The lowdown on F1's prospective 13th team
Pre-season testing for 2011 is under five months away and the F1 community is still none the wiser as to who will be filling the vacant 13th team slot. Reports suggest a total of 15 teams - the same number of applicants as last year - applied to enter Formula One, but with main favourite ART Grand Prix having withdrawn their entry recently, among others, it leaves just three potential contenders vying for the coveted grid slots.
Both Durango Racing and former world champion Jacques Villeneuve lodged separate applications when the invitation to tender opened at the start of the season, but have since merged into one to create a more viable operation. While having Villeneuve's name above the door will be helpful in attracting sponsors, Durango has shown itself to be far from the ideal candidate in recent years.
Last year, they had to pull the plug on their GP2 operations because of a lack of funding, raising serious questions about their ability to run a Formula One outfit. Nevertheless, they remain optimistic of becoming the 13th team, but with no car development programme in operation and no plans to buy an old chassis, it remains to be seen if they would be able to make the grid in 2011 if they were granted the entry.
Stefan GP is another outfit steeped in controversy. Headed by the enigmatic Zoran Stefanovic, the team has already tried to enter Formula One on three separate occasions - first in 1997, then with their own operation for 2010 and then with Toyota's chassis for 2010 also - but has failed each and every time. The chances of success are equally slim this time around, as the team has neither the money, manpower nor infrastructure to build and run a Formula One car.
Undoubtedly the most impressive candidate of the three, with solid junior category experience and a well-equipped factory ready to welcome the F1 challenge. Viewed as the stand-out favourite to become the 13th team, they have already begun testing scale wind tunnel models of their 2011 car at their Spanish factory, highlighting their intent and ability. If they are able to get the necessary sponsorship portfolio in place, they are the only logical choice for the FIA.
A final decision from the FIA is expected later this month.