he broke his knee. He said he still has trouble walking. Webber, who is perhaps the tallest driver this season at 6 feet 4 inches, still has titanium screws and a rod in his leg.
I had a very enjoyable afternoon interview with PETER WINDSOR, who is among other things, the co-owner/founder of Team US F1, with KEN ANDERSON. Windsor, a Brit raised in Australia, wants to run an all-American team. Why does a Brit want to run an American team? Good question.
Windsor grew up in Sydney, while his British father worked in Australia. He first got hooked on motor racing when he was a flag marshal at nearby Warwick Farm – at the age of 13. Windsor said he was the youngest ever Flag Marshal. He still thinks Warwick Farm is one of the best circuits, designed by his later-to-be mentor, GEOFF SYKES. Warwick can run all kind of horsepower, with track configuration changes. It’s safe and organized.
Windsor said being raised in Australia made him very America-oriented and he feels an affinity for the US race fans.
Team US F1 has registered its intent to run, and it’s a long-term commitment on their part. Although it’s too soon to be official, as the 2010 fees haven’t been set by FIA, Windsor has received an email acknowledgement from FIA, accepting the entry.
The plans include a race shop in Huntersville North Carolina, ten minutes away from the SPEED TV headquarters. Windsor has a flat in Charlotte. He is the SPEED TV Pit Reporter/Commentator for the Formula One races in the US. He also is the off-camera moderator for the F1 conferences. Among some of his other projects are motorsports journalism for F1 Racing, Japan’s largest magazine-Autosport, Hilton Racing, and running a driver coaching firm in the UK.
The Team US F1 plans include fielding two young American drivers for the 2010 season, a challenging undertaking especially in this economy and amidst all the FIA rule changes. Under new rules, his new team can’t start testing until 1-1-2010, although Windsor said there has been talk of concessions for new 2010 teams. But he said his team’s plans aren’t built around such a waiver. The teams are allowed 15,000 kilometres of testing. And the team will have really close access to the “best wind tunnel in the world’ – Windshear designed by Anderson for NASCAR team owner, GENE HAAS. It’s also ten minutes from Windsor’s race shop.
After each race, the crew and the car will return to North Carolina, except for back-to back race weekends. The motor home, transporters and pit/race equipment will remain in Europe. The preparation and development will be done in the US.
Things are moving along according to the schedule and time line set by the partners. Windsor stressed that the team is going to walk before it runs, taking things in their own good time, not rushing into anything.
Some announcements could come in May, such as drivers and/or engine package. There isn’t the need to rush into engine contracts as engines are templated now and just one part of the overall package.
More than a thousand job applications have reached the team, with approximately 25 percent from the US, mostly the East Coast, and the rest from abroad.
The Windsor interview was lengthy and covered many topics, so the interview will be sparsed out among several columns.