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Canadian, U.S. investors reportedly eyeing F1 team

Published January 30, 2013

Lotus unveiled their 2013 car to great fanfare (if not universal approval) this week and the rest of the F1 teams are on tap to follow suit over the next few days and weeks.

McLaren is up next, and they will roll out the new model today - Thursday – while Ferrari and Force India will follow on Friday.

Here are the rest: Sauber on Saturday, Red Bull on Sunday, Toro Rosso and Mercedes on Monday and Caterham next Tuesday. Williams has scheduled a Feb. 19 launch and while Marussia has not set a date (as of today), it will follow Williams at some point.

Sticking with F1 for a moment, DTM racer Susie Wolff will be doing more with Williams this season, focusing on most of the team’s aerodynamic and simulator work.

And Autosport magazine is reporting that there is a move afoot to resuscitate the Spanish HRT team, which thankfully went out of business at the end of last season. Autosport says Canadian and American investors in something called Scorpion Racing are hoping to get the team back on the grid in time for the 2013 season and have the blessing, allegedly, of one Bernie Ecclestone, although Bernie is now saying they’re probably too late.

I’m curious as to who the Canadian investor, or investors, might be.

Two Canadians have owned teams in Formula One – B.C.’s Walter Wolf back in the 1970s and, more recently, Alex Shnaider of Toronto, who bought Eddie Jordan’s team early in 2005 and unloaded it onto the Spyker Car company about 18 months later. Both Wolf and Shnaider got out while the going was good. Translation: before they lost their shirts.

There are relatively few Canadians with the money required to play in Formula One. And it is a sucker bet to begin with. Don’t believe me? Ask Craig Pollock. Ask Richard Branson. Ask Alex Shnaider.

A lot of people think it’s easy. Back in 2004, I had a column in the Toronto Star in which I wrote the following paragraphs about idealistic people with stars in their eyes who think it’s a dandy idea to try to break into F1:

“When Grand Prix racing came to Canada in August, 1967, eight Formula One manufacturers brought cars: Brabham, Lotus, Cooper, Honda, Ferrari, BRM, Eagle and McLaren.

“It is 38 years later and only two of those famous marques are still in business: Ferrari and McLaren.

“In all that time, untold others have tried to crack the lineup of the most famous, the most demanding and the most expensive auto racing series in the world. None of them ever made it for long. Despite idealism and big promises and big money, lest we forget:

“Matra, March, Surtees, Shadow, Iso, Tecno, Hesketh, Lola, Parnelli, Penske, Hill, Ensign, Ligier, Copersucar, Wolf, ATS, Arrows, Fittipaldi, Alfa Romeo, Theodore, Osella, Toleman, Zakspeed, AGS, Rial, Onyx, Eurobrun, Larousse-Venturi, Larousse alone (didn’t he kill the other guy?), Andrea Moda and Footwork — to name some, but certainly not all.

“Even the Ford Motor Co. — the Ford Motor Co. — had to throw in the towel when it realized its Jaguar team was costing a fortune and going nowhere.

“The manufacturers that lasted — Ferrari, McLaren, Williams — did so because of elbow grease. They proved that the business of auto racing grows from the ground up, over many years. It’s not something that happens at the snap of a finger.”

If HRT does make a comeback, it’ll be gone again before the Canadians and Americans who sink their money into it will know what hit them.

If you do have money to burn in something like F1, wouldn’t it be better to buy in as an associate sponsor of an existing top team (none will ever say no, you know) and get some enjoyment out of it?

It’s a lot better than going bankrupt.

Social note: Ashley Judd and Dario Franchitti are calling it a marriage. I really thought they were forever.

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