The defeat of Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, in the country’s presidential election over the weekend appears to be a major blow to the ambitions of the Forza Rossa F1 project, that was aiming to enter the sport in 2015. The project, which was supported by Ponta’s government, has been very quiet since the summer, largely because of the messy election campaign, where a government-funded racing team might have caused unnecessary controversy.
Before the elections began in September, however, there was speculation that the purchase of Caterham F1 by new investors might have been related to the Romanian team. Recent investigations indicate that there was a connection, but not as obvious as was being suggested. From what we understand from Romania, the plan was for the new team to race with cars built for it by an independent entity called CF1 Manufacturing, under the leadership of John Iley. The company would not have used the Caterham base at Leafield but rather a different facility, into which much of the Caterham machinery and staff would have been transferred. The team itself would have been a separate entity.
The cars would have presumably started out as Caterhams because changing chassis names is not easy, although some teams these days do not call the cars after the team but rather use initials to make it easier to transfer ownership of the team later on. The Red Bull cars and those of Toro Rosso are actually known as RBRs and STRs but they are cleverly publicised as being Red Bulls and Toro Rossos. Thus, while 1MRT might have become Romanian-owned (as this entity held the entry), operations would have been run by independent companies, run by the buyers of Caterham. This is why they embarked on the purchase, as there was a clear business plan behind the idea. The Romanian government would thus only have had to provide funding and sponsorship. This would have been a neat way to get hold of an entry, and a modern chassis without having to build all the necessary infrastructure and without having to pay a vast non-refundable deposit to the FIA in order to lodge an entry.
The takeover of Caterham by the Administrators and the seizure of equipment was controversial some equipment and staff belonged to CSL and some to 1MRT. This explains why when bailiffs seized some equipment they were not allowed to auction it.
The fact that the man who was going to be supporting the idea has now lost the election suggests that the project will probably disappear.
However there is clearly scope for legal actions between the buyers and the previous owners and these might perhaps also involve the administrators, as there are questions not only over the sale terms, but also over who owned what assets, including the 2015 car design.
The Romanian project was being led by former health minister Ion Bazac, who is also the country’s Ferrari importer under the Forza Rossa banner, although the engines would have been supplied by Renault.
Ponta will stay on as prime minister for the moment, but the new President Klaus Iohannis will then appoint his own choice, which must be accepted by Parliament.