In YouTube's Hurley, Anderson and Windsor found "the perfect partner." He wasn't an F1 obsessive, so he wouldn't meddle, and he bought into the team's business plan, which meant he wasn't fixated on an exit strategy. The deal was done on Valentine's Day at a late-night dinner in Palo Alto, California. Despite Hurley's association with YouTube, the company hasn't come onboard as a sponsor. But the Web site is critical to the team's marketing program.
One of Anderson's first hires was commercial director Jason Markham. A documentary filmmaker, Markham quickly amassed a team of video and computer-graphics wizards rather than MBAs and salesmen. His office looks less like a traditional marketing department than the equipment room of a film company. "I guarantee you no team in motorsports has the assets we have in this room," he says. "Only six weeks of the year are on the racetrack. That leaves the other ten and a half months for us to create our own content."
At the moment, F1 is barely a blip on the American radar. It comes with a lot of elitist baggage, and the demographic of its minute fan base skews middle-aged. Markham hopes to embrace a wider, younger, hipper audience by posting hours of edgy content on YouTube and other Web sites in the hopes of igniting viral marketing phenomena like the Ken Block gymkhana videos. By heightening brand awareness, US F1 can also be a compelling tool for American sponsors looking to penetrate emerging markets.
To a certain degree, of course, US F1 can succeed in the marketplace only if it doesn't embarrass itself on the racetrack. Besides the hurdles faced by any start-up, Anderson is also hamstrung by the fact that a Formula 1 car has to fit within such narrow design parameters that it's hard for any team to gain significant technical advantages. Still, he's got a few tricks up his sleeve.
Refueling has been outlawed for 2010, which means that cars will start races carrying as much as 350 pounds of fuel. In recent years, designers have opted for ultrastiff suspensions to keep cars as low as possible, thereby maximizing downforce. But because the weight and balance of the car will change so dramatically during the course of a race, Anderson has a contrarian strategy. "I'll bet you that we have more shock travel and more suspension travel than anybody else," he says.