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10 junior single-seater teams that tried, and failed, to enter F1

by Ida Wood

Photo: James Black

Andretti Autosport is best known for racing in IndyCar, but it’s also run the last three Indy Lights champions. As it continues its push to enter F1, we look at other junior single-seater outfits that attempted the same

There’s a possibility that an 11th team will join the Formula 1 grid in the coming years, but the championship is seeking a full manufacturer entry such as Audi rather than the all-American racing outfit that is Andretti Autosport.

Headquartered in Indianapolis, Andretti has over 90 IndyCar wins, is one of the big hitters in the Formula E world championship and also races in the groundbreaking Extreme E series with success. Not only that, but it’s finding the racing stars of the future by competing in Indy Lights and running its own driver development programme.

The list of names to have raced for Andretti is simply incredible, and one any F1 team would be envious of. In fact, its current driver roster is one to look up to as well with 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi, former F1 star Romain Grosjean and the record-breaking 22-year-old Colton Herta fronting its IndyCar efforts while in FE it runs the series’ 2021 super rookie Jake Dennis and 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew. Outside of single-seaters, its off-road programme in XE was able to sign Formula Renault Eurocup race-winner and World Rallycross champion Timmy Hansen.

The high-profile figures working in engineering and team management roles for Andretti also is something to boast about, and of course the team was founded and still run by former McLaren F1 driver and 1991 IndyCar champion Michael Andretti.

At the end of the day, however, it’s looking unlikely that Andretti is going to fulfil his F1 team boss dream. And he wouldn’t be the first to create a title-winning team in open-wheel racing that’s achieved everything but make it to single-seaters’ pinnacle. Here’s 10 teams that tried to join F1, and the impressive number of teams’ titles they won elsewhere.

ART Grand Prix
Titles: GP2 (2005, ’06, ’09 & ’15), GP2 Asia (2008), GP3 (2010, ’11, ’12, ’13, ’15 & ’18), F3 Euro Series (’05, ’06, ’07, ’08 & ’09)

Photo: FIA Formula 2 / Jakob Ebrey Photography

ART GP’s roots come from ASM Formule 3, a team founded by Frederic Vasseur that competed in the French Formula 3 championship. He joined forces with Nicolas Todt and rebranded his squad as it moved into GP2 for 2005, and the rest is history.

Through the 2000s it was the team to beat in continental F3 and quite frequently in GP2 too, running Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg to titles in both. Its list of F3 champions also included Romain Grosjean and Jules Bianchi, while in F1’s primary feeder series (which evolved into Formula 2) it made champions of Nico Rosberg, Stoffel Vandoorne, George Russell and Nyck de Vries.

After an uber-successful 2009, ART GP started work on an entry into F1 for the 2011 season. However by summer the financial pressures of both the start-up costs to enter and also those being applied by the global recession meant the French squad withdrew its application to the FIA for a place in F1 and it instead continued its focus on junior single-seater series.

The announcement said ART GP’s F1 “will have to postpone its project until a later date”, but there’s been no pick-up in the decade since and its two lead men have moved on to the F1 paddock in different roles. Vasseur is team principal of Alfa Romeo Racing, while Todt is a driver manager through his All Road Management company.

Super Nova
Titles: Int. F3000 (2000), A1GP (2006-07), Auto GP (2012 & ’13)

Photo: GP2 Series Media Service

In a rather chaotic and comedic interview with Formula Scout, 1990s F1 backmarker Taki Inoue revealed his involvement in the found of the initially Japanese but then Norfolk-based Super Nova team and how it came to conquer the levels below F1.

Its first sniff at the top level was directly linked to Inoue, possibly providing the platform he needed to make his F1 debut, but in partnership with an existing operation in the world championship.

With each year in the 1990s the team grew as a force in International Formula 3000, while also picking up correspondence with struggling F1 entities to see if it could make its way onto the grid. Nothing came to fruition with any of the teams that Super Nova spoke to, and when the FIA opened up F1 to several new teams for 2010 there was strong rumours once again that Norfolk’s finest were interested.

By that point its focus was on keeping its GP2 squad competitive though, as well as racing in the F3000-based Auto GP series. In 2012 the team went global as GP2 absorbed its Asian series into its main F1-supporting championship and Auto GP expanded from its European base to race in Africa, North and South America.

The good times wouldn’t last, and Super Nova ended its time in racing by running the Trulli GP team through the first season of Formula E in 2014-15.

Titles: A1GP (2005-06), GP2 Asia (2008-09 & ’11), Auto GP (2010 & ’11), GP2 (2012 & ’14), FR3.5 (2013 & ’14), F2 (2019)

Photo: DAMS

Under its new ownership led by Charles Pic, an entry into F1 is back on the map for a team that in addition to substantial success in Int. F3000 and the series that succeeded it was also the original pacesetter in FE.

In partnership with Renault, DAMS won three teams’ titles in a row and since partnering with Nissan in 2018 has won two ePrix races. While it did get to race in FE once the series was awarded world championship status, it has recently given up operational responsibility of its FE team to Nissan following a season-and-a-half of poor results.

A very long time before that, DAMS sought to race at a world championship level by designing (with Reynard) a car that it could enter into F1 in 1995. A lack of finances prevented the creation under its own name being raced, and by the time it was being tested on track over a year later it was a redundant design in F1’s fast-paced technical world.

Pic, an F1 driver himself, is also involved in the CAP Racing team which holds similar ambitions of moving up the single-seater latter. But having eggs in multiple baskets, and considerable financial clout too, probably won’t be enough to bring him back into the F1 fraternity – particularly when one of DAMS’ F2 rivals is known to be eyeing up F1 right now too…

iSport International
Titles: GP2 (2007), GP2 Asia (2009-10)

Present from the start of GP2 in 2005, iSport had most of its success with Timo Glock as he won two races in a half-season with the team in 2006 and then won the title in 2007. The team continued winning races until its place on the grid was taken by Russian Time in 2013, but a year later it was back in the series as it became the operation behind the Russian squad.

Its team founder Paul Jackson announced its F1 interest in April 2009 when the FIA revealed the tender process for new teams to join under a £30 million budget cap. But with that budget cap not actually being applied it killed off the bids to join of iSport and many other teams, with former GP2 team Campos Racing ending up as one of the three teams being chosen to race in F1. However Campos, which had sold its top junior single-seater operation to Addax, had its planned ‘Campos Meta’ F1 team collapse pre-season and instead Hispania Racing Team made it onto the grid as a phoenix of Campos.

While iSport only returned to GP2 for the one year, Campos’s own 2014 return continued into the series’ evolution to F2 and it still races there today. What’s more, it’s once again linked to a bid to become F1’s 11th team.

Titles: FR3.5 (2011), GP3 (2014), British F4 (2015, ’16, ’17 & ’20), Indy Lights (’16), F2 (2018)

Photo: LAT Images / British F3 International Series

Trevor Carlin’s eponymous outfit was created in the late 1990s and has actually made it to professional single-seater racing as it ran in IndyCar from 2018 to 2021, and is supporting Juncos Hollinger Racing’s entry this year, while in FE its services were called upon to run the Mahindra team in the championship’s inaugural season.

Back in 2006 it lodged its application to join F1 for 2008, at a time when it was racing in Formula Renault 3.5 (the rival to GP2 in the secondary tier of single-seaters) and British F3 under its own name while running Lebanon’s car in A1GP.

It too hinged its F1 hopes on a reduction of costs being enforced in the championship, but was confident it had the infrastructure required to compete and also that is financial model at the time was sustainable enough to be looked upon by the FIA as suitable to F1.

Ultimately the Carlin to F1 story didn’t go any further than paperwork and factory preparations, with the team not chosen by the FIA. But it’s windtunnel experience and move to America, first in Indy Lights and then in IndyCar where it had to do its own damper development and develop the Dallara DW-12 car, makes it one of the best prepared entities in junior single-seater racing for a present-day step into F1.

Best result in teams’ championships: 3rd in 2003 Int. F3000

Last year Durango ran Enzo Trulli to the Formula 4 United Arab Emirates title in partnership with Cram Motorsport, but its racing focus in the past was usually at the level just below F1 while it occasionally tried to make it into that series too.

Its first serious bid was in 1997, when it had a car designed to support its plans, but months of work went to waste when contracts couldn’t be signed and it returned its focus to Int. F3000. Durango tried again to make it to F1 in 2010 and ’11, with its outlandish bids attracting the support of none other than 1997 F1 world champion Jacques Villeneuve who wanted to put his name on the team.

The FIA said no to the GP2 race-winning outfit, which soon disappeared entirely before reappearing in single-seaters some years later via Il Barone Rampante founder Giuseppe Cipriani (pictured above) in Formula V8 3.5. He scored twice as a single-car entry in the 2016 season, then the team vanished again along with its F1 ambitions.

Epsilon Euskadi
Titles: FR3.5 (2005), FR2.0 Italy Winter Series (2006), FR Eurocup (2007), FR West European Cup (2009)

Photo: Renault Sport / DPPI

There’s a very messy financial story behind Euskadi, which did actually end up manufacturing its own top-class prototype sportscar and had a windtunnel model of its planned 2011 F1 car even though the FIA hadn’t given the team a grid spot.

For 2010 it had also bidded to join and got onto the reserve list, but it wasn’t oversight from the FIA to choose other teams as scandal emerged around the team in the years after. The team founder Joan Villadelprat went to court under allegations of corruption and negligent management of public funding, as his team had received money from the local Basque Country government, and administrators had to take over Euskadi (then known as EPIC Racing).

In addition to its manufacturing capabilities and windtunnel, the team was for a few years a big-hitter in junior single-seaters. It ran Robert Kubica to the 2005 FR3.5 title then claimed two FR Eurocup crowns with Brendon Hartley and Albert Costa before its shaky finances caught up with it.

BCN Competicion
Best result in teams’ championships: 2nd in 2004 Int. F3000

Photo: GP2 Series Media Service

Another Spanish outfit, BCN was harbouring F1 ambitions as far back as 2004 but it wasn’t until the FIA’s opening of an application process in 2006 to join the grid two years after that did the team commit to F1 as an idea.

Unlike many on this list, it actually found success hard to come by in the junior single-seater series it competed in – namely Int. F3000, GP2 and Spanish F4, but its boss Enrique Scalabroni was always thinking big and in 2004 there was an opportunity to be best of the rest behind the dominant Vitantonio Liuzzi in F3000 and BCN driver Enrico Toccacelo took it, winning one race and coming second in the points.

When the next bidding process to join the F1 grid came about ahead of 2010, BCN was out of contention as it had sold to former F1 driver Tiago Monteiro, relocated to Portugal and become Ocean Racing Technology. He described the team as “under construction” when he purchased it late in 2008, which is no position to be in for a wannabe F1 entrant if it’s already racing in GP2. In its four years as Ocean, the team won two GP2 races and also spent a year in GP3.

Shannon Racing
Best result in teams’ championships: 10th in 1996 Int. F3000

Irish-registered and Italian-funded, Shannon rocked up to F3000 in 1996 by buying out the Danielson team and entering the first two rounds with future sportscar legend Tom Kristensen and Italian F3 champion Luca Rangoni.

Kristensen did both the Nurburgring race and the Pau Grand Prix with the team, taking pole but retiring in the latter, while Rangoni only did round two in Pau and finished sixth in what would be his sole appearance of the season.

At the same time, Shannon was getting its fingers into F1 by buying into the struggling Forti Corse team which was frequently failing to qualify for races. But by the second half of the season there was no Forti F1 team left and instead a big argument over Shannon’s involvement in its downfall and ownership status of the Italian brand as founder Guido Forti had tried to take back control from an organisation that now had major fraud allegations against it.

All the while there was a Shannon presence in Italian F3 (although not as a team entry as it were in F3000), and then an attempt to get into F1 under its own name after the Forti chapter had been closed legally and financially. It failed.


Photo: Readro

A part-time British F3 entrant in 2008 with its own car, although one admittedly it had not designed itself but rather bought from the people who conceived it, Litespeed was early to the mark in announcing its interest in joining F1 in 2010 and its bid actually attracted some serious attention.

Its four weekends in British F3’s National Class in its rookie season resulted in a best overall finish of 16th and a class podium, while in 2009 it ran the full campaign with one car and had a second do three events. Full-time entrant Victor Correa claimed a National Class win by coming 12th in race one at Hockenheim, while one-off team-mate Aaron Steele got a class podium in 16th place at Snetterton. Litespeed also supported Jay Bridger in the top class, and he had a best result of seventh.

Former F1 technical director Mike Gascoyne supported its F1 bid, and its car design was touted as going to be ready by the time the FIA made its decision in June 2009 on who would be joining the grid. What occurred instead by that date was Litespeed made public its plan to race under the name of a fellow Norfolk-based brand, Lotus, and later on Malaysian backing turned that pipedream into a reality. So while the infrastructure of Litespeed’s bid was effectively given approval by the FIA, it was in fact much like Campos’s collapsed plans as it was ‘Lotus Racing’ that was racing in 2010 instead.