The Panthera team aims to enter F1 in 2026

The Panthera Asia F1 team may not have had the last word and are hoping to get the green light from the FIA ​​and F1 in 2026.

A few years ago [en 2019]Panthera Asia F1 announced its intention to join Formula 1 racing as a new team from the 2022 season. However, the arrival of the Covid 19 pandemic disrupted the team’s plans and it has been four long years since the announcement in 2019. .

Despite the difficulties faced from the beginning of the adventure, Panthera Asia F1 never “give up” and intends to play in the big leagues in Formula 1 in a few years: “It was a roller coaster ride. We could have given up on this project a long time ago, but we believe in it. » Panthera Asia F1 co-founder and director Benjamin Durand announced to our colleagues at Planet F1.

“When you want to create a Formula 1 team, the special challenge is to align all the planets. So when we had the money, the FIA ​​and F1 were not ready because at the time they were renegotiating the Concorde Accord. Therefore, they were not ready to accept a new team until they signed the existing ones. »

“Then we also discussed becoming a technical partner with Renault. They have undergone many management changes in the last five years and this has had a direct impact on our project. »

“Things have turned around for our access [en F1], but the pandemic came and we lost funding. That’s why we had to work again financially. It’s a continuous roller coaster ride. »

The FIA ​​recently announced that an expression of interest process will soon begin for a new team to potentially enter the Formula 1 World Championship. is a clear process.

Although this process is still in its infancy, Benjamin Durand emphasizes that his team has been working with the FIA ​​since the beginning of the project and therefore knows what to expect: “It didn’t make sense to move forward until we secured all other aspects of the project. »

“We know what the process is for Haas [lors de son arrivée en F1 en 2016], and in our discussion with the FIA ​​and the legal team, they told us that they will more or less repeat the same process as before. »

“We need confirmation, that’s what we’re waiting for right now. We were told by the end of the month [de janvier], they will publish exactly what they expect from the teams. But I don’t think we are far from the truth with what we already have. »

“The main things they told us at the time were the financial security of the team, technical and management knowledge and then what we could bring to Formula 1 for the development of the championship. These are the main factors we need to tick the boxes. »

A green light awaits from the FIA ​​and F1

The Panthera team says it is ready to resume operations after receiving the green light from the FIA ​​and F1, whereas before Covid the project was at a very advanced stage.

“Covid stopped everything for us. We started developing the car from the aerodynamic side, then we worked on the new regulations, we did some CFD development and we have some IP. [propriété intellectuelle] about the car, but we stopped. »

“We are ready to continue. We have a few people who are ready to come on board who are basically not yet committed to Formula 1, so they don’t have gardening leave etc…”

“We work with the best recruitment company in London specializing in Formula 1 and motorsport. Therefore, we are confident that we will be able to restart the HR department and the technical department in time. » Durand insists.

At best in F1 in 2026…

If an agreement is reached between the FIA ​​and F1, the Panthera team will not be able to field two single-seaters on the grid before the 2026 season. you have your answer until at least May of this year.

“In a few weeks we will be able to restore the aero department we have. They are about to leave, ready to go. Recruiting our personnel will certainly take more time for the specialists, the pit crew and the people on the track. So it can be a little more difficult, but there are people available. »

“The sad thing about the budget cap is that a lot of people have been laid off. So there are a lot of people. It also gives us time to train people. »

“For example, we are not planning to build a wind tunnel right away. It’s a huge investment that’s not really necessary right now because you’re currently using the wind tunnel half the time, so you can contract with an existing team to share the wind tunnel, or there are blowers available in Europe. that can be used. »

“But it all depends on when you get the answer [pour une entrée en F1], because it’s obvious that no investor is going to put in a lot of money until we have access. But I think this process will take several months and I don’t see a decision before May at best. I think it’s reasonable to assume it will take four to five months to make sure you have the right team(s). »

“So if you start in May, it will be very difficult to be ready by 2025. Better to go to 2026. The good thing with the current rules is that you can buy 70% of the car from another builder. »

Prior agreement with the engine manufacturer

As for the power unit that will be installed in the back of the Panthera, Durand says that a preliminary agreement has already been signed with one of the manufacturers involved in Formula 1, but nothing is set in stone. 2026.

“We’ve spoken to almost everyone in the paddock. We have a preliminary agreement with one of the builders. However, we are also very cautious about the powertrain as we believe there will be six manufacturers in 2026.”

“We are not connected to anyone at the moment, we have a pre-agreement with one of them, but it is only a letter of intent. We are also talking to some manufacturers in Asia who may come to Formula 1 engines at some point, but I don’t think they will partner with us at first, they won’t be ready to build an engine for 2026.”

Realistic goals

If the FIA ​​and F1 approve the project and the Panthera gets the mandate to fit two single-seaters in Formula 1 in 2026, Durand admits it would be “absolutely ridiculous” to aspire to become world champion. from the first season of this small team.

It would be ridiculous for me to say, “Well, we want to come, we want to be champions, and in five years, we’re going to be champions.” No, it’s not real. The goal will be to learn in the beginning […] I think the goals for the first seasons are to be ready, grow, score as many points as you can and not be five seconds behind. »

“We’re not expecting to be five seconds ahead, we’re expecting to be with the others in the second half of the grid, that’s the goal. »

“Then from the first five years, 10 years, etc. then we have to see where we are. What are the next goals? The goal is to grow, not just become a candidate. »

“Furthermore, we believe that we have good opportunities to bring another Asian manufacturer to the championship in the future. That would also be the goal of trying to step up the game. If we ever want to be competitive enough to fight for podiums, we need to have a constructor behind us, because without that, it’s very difficult for the team. , even with the budget limit. »

To read the full interview with Benjamin Durand, click this link which will take you to Planet F1.

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