Anderson doesn't command much respect from Formula 1 junkies because his F1 exploits were limited to two forgettable years as technical director for the long-forgotten Ligier and Onyx teams. But a closer look at his résumé reveals one of racing's most versatile pioneers. In the early '80s, while working at Fox Racing Shox, he helped bring shock-absorber technology from motocross to off-road racing. Through his association with desert rats Roger and Rick Mears, he then moved to Indy cars. Roger Penske hired him to establish Penske Racing Shocks, and Anderson later designed and built cars at Penske's factory in England. While testing a Penske Indy car at the Williams F1 wind tunnel, Anderson befriended Windsor, who had recently moved from a career in journalism to a job as commercial director for Williams.
Anderson went on to design and build the G Force and Falcon IRL cars and did stints in CART and off-road racing. Windsor, meanwhile, unsuccessfully tried to buy and then create his own F1 teams. Eventually, the two men joined forces to establish CART and IRL programs, but their teams never materialized. In 2006, even as Anderson and Windsor were living an ocean apart, they decided to take a run at forming an American Formula 1 operation. "Without the cell phone and the Internet," Windsor says, "we wouldn't have US F1."
From the 1960s through the 1990s, F1 was dominated by relatively small British constructors that were in the business of building racing cars. But over the past decade, Ford, Renault, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Toyota, and Honda began underwriting F1 teams as marketing tools. Costs skyrocketed to unsustainable levels. "Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to get two cars on the grid was sheer insanity," Anderson says. "It was clear that, if Formula 1 was going to survive, it was going to be with teams whose business was racing. Also, there had to be a limit on the number of teams, which would then give you a proper sports franchise." Eventually, all of the carmakers except Ferrari, Mercedes, and Renault bailed, and spending limits were imposed on the remaining teams from 2010 forward.
Anderson and Windsor wrote a business plan for a low-cost team based in the United States. They approached the obvious suspects - rich American racing enthusiasts - but none of them bit. Although Wall Street investment bankers were intrigued by the sport's global reach, they declined to commit. The sweet spot for the team's fund-raising efforts turned out to be Silicon Valley, where Anderson focused on wealthy entrepreneurs who'd prospered in the region's start-up-happy culture. The problem was that most of them wanted a 51 percent stake in the company, and that was a deal-breaker.