The queen mother of all bad ideas

Posted by Iannucci | 2/16/2009 | 16 comments »
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The headline says it all: Patrick eyed for new American F1 team

MADRID -- An American team will be racing in Formula One next year, and IndyCar driver Danica Patrick is a candidate to fill one of the seats.

USF1, which will be unveiled Feb. 24, will have a staff of at least 100, a working budget of $64 million and an aim to put two American drivers on the starting grid. The team is looking at several candidates, including the 26-year-old Patrick.

"She's great. She gets a lot of press," USF1 technical director Ken Anderson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "[Indianapolis Motor Speedway president] Tony George would probably be pretty mad with me if I took her out of the IRL but we'll see.

"I don't know if it's something she wants to do. We'd certainly love to test her and go from there."
OK, before you go off and have a coronary at the prospect of losing the main attraction for the IndyCar series, please have a seat, take a breath, grab a cold towel if necessary, and kindly recall a few things.

1. Mrs Hospethal is still under contract for this season with AGR. Does that mean a $60M F1 team couldn't buy out that contract? No, but $60M does go as far as $50-whatever, which is what would be left to try to buy out that contract. Michael Andretti and Kim Green aren't going to jsut give away a sponsor magnet like her.

2. Danica is no where near the best qualified driver available. She's not bad, but if she actually were on this team then it would prove to be little more than a publicity stunt that would last about one season. Why? Because...

3. Danica Patick Incorporated isn't in the business of appearing like a hopelessly unskilled driver. Mock her all you want for hand puppet shows or photo shoots or always scowling like a sour puss, but as a driver she's still quite capable of racing in the Top 5 at most tracks in the IndyCar series schedule. In F1, for a startup team with a fraction of the budget of other, she'd be lucky to score a Top 10. That's a negative for the Danica brand, and suddenly she's about as marketable as Katherine Legge. (Not a slam againt Ms Legge, just noting I don't see her in Supahbow commercials.)

This Mr Anderson probably isn't an idiot, as evidenced by his mere mentioning of Danicker's name which gets him a million bucks worth of free press. But the key part of the quote was "I don't know if it's something she wants to do," which sounds a lot like he hasn't even spoken to her.

As for the idea of an American F1 team, sure that sounds all fine and dandy. But if I had $60M mysterious dollars available I can't imagine using that to start a racing team that's going to get squashed in a racing series that has nearly zero appeal to the average American sports fan. But I don't have $60 meeeellion dollars, so I'll just play along and cheer for them while race at 2:00 am in Malaysia.

For additional analysis on this subject, check out pressdog, 16th & Georgetown, and IRL-O-Rama.

16 comments

  1. The American Mutt // February 16, 2009 12:02 PM  

    Why not take the sixty million, and oh I don't know...start an ICS team? Exposure isn't the same, but how good is your exposure really going to be getting your ass handed to you in every country you visit?

  2. Too Much Racing // February 16, 2009 1:03 PM  

    Mutt: It seems to work for Force India, with those famous Indian drivers Fisichella and Sutil. F1 viewership has increased by a huge amount from practically nothing - though I grant you the timezones are very different.
    Most fans are smart enough to know the difference between a team and a nation, although you'll always get idiots.

    Jeff, some thoughts on your points..

    1. It's for '10 not '09, although is she under contract next year too? I can't remember.

    2. Heh, since when has that mattered in racing?

    3. I'd agree with you here. They seem very protective and probably rightfully so given all the media attention. She'd be better off driving for McLaren or BMW, that would be fun to see.

    Me? I'd hire Herta and Hunter-Reay right now and have them testing all year.

    But all said and done I'm just an outsider - I'd love to know what your (other) regular readers think.

  3. Anonymous // February 16, 2009 1:07 PM  

    Lost in all the Ryan Hunter-Reay hype is that he had as many top 5 finishes on a road/street course in 2008 as Danica.

    In fact, in the 9 road/street courses races those two have competed against each other the last 2 years, Danica has 3 top 5's to Hunter-Reay's 1.

    So if you guys think RHR is the American F1 savior and Danica is nothing more than a mutt, go ahead. Neither one would have any success in F1, IMO.

  4. AZZO45 // February 16, 2009 3:07 PM  

    USF1's Peter Windsor & Ken Anderson are grabbing FREE PUBLICITY!!! Danica will not be in their F1 effort

    I like her, I root for her, but even she has hinted that she has not been a fan of OVALS disappearing for road & street races. She also passed on AGR's offer to hit the RC's in A1GP this winter.

    The Team USA drivers & Americans like Graham Rahal will be the focus on USF1

  5. AZZO45 // February 16, 2009 3:15 PM  

    TooMuch: I am a huge Bryan Herta fan but he turns 39 this year & that would have him 40 for the 2010 GP season. How many competitive,40 year F1 drivers have run in the last 5-6 years?

    Also, AGR fired BOTH Herta & C. Fittipaldi from the XM Acura/ ALMS P2 effort last year & replaced them with younger & FASTER drivers.

    If Conor Daly kicks a$$ in Star Mazda in '09... I seriously consider tagging him as one potential driver

  6. The SpeedGeek // February 16, 2009 3:21 PM  

    Ask, Pat, and you shall receive. :)

    http://speedgeek.blogspot.com/2009/02/danica-to-f1-yeahor-not.html

  7. pressdog // February 16, 2009 3:29 PM  

    All I can say to Danica is, "Go in peace, my child." She can take her enhanced beaver to F1 and I won't weep. As Jeff mentions, she better be OK with P14.

  8. Demond Sanders // February 16, 2009 5:10 PM  

    Danica = oval driver. End of story.

  9. /sarah Fan // February 16, 2009 6:06 PM  

    I think P14 is being generous.

  10. Sarah Fan // February 16, 2009 6:08 PM  

    Sorry about my misspelled name. I hiccupped in the middle of typing....

  11. THE AMERICAN MUTT // February 16, 2009 10:05 PM  

    Anon,

    What you got against mutts?

  12. Anonymous // February 17, 2009 5:37 AM  

    Mutt,

    Nothing, it was a figure of speech.


    Meanwhile, back in IndyCar land, everybody seems to be buzzing over the all-world Tomas Scheckter making his return to the series.

    Yes, Mr. 2 wins and 18 top 5's in 98 career IRL starts.

  13. Pezzolo // February 17, 2009 10:35 AM  

    i don believe in danica in formula 1!
    i will put your blog in my favorites, if you want read my www.jpezzolo.com

  14. Robert NJ // February 17, 2009 10:55 AM  

    Let's see, who/when was the last successful American F1 star? When was the last time a F1 race ranked in the overnight Neilson ratings? When was the last time you went into any department store and saw any F1 advertising?
    That's why there are no American F1teams. I love F1 more than most, but let's be honest, Danica goes to F1, not one person in America will ever hear her name again with out saying "She used to race Indy right?" Plus, I'd miss the puppet show.

  15. Justin // February 17, 2009 11:34 AM  

    America, f*ck yeah!!!

  16. Anonymous // February 18, 2009 2:35 PM  

    Hey Ianucci, you know you can see a rebroadcast of F1 races at reasonable hours these days. Or DVR it... or somesuch...

    Driver 1: Ryan Hunter-Reay (sorry, I'd love for him to be a Danny Sullivan in IndyCar of today, but until IndyCar deserves good drivers, he should get a job where he can get a job)

    Driver 2: Pat Long (pipe dream, he races zee Cherman cahs now!)

    Real driver 2: Jonathon Summerton

    Kick to the crotch: Scott Speed. Son, you did not accomplish "all you wanted to" in road racing. Get your ass back in Formula 1, and earn a ride with Team USA. Either that or get a ride with an ALMS team or an IndyCar team and BE HAPPY! Of course, when the paychecks come in from NASCAR, I suppose I'd be very happy too.