Renewed American bid to break into F1
|By Jonathan Noble||Monday, May 24th 2010, 10:59 GMT|
Parris Mullins, the advisor to YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley who led a last-ditch bid to try and save US F1 earlier this year, is behind a fresh American attempt to break into Formula 1, AUTOSPORT can reveal.
Hurley appointed Mullins as his official representative in 11th hour talks to save US F1 once it became clear how far behind schedule the team was with its car.
But despite lengthy discussions with Bernie Ecclestone, Campos Grand Prix, Stefan Grand Prix and other team figures to try and find a rescue package, which would have seen him installed as team principal, Mullins could not get a deal that he and Hurley were happy with.
Despite that setback, Mullins has kept a close eye on developments in F1 and, in an exclusive interview, he has revealed that he is now leading an investment bid to get involved in grand prix racing through involvement with a current team.
Mullins believes that the lessons of US F1 show that starting a new team is not feasible under the current F1 rules, which is why he is looking at opportunities to tie-up with established outfits.
His plans are totally separate from the new team bid put together by former US F1 staff members known as the Cypher Group.
"I am part of a project right now that is trying to enter the sport," Mullins told AUTOSPORT, in his first full-length interview since the end of US F1. "I can't give away any specifics right now, but I can say I don't believe a start-up team is possible.
"That is definitely a topic that will be debated for some time until a practical solution is found, but I think personally, given the current state of the sport and its rules, then a competitive start-up team simply isn't possible.
"This sport is all about knowledge and you need to apply the experience gained from the previous years of competing in the sport, and the team needs to be operating in a cohesive environment.
"I think a great example is the Honda/Brawn situation last year. Here was an existing team that was taken over, the necessary changes were made and it was turned into a championship-winning team the following year. And that is no different from what we have seen in the past - with Red Bull Racing, Force India and Toro Rosso."
Mullins is keen to have an active role in whatever project he gets involved with, perhaps even as team principal, with talks already believed to be underway with potential parties.
"For me, I am interested in entering the sport in any way that I can, and contributing in any way that I can," he said.
"One example of a concept that has potential is Renault - which sold a majority stake to Genii Capital. We might see more situations like that in the future. Whether it is a group of experienced F1 people defecting from a team and acquiring the capital to take over another, or whether it is simply a major sponsor doing it, or a group of investors buying a team – I am exploring all of those options.
"We got pretty far along with a lot of different companies and I think there are a great deal of people this side of the pond who want to be involved in F1. And frankly, they are all thinking global – so why not do it in a global sport like this? It reaches so many people all over the world.
"My background is being based in the Silicon Valley area, and I think every major company in Silicon Valley should somehow be involved in F1. It's not just a sport; it's a TV show and a lifestyle. I think most companies can find relevant placing within the sport. "
When asked if his plans have gone as far as getting investors close to committing he said: "I do. The nice thing is that US F1, even though it is such a tragic story, I don't think it really hurt any attempt from the US to get into F1. There is still talk of having a US Grand Prix, and that can only help. But I think it is really coming down to education.
"Just because F1 is not that big in the US, companies are looking at ways of expanding – and that was Chad's interest. He could have bought a NASCAR team or IndyCar team – but he was driven by this global idea.
"And I think everybody is – they want to find a way to be global and environmentally friendly. And when the sport makes certain changes, like making the show more attractive and increasing the level of 'green' in the sport, you will see the return of certain sponsors, or new additions that you never thought would have been there."
Mullins said that Hurley's involvement in his project was not defined, with issues involving US F1 still needing to be sorted out.
"For Chad right now, I can't speak for him. There are still parts of US F1 that need to be put to bed. He has his existing responsibilities with YouTube and he has other ventures that he is working on that are not motor sport related.
"As a good friend I would love to work with him again in this sport. I think he has some great ideas and we have collaborated on some great things. I am looking to surround myself with a good group of people, and make another attempt at this – but a proper way."
Mullins says that he has learned a great deal from his involvement in US F1, and that there are important lessons that have been taken onboard.
"The thing I took from it was the amount of support that was there for us within F1. We had tremendous support from fans all around the world, not just US based fans. But there was also a great deal of outreach from a lot of different teams.
"That much was clear obviously in some of the press that was coming out – with Martin Whitmarsh saying that FOTA had to do everything in their power to help these teams get to the grid. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo made a similar comment at the unveiling of the F10 – that he wished he could supply an American team with a chassis. Bernie Ecclestone reached out several times – and we were offered the Toyotas before Stefanovich, and that was something that Bernie was trying to put together.
"As much as F1 has a cut-throat appearance, really everybody is in it for the greater good of the sport. It has a competitive nature to it of course, but everybody wants to see each other turn up at the races – and that was extended to us. It wasn't just an old boys club. That was the main thing I learned.
"But there are a lot of other lessons that can be taken away from US F1 too, like don't go to the trouble of assembling a brilliant group of people if you are not going to allow them to execute. I don't think any one of us signed up to work under a dictatorship – and that is effectively what happened.
"You also need to follow through with your promises, and there were a lot of false promises made, not just to fans but also to the sport, to employees. It is one thing to have dreams and have hopes, but there needs to be clear direction and a set path. And there needs to be structure. We were lacking that."
* For more on Parris Mullins' experience with US F1 and his plans for the future, read the exclusive interview.