At the same time as you hear conflicting reports on the future of the Honda F1 team, comes news of a new USA-centred outfit, USF1, which has announced plans to debut in 2010 from a base in Charlotte, North Carolina.
As far as Honda is concerned, we are two weeks past the deadline it imposed to find a buyer to continue running the team, and when everyone else started testing their 2009 kit in earnest, you start thinking that something needs to happen soon.
Bruno Senna © LAT
I'd bet that Honda, under whatever name, will be on the Melbourne grid with Jenson Button and Bruno Senna in the cockpits. A management buyout with Nick Fry and Ross Brawn running the outfit is still the most likely outcome, and a little bird tells me that Mercedes is at work readying the necessary engines. Any designer will tell you that the most disruptive thing is a change in engine supplier, so don't expect to see a car on a circuit very much before Melbourne.
There are a couple of strong pointers towards the team continuing. First, Japanese companies do not like to lose face and Honda will likely take any reasonable steps that it can to avoid putting 700 people out of work. Even perhaps to the point of investing the funds that it would have cost them in redundancies to close the team down.
But it gets complicated too. In the current climate, you would not want to continue with a roster as big as the one Honda had before. And depending on people's employment contracts, they may seek recompense anyway if their conditions and terms of employment change. Inevitably these things aren't sorted overnight but do get worked through.
The second plus point is that it is in the interests of F1 and, it seems, Bernie Ecclestone, for the team to be kept afloat. While an F1 team budget is not exactly small change, no doubt Bernie would find it if he emptied out all his jeans pockets at once. To put it in perspective, running an F1 team to a decent level would cost, I'd guess, somewhere south of five per cent of Bernie's net worth, so I'm sure some loans could be arranged somewhere at favourable rates of interests.
Strictly speaking of course, it would be difficult for the F1 commercial rights holder to have a stake in one of the teams. Yes, I know he used to have, but things have moved on since then. So perhaps it would be difficult for Bernie's presence to be too overt, but these things can always be dressed up as needs be. And, with the new FOTA organisation determined to play a stronger role in future, Bernie might well see it as an ideal opportunity to sort himself a direct involvement. Even by proxy.
On the other side of the pond, the USF1 announcement is exactly the sort of thing you might expect at a time when F1 is cost-cutting and the long term aims include making participation more viable without the need to be a major motor manufacturer.
The new team is being fronted by journalist/broadcaster Peter Windsor and former Onyx F1 man Ken Anderson, who has latterly been in the USA where, among other things, he designed the G-Force IRL cars and worked as technical director for Chip Ganassi and AJ Foyt.
Anderson recently told the Charlotte newspapers that an American-based F1 team actually made sense, even if few seem to agree with him.
"All the F1 team sponsors want a presence here and American companies are going global," he said. "F1 is the biggest television show in the world, bar none."
Well, yes, but as I found on a recent trip to the USA, F1 just is not in the public perception at all. It seems that Scott Speed made very little difference to that when he raced for Red Bull, a move that was made for similar, shrewd reasons by Dietrich Mateschitz as a way of shifting more hugely-profitable cans of energy drink in America.
The problem was, Speed didn't really capture the imagination, either through results or public appeal.
Danica Patrick © LAT
Anderson, meanwhile, has been saying some very nice things about Danica Patrick. I'll bet he has! Forget Scott Speed, Danica might just do it. NASCAR apart she is the best known motor racing personality in the USA and, of course, captures the imagination. If she decided she was going to do F1, I reckon the team would stand a decent chance of raising the €50 million budget it reckons to need to run a 100-strong operation.
There is talk of the team using Windshear's recently-opened wind tunnel in Concord, North Carolina, which is a rolling road tunnel capable of testing cars up to 180mph, the first of its kind in North America. And, potentially, a Spanish HQ at the base of the Epsilon Euskadi team.
Of course, it will all prompt further discussion about whether Patrick could be competitive enough to run seriously in F1. It would certainly be interesting to find out. Courage is evidently not an issue if you have witnessed some of Danica's IRL races and, at 26, it is probably exactly the right time for her to have a go if she feels like it.
After all, surely there's only so long that you want to run wheel-to-wheel at 220mph plus bordered by concrete, no matter how brave. Go for it, Danica. And don't worry if you don't score too many points, you'll be able to afford your licence!
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