Before the start of the Australian Grand Prix, I had the privilege of having a lengthy one on one interview with PETER WINDSOR, who is co-owner of the new American Formula One team – Team US F1.
Q – Who will be the drivers – perhaps someone who has already been on the tracks, raced overseas in other series and has been developing along?
A – The drivers is an interesting subject. Everyone has his own idea about drivers and who would be the right people. The interesting thing about us is that we’re in a unique situation. We are going to make the commitment to the United States, if you like, to have two American drivers. In doing so, unless we run SCOTT SPEED, we’ll be effectively running two rookies. Not effective – actually. That in itself creates a very interesting scenario, because how then do you prepare Rookies for an incredibly tough first F1 season with a brand new Formula One team?
And there’s lot of different ideas. Lots of people have been giving their advice and their input, which is interesting, and I’m grateful for. I think that the critical thing about our team is that we’re going to be around for the long time. We’re not going to be around for the short term. This is something that Ken and I have been working on for a long time. We want to be in it for the long term.
We have used the phrase several times – ‘We want to walk before we run’. That doesn’t mean to say we don’t want to score points and win races in Year One. It does mean that we want drivers that grow at the same pace as the team. That will happen because they’re both going to be rookies. It actually gives a wide spectrum of drivers at which we can look. It doesn’t actually narrow our field of choices. It makes it quite wide and expansive.
Take NASCAR drivers, for instance. I have no doubt at all that had TONY STEWART or JEFF GORDON had been given serious Formula One options when they were back into their Sprint/Midget careers almost to the point of going to IRL in Tony’s case or Jeff going into NASCAR … I think if they had gone then and done Formula Three, GP2 or Formula 3000, they’d both be superb. And I think they’d still be in F1 now. and they’d won a Grand Prix and maybe won a World Championship. But that path has never really been open to an American since when…since, you could argue, since Mario’s day, But equally Roger did bring Mark over and Michael came over as well and Red Bull kind of did some sort of program, even though it wasn’t successful.
So what I’m saying is – I would love to think there’s somebody out there as good as LEWIS HAMILTON. Someone perhaps that you and I don’t even know exists right now. And I’m not in that much of a hurry in the next three weeks or whatever to sign the two most obvious guys. What I’d really like to see who there is and maybe take a chance on one driver, something quite off the wall, and see how we get on. Because I really believe that a great race driver is a great race driver, as JIM CLARK showed when he came over and did Rockingham in 1967; and indeed as Mario showed when he went over and got the pole at Watkins Glen in 1968. So I think those drivers do exist in America.
Q – Will you be taking your drivers to the F1 races this season, to help them get acclimated to the F1 world and how things are done?
A – No. To what do they need to get acclimated? They won’t be in the whole (F1) circus. They’ll be with us in the team and we’ll be a team. If you’re a journalist as we are at the moment, it is a huge circus. But the team guys live in a very closed environment with four sides to the box. All they do is their own thing. In our case they’ll be doing what we do – leaving the hotel at 7 in the morning and go to the track or motor home or whatever it is. And we’ll do our deal, go home and have a nice dinner. I don’t think there’s that sort of problem.
Certainly MICHAEL ANDRETTI had a problem or appeared to have a problem adapting to the European way of life. but he didn’t make it easy for himself Concorde-ing to and from, I think for sure. I don’t mind a guy going back to America after his race, but I don’t think the thing is to be rushing to do so. There’s a lot to be enjoyed in every country we go to. One of things we want to do in Team US F1 is enjoy the countries where we are and get to them a day or two early and leave them a day or two after the race. We can work here – go on the Internet or do what we have to do. But I don’t see the need to be rushing around the world all the time as most F1 teams are.