US F1's headquarters in the States - modest by F1's grandiose standards - isn't the only unique aspect of the team. Anderson, the team principal, and executive VP and sporting director Peter Windsor, best known to most Americans as the longtime grid reporter on Speed's F1 broadcasts, have created a singular business model attuned to current economic realities. Cars will be built in North Carolina but prepped in a satellite race shop in Spain. Turning a profit is a major goal, so US F1 will hold the line on costs. The principal backing comes not from a car manufacturer but from YouTube cofounder Chad Hurley. The new-media marketing effort will focus on slick video, social networking, and product tie-ins rather than conventional PR.
The team's DNA is another surprise. Contrary to expectations, US F1 isn't wrapping itself in the American flag. Team members also hail from New Zealand, Australia, Japan, France, Canada, the Netherlands, Wales, and England. Plenty of them have valuable F1 experience. R&D manager Steve Brown was snagged from Brawn GP, while control-systems manager Frank Dushan Hanisko comes from Renault and operations manager Dave Stubbs enjoyed a long career at Williams. But Anderson also headhunted Americans from homegrown race series. Chief aerodynamicist Eric Warren worked most recently in Sprint Cup. Machine-shop manager Brian Williams has punched tickets from Indianapolis to Dakar. Production director Dave Skog started in Top Fuel. Team manager John Anderson is a legendary figure with two Indy 500 wins to his credit.
By F1 standards, the team's cast of characters is so alien that it might as well have come from outer space. Thanks in part to the Not Invented Here syndrome, US F1 has been hammered by skeptics ever since it debuted last year, most hilariously in satirical computer-animated videos that were a sensation on - wait for it - YouTube. Ken Anderson didn't officially become an entrant until he signed the Concorde Agreement - the constitution governing F1 - last July, and he's been playing catch-up ever since, prompting F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone to declare that he didn't expect US F1 to make the first race of the 2010 season.
Sitting in his office, with engineering drawings of his car spread across his desk and a painting of Gurney in his Spa-winning Eagle on the wall behind him, Anderson blows off the European naysayers. "They're a bit full of themselves over there," he says. "The Brits have done a good job of convincing people that you have to be in England to build a Formula 1 car. The thing that people - especially Americans - don't realize is that ninety-something percent of the technology in Formula 1 comes from the United States through the aerospace industry. I've built cars before. A pound of carbon fiber costs the same whether it's going in a Formula 1 car or a toilet seat. We're going to have a good, strong car that can bang wheels and come out the other side. Will it win races? That'd be a stretch. But it's going to be very competitive."