A1 Grand Prix (A1GP) was a 'single make' open wheel auto racing series. It was unique in its field in that competitors solely represented their nation as opposed to themselves or a team, the usual format in most formula racing series. As such, it was often promoted as the "World Cup of Motorsport". The series was ratified by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) and races were held in the traditional Formula One off-season, the northern hemisphere winter. The nation-based A1GP concept was founded by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum of Dubai, initially in 2003. After a successful first season of A1GP, it was announced on 29 September 2006 that Maktoum was to sell his position as Chairman & Director of A1GP. The transfer of his share in the organisation of A1 Grand Prix to RAB Capital was finalized in December 2006. Tony Teixeira took control of the series in 2006, leading it to liquidation by 2009. There are currently plans to revive the series.
The nation-based A1GP concept was founded by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum of Dubai, initially in 2003. Once the series had received the backing of the FIA, a management structure including new executive directors Brian Menell and Tony Teixeira were appointed to oversee the sale of franchises for the operation of international teams. Thirty franchises were made available; twenty-three of them were restricted to specified nations, while the other seven were opened to tender for nations that had not been initially targeted.
Twenty-five of the franchises were purchased in time for the 2005–06 A1 Grand Prix season, which began on 25 September 2005 with the A1 Grand Prix of Nations Great Britain at the Brands Hatch circuit in Kent, United Kingdom. The first season was planned for 12 rounds (24 races, with two each weekend); however the cancellation of a race scheduled for Curitiba, Brazil in January 2006 reduced this number to 11. Nelson Piquet, Jr. won the inaugural race of the series for A1 Team Brazil. Their winning form was not to continue. Wins at Estoril and Malaysia saw A1 Team France build up a sizeable gap. By the start of the winter break, France had run away with the lead with A1 Team Switzerland 28 points behind. At the final race of the season in Shanghai, A1 Team France were crowned the first-ever A1 Grand Prix world champions with 172 points. Switzerland were second with 121 points and A1 Team Great Britain third with 97 points.
Changes were made for the 2006–07 season to race durations and distances to improve the spectacle for attendees and TV viewers. The 2006–07 schedule was released on 7 July 2006, with the first race at Circuit Park Zandvoort on 1 October 2006, and the last race at Brands Hatch on 29 April 2007. New teams Team Singapore and Team Greece joined the competition but Team Turkey failed to secure funding for the season. Team Austria, Team Japan, Team Portugal and Team Russia did not return for the second season. However after securing funding Team Portugal competed in the final four rounds of the second season in South Africa, Mexico, China and Britain. Team Germany won it with 128 points, 35 points lead ahead of Team New Zealand.
On 29 September, Sheikh Maktoum announced he was resigning his position as chairman and chief executive of the series, seeking to have his place taken by increased shareholder interests.
|“||I am happy that I have built the series with fans in mind. I feel like I have fulfilled my promise to them by bringing A1GP from concept to reality and am confident that the World Cup of Motorsport will go from strength to strength. Having devoted all my efforts to making A1GP the success it is today, this transaction will allow me to devote more time to my Dubai International Holding Company which currently manages a substantial portfolio of assets and new ventures and which continues to actively pursue other significant investment opportunities.||”|
The 2008–09 season was the first season in which the new "Powered by Ferrari" A1GP car was used. According to 2007-08 champion Neel Jani, 90% of teams in the paddock warned Teixeira ahead of time that this car change was untimely and an inefficient use of funds. Rule changes included shorter qualifying sessions, a pit-stop during the now longer Sprint Race, removal of limits on Friday test drivers, and reduced Sprint Race points scoring.
The opening round of the season, scheduled as part of the already well established Nikon SuperGP race meeting, was cancelled five days before practice was due to begin. With cars and series infrastructure still tied up in London and no comment forthcoming from A1GP, organisers in Australia were forced to announce the series would not appear at what had been a high profile addition to the A1 Grand Prix calendar. The event was underwritten by the Queensland state government, who have mentioned the possibility of taking legal recourse against A1 Grand Prix.
The series was thrown into further doubt as more races were cancelled, with an announcement made on 5 November 2009 stating that the races in China and Malaysia would not be taking place. The last race that was to be held in the season, the Dutch round, was switched for Superleague Formula. This put an end to the hopes the season would start and also put the future of the series in doubt.
Each A1 Grand Prix team represented a nation. Drivers must have the same nationality as the team they drove for. The team car should also represent the country. The team owner, principal and crew, however, did not need to have the same nationality as the team.
Twenty-nine nations started one race in A1GP – as in the table below:
|bold represents an active team in the 2008–09 season|
A1 Grands Prix of Nations took place over a three-day period, from Friday to Sunday. The teams were given five sets of dry weather slick tires, and two sets of wet weather treaded tires per weekend. However, if the weather was extreme, the team could be given more wet weather tires at the expense of the slick tires. The race weekend started with two one-hour practice sessions held on the Friday, and then another on the Saturday morning. A two-hour qualifying session took place on Saturday afternoon, and two races took place on Sunday. Primarily, the three practice sessions were for car setup and track familiarisation before the official competition began with Saturday qualifying. Three different drivers could participate in the three practice sessions; the driver elected for qualifying or for one of the races was required to have taken part in at least one such practice session.
A1 Grand Prix used a unique qualifying format, which began at 14:00 local time on the Saturday of the race weekend, to determine the grid lineup for Sunday's races, the Sprint Race and the Main Race. The qualifying period was split into four, ten-minute sessions. Each car was permitted three laps per session, including the laps required for leaving the pits, and for re-entering it. This allowed one lap to set a competitive time. There was a five-minute break between sessions, which added up to a total of 55 minutes for qualifying. The grid for the Sprint Race was set based on the cars' fastest time from either the first or the second session. The grid for the Feature Race was determined the same way, but using sessions three and four. However, if there was a red flag due to an accident on the circuit, the timing to the end of qualifying continued to run.
The Sprint Race used the grid determined in sessions one and two of the previous day's qualifying session, and was held in the early afternoon. The race began from a rolling start, and its duration was a maximum of 24 minutes plus one additional lap. Additionally, each team had to make one mandatory pit stop between laps four and eight. Drivers were permitted four uses of PowerBoost during the Sprint Race.
|Only the best 9 race weekends count|
The Feature Race used the grid determined in sessions three and four of the previous day's qualifying session, and was held mid-afternoon. The race began from a standing start, and was a race of approximately 180 kilometres, with a maximum time limit of 69 minutes plus one lap. Teams had to make two mandatory pit stops during the Feature Race, one between laps eight and sixteen, and another during a pit window, which was not announced until the first window has closed. Drivers were permitted eight uses of PowerBoost during the Feature Race.
Each team had to complete three compulsory pit stops over the course of the race weekend – one during the Sprint Race, and two during the Feature Race. During the pit stop, all four tires on the car had to be changed. A total of 8 mechanics could be used during the stop, however, only 4 were allowed to 'touch the car', none of which (save the so-called "lollipop man" that directed the car into its pit) could be present in the pit lane before the car came to a complete halt. Refuelling was also not permitted; infringements of these rules or of the pit-lane speed limit resulted in the imposition of a drive-through penalty.
Unlike almost all other forms of auto racing, drivers did not score points individually; instead the points they earn were ascribed to their national team. This means that teams could change drivers between rounds, which was often necessary because some drivers had commitments in other formulae, and still accumulate points to their score.
Points were awarded for the first ten places but the amounts changed during the series' run: 15 for the winner, 12 for second place, 10 for third place, 8 for fourth place, 6 for fifth place, 5 for sixth place, and so on with 4, 3, 2, and one point for tenth place. Points were awarded in a different way for the Sprint Race: 10 for the winner, counting down 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 point for eighth place. In addition, one point was awarded to the team that set the fastest single lap time in either the Sprint or Main Race. Cash prizes were also awarded.
Below is a list of pointscoring systems used to determine the winner of the A1 Grand Prix World Cup of Motorsport since the 2005–06 season. The World Cup of Motorsport was awarded to the A1 Grand Prix team which accumulated the most points over the course of a season.
|2008–09||Sprint||10||8||6||5||4||3||2||1||1||Result of each team's worst race weekend will be dropped|
Chassis and enginesEdit
The A1GP formula provided a single "spec" car for each team. Each car was mechanically identical, built with many technical restrictions designed to limit performance, reduce running costs, and prevent any one or number of teams gaining an advantage through better equipment. This regulation provided a level playing field in which driver skill and team effort should become the primary factor for success.
Specifically, the cars had a carbon fibre monocoque with an aluminium honeycomb core chassis based on the Formula One Ferrari F2004 chassis, riding on control slick tires from Michelin. The 4.5-litre Ferrari/Maserati V8 engine was capable of delivering up to 600 brake horsepower (450 kW) in PowerBoost mode – a mechanism to provide short bursts of increased power to create additional overtaking opportunities and action throughout the race.
2006 A1 Grand Prix incidentEdit
The first Chinese round of the 2006–07 A1GP took place on the streets of Beijing. However, the tight hairpin at the end of the back straight was too tight for the cars to negotiate safely, as it was a 180 degree left turn. Cars were running wide and stopping mid corner; therefore, the sessions were red flagged.
A shorter circuit was created, creating another, less tight hairpin halfway up the straight, bypassing most of the old straight. This corner was still not ideal, as drivers ran wide despite the corner being wider and had to avoid the pitlane entry barrier. It had to suffice, though, as otherwise the race would have been cancelled.
However, another problem arose in qualifying when manhole covers on the roads were coming undone due to the racing cars' high downforce and low ride height. Grid positions were decided based on practice times. Some advertising banners also came loose around the circuit.
It was announced that the races would start behind the safety car, as the first corner was also deemed unsafe.
Both races were uneventful, particularly the Sprint Race, which took place almost entirely behind the safety car after course officials failed to remove a single spun car in a timely fashion.
Chairman Tony Teixeira announced that Italian manufacturer Ferrari will design and build the engines until 2014, and that Ferrari will also be involved in the design of the new chassis for both, however it will not be built by Ferrari.
The Ferrari involvement was intended to ease some of the concerns regarding A1GP's ongoing financial viability, the continued input of existing backers, and the platform's ability to attract sponsors. CEO Pete da Silva reported a loss for the initial season, and yet RAB Capital paid $200 million to the exiting Dubai founder for his 80% stake. Before the 2008–09 "Powered by Ferrari" season was to begin, RAB Capital announced that the A1GP investment had been written down for a third time, this according to Bloomberg. A1 Team Australia boss Alan Jones has since suggested that "it is common knowledge that Mr Teixeira bought RAB Capital out from A1GP" before the current season, yet A1GP prominently displayed RAB Capital branding until A1GP discontinued racing operations in 2009.
Following doubts that the fifth season would go ahead due to financial constraints and reports that engine suppliers Ferrari would pull out over non-payments, chairman of A1 Grand Prix Tony Teixeira announced that the series had secured its long-term future, following a financial restructuring. As part of the restructuring, administration has been applied for the previously liquidated A1 Grand Prix Operations Ltd.
A dispute over the ownership of the series' cars was heard on 18 January 2010 at the High Court of Justice in London, with a judicial decision on 21 January 2010 ruling that the Administrator, Tim Bramston, had won the case with A1 Holdings. The assets were awarded to A1 Grand Prix Operations and therefore Bramston became the Administrator of them. Bramston said he was trying to secure the best price in liquidation and would not rule out a sale to an entity controlled by Teixeira.
While the A1GP liquidators were apparently selling all intellectual property rights along with cars, it is unclear if a buyer was also expected to assume franchise agreements and financial obligations, or if the series and its necessary operating entities could be bought free and clear of any and all claims by Teixeira, Lyndhurst, and RAB. The liquidators appointed GoIndustry DoveBid to handle the sale of the assets, and the liquidators are seeking £10 million for the assets.
If a revival plan for the series could not be agreed with interested investment parties then the A1 Grand Prix assets were to be put up for auction.
On 5 July 2010 Autosport magazine published in its "rumours & speculation" blog that the series, in one form or another, was to be revived for a new 2011–12 season, citing an unidentified source who claims backing from a group of new investors. The season would constitute 18 countries making up the grid and ten race weekends, spread out either side of Christmas 2011, visiting many of the series' previous venues. The series would also run under a new model, similar to the GP2 Series whereby teams are responsible for finding their own funding.
In 2011, rumours surfaced of A1GP's potential return with a new name. The series was to be called the A10 World Series, keeping the A1 from A1GP to signify the continuation of the idea. The series is billed as a Global single seater series with 600BHP V10 engines. A source told Autosport magazine that the A10 World Series will use A1GP's idea of pitting countries against each other. However, the holding company for the series was formally dissolved in 2013.
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- Autosport. 20 January 2011 http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/89003
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