Welcome at RacingNews365

Become part of the largest racing community in the United Kingdom. Create your free account now!

  • Share your thoughts and opinions about F1
  • Win fantastic prizes
  • Get access to our premium content
  • Take advantage of more exclusive benefits
Sign in

Plans for new British-based F1 team revealed

With the FIA's Expression of Interest process for new Formula 1 teams well under way, RacingNews365 can reveal that plans for a British-based F2/3 team to enter F1 in 2026 are crystalising. Known as H26, the team have commenced wind tunnel testing.

Formula 1 is a funny (70-year) old business: For all its secrecy, very little remains secret for long. The reason is simple: F1 is a global sport which ultimately relies on a small world centred around an arc running west from Silverstone (Aston Martin) to Brackley (Mercedes) and Banbury (Haas) to Enstone (Alpine) and Wantage (Williams) before heading south to Woking (McLaren) and east to Milton Keynes (Red Bull). Virtually all players are on first-name terms, having variously crossed paths along the way and most are eager to whisper about their successes since they parted ways with Team A to join Team C, with B having been where they worked with XYZ. If they don't spill the beans while at the local hardware shop on (non-race) weekends, their wives surely do so while awaiting the 4pm school bell… Thus, no sooner had we revealed progress made to date by the four candidate teams - including the Saudi-backed Formula Equal hopeful - who plan to enter F1 by 2026 under the FIA's Expression of Interest process, than various sources divulged details about Hitech GP's nascent project.

Hitech building up F1 team

What these sources collectively shared with RacingNews365 about progress made to date by what is code-named H26 is nothing short of astonishing. Indeed, one of our sources indicated that so far advanced is the project that wind tunnel testing is already underway using the former Mercedes (50%) facility situated in Silverstone and currently used by that team's Mercedes Applied Science advanced engineering division. All this makes sense as another source suggested that Hitech is focused on a Mercedes powertrain (PT) partnership, which could see Hitech replace the upwardly mobile Aston Martin Racing operation as the de facto Mercedes 'B' team. Relations between Mercedes F1 CEO Toto Wolff and Aston owner Lawrence Stroll are said to have soured, a situation not aided by the Green Team's current form using the same PT. H26's aerodynamic preparations are understood to be focusing on 2022/23 models to verify data ahead of release of the first 2026 regulations – due in June 2024 as per the FIA's International Sporting Code, which demands that regulations "which affect the balance of performance between automobiles" are formalised at least 18 months before the start of an applicable season. Equally, H26 has commenced design of a F1 chassis based on known crash test and load factors, with side intrusion panel, deformable structure and a roll hoop design allegedly also in process. According to a H26 team member, the plan is to ensure the team are ready to hit the ground running once (if?) the FIA grants the green light once the selection process is complete. Target date is 30 June, although some deadlines, including the closing date for EoIs are said to have slipped, the latter from 30 April to 15 May, 2023. Whatever, said team member was adamant H26 have lodged all registration formalities well ahead of deadline.

Key personnel and facilities

H26 is headed by Dave Greenwood, an ex-Ferrari performance engineer with widespread F1 and WEC experience, with Mark Smith, formerly with Renault, Red Bull Racing and Caterham, as Technical Director. Keith Barclay (also ex-Renault/RBR) is Chief Designer, with James Knapton (various F1 teams) as Head of Vehicle Science. Such folk do not come cheap… The eventual plan is for H26 to operate out of a purpose-built 40-acre campus in Bicester – for which planning permission is said to have been granted. Until the facility is completed, the 60-head-strong H26 operation is working out of two units in Silverstone, namely Hitech's former F2/3 base which became vacant after the feeder series team moved into bespoke facilities in Silverstone. More hires are said to be imminent. Hitech team principal Oliver Oakes (pictured above with George Russell in 2016), world karting champion in 2005, has long eyed a move to the big league, much as Jordan, Williams, McLaren and Stewart (now Red Bull) did: one formula at a time. Hitech was originally funded by Dmitry Mazepin (below) father of one-time F1 driver Nikita; however, sources close to Oakes are adamant the two split, albeit on friendly terms, even before the Ukraine invasion.

Money matters

This, of course, begs the questions: Where does the funding to sustain at least 60 highly qualified (and expensive engineers) for three years come from; how to fund the entire operation going forward until it washes its own face? Wolff recently opined that it now costs about a billion bucks to get a team up and running until it qualifies for prize monies in its own right. Oakes is said to have sourced the requisite backing – one of the backers listed on the team's website is an Emirati oil company – and, while suspicions abound as to the source(s) of Hitech's funding, forget not that the ultimate beneficiary owner(s) of Williams is also secret. Yes, Dorilton Capital owns Williams, but who owns Dorilton? When the BBC in late 2021 wrote in its Frank Williams obituary that Dorilton "is led by [Guernseyman] off-shore banker Peter de Putron" these references were removed post haste. Too close to the truth or totally wide of the mark? Who knows, but the fact remains that the source of the Williams team's funding is secret. Under the circumstances the FIA and F1 would be hard pushed to disqualify H26 on that basis. This leaves the FIA/F1 with the unenviable task of sifting through four candidate teams – Andretti, Formula Equal, H26 and Panthera – all of whom have unique selling points, then decide which, if any, qualify for two vacant slots. Consider this: two Middle East-linked teams, one with a 50/50 gender split and the other working its way up motorsport's team ladder, Andretti/Cadillac which ticks US boxes, plus Asia-linked Panthera. Either way, at least two will have blown enormous sums of cash on their dream of entering F1… RacingNews365 has contacted Hitech and Mercedes F1 for comment.

x
LATEST Shock Alonso announcement followed by huge Aston Martin commitment