When we started Brits on Pole, back in August 2007, we gazed upon unimaginable riches as far as F1 was concerned.
We had four UK drivers at four different teams to cover, including Red Bull’s David Coulthard and Super Aguri’s Anthony Davidson in addition to Lewis Hamilton at McLaren and Jenson Button at Honda.
Of course, it couldn’t last.
Super Aguri went bust and a couple of times – with Coulthard hovering for three whole years on the verge of retirement and Honda’s performance so bad and then its future so uncertain – it’s looked like we might be down to just Lewis.
Add to that a paucity of young Brits in reserve roles, in the feeder series GP2 or present in any numbers in teams’ young driver development programmes, and the cupboard was really starting to look quite bare.
Happily, for us and for you, 2010 is shaping up to provide slightly richer pickings.
GP2 is brimming with home-grown talent, and Jenson and Lewis are both now world champions, settling down for a joint season at McLaren. Paul di Resta, DTM star and cousin of IRL champion Dario Franchitti, is knocking on the door at Force India with a reserve drive that is widely tipped to turn into a 2011 race seat.
And recently, out of nowhere, our hopes of a fourth name appearing on the F1 grid from among the drivers we routinely cover were unexpectedly raised – Northern Ireland’s Adam Carroll. This sounded like fantastic news.
Carroll played a blinder in the last full season of A1GP, winning the championship for Team Ireland in a car run by Status GP – the squad now competing in GP3 in partnership with designer Gary Anderson.
He had been heavily trailed as one to watch since sealing the A1GP championship victory at Brands Hatch in May last year, just in time for the entry of several new teams into the F1 championship to provide unparalleled opportunities for getting bums on seats.
It was clear to anyone who gave the matter thought that the 27-year-old deserved a crack at F1, ought to get a crack at F1, and was more than capable of doing well there if he did – but when has any of that ever translated into a seat for anyone?
Initially he looked a good bet for a seat at Manor, but the noises coming from there changed when Virgin bought into the team and there was no place for him. But all is not lost, as a new opportunty has seemingly opened up.
Unfortunately, that potential route into to F1 is one that might cause even hardened fans of the sport, who are accustomed to more drama in the course of a fortnight than their colleagues following other sports can expect in a whole season, to pause in disbelief.
It involves one Tony Teixeira, the South African promoter of – that’s right – A1GP. The series that has proved unable to fulfil its 2009/10 season dates due to, among other reasons, a lack of cash to pay its suppliers. Including the company that transported its cars around the world, which responded by taking possession of said cars.
But that’s a whole different story from Adam Carroll.
Despite A1GP having no money, Teixeira himself still seems to be in a position to invest in motorsport. And when Campos Meta, the new F1 entrant fronted by Adrian Campos, the man who helped launch the careers of Marc Gene and Fernando Alonso, ran into trouble his name began to be mentioned.
Teixeira has not only confirmed that he is in talks with Campos but has added that he sees his involvement in F1 as a kind of crowning achievement to his World Cup of Motorsport, a way of ensuring a seat at motorsport’s top table for its champion.
Who, at the moment, is of course Adam Carroll. And, given the state of A1GP at the moment, he’s unlikely to have to hand back the silverware for at least a year or two.
Speaking honestly, now. This sounds so daft that if you were a school teacher setting your kids an essay for a creative writing assignment, and one came up with something like this, you’d slap them straight into detention so they could painstakingly craft a replacement.
But one of the things that keeps F1 so endlessly absorbing is its ability to produce watertight stories that are far more incredible than this.
The son of Sir Oswald Mosley being accused of re-enacting certain rather controversial wartime scenes with a group of specialist prostitutes? Get out of here.
OK then, did you hear the one about the team boss who picks up the phone to report an act of industrial espionage to the regulatory body and costs his company $100 million? No? How about his rival boss who plots a race win for his his favoured driver by allowing the dopey kid in the other car to crash on a new and largely untried racetrack?
Or maybe you’d prefer the rather more wholesome tale of the seven-time world champion and multiple record-holder who took a massive flier on his reputation to return to the sport at the age of 41, despite a broken neck, still feeling he had things to prove?
The point being that, however incredible Tony Teixeira’s latest venture sounds, it would be unwise to dismiss it too readily on the grounds that it lacks credibility. Far, far stranger things have happened.
And we can’t really make this point better than by quoting Adrian Campos directly, who told BBC Sport recently: “People are saying a lot of stupid things. Some are true and some are not.”
He says he is talking to Tony Teixeira and plans to be on the Bahrain grid with his struggling team, fielding a car for Bruno Senna – and one other lucky driver.
Recently the Campos story has got even more baroque, amidst tales of a Serbian dark horse with an unspecified funding source and no grid slot to his name buying up the Spanish squad’s car from Dallara to prevent the team from competing.
This has been denied by Adrian Campos and Carroll himself is damping down the wilder speculation, including inaccurate reports that he had visited Spain for a test, while saying that he remains hopeful that a Formula One deal might stil prove possible.
He recently told the Portadown Times, the local newspaper of his home town: “I just have to be patient but accept any deal is going to prove a long process. It is a waiting game when it comes to something as major as Formula One so all I can do is sit tight and get ready for the moment when I get that phone call, if it happens at all.
“There are so many factors outside of my control so it is impossible to state one way or another how everything is going to pan out. As much as I remain hopeful that something will happen in Formula One, nothing is done until it is done.
“I accept there will be a lot of speculation but I deal directly with the top people so know exactly how things stand and understand how many pieces need to fall into place before I would be in line for any deal.”
He also mentions the possibility of racing in America, a path profitably pursued by many Brits who have scored F1 near-misses, including former Minardi pilot Justin Wilson. His website is currently in the middle of an off-season revamp, the hallmark of a driver whose plans are not yet finalised.
So the sound advice would seem to be to not get your hopes up too high on his behalf. Trouble is, as fans of British (or indeed Irish) motorsport, it’s hard advice to follow.
We’d like nothing better than to see Carroll in an F1 seat alongside Hamilton, Button and hopefully di Resta too.
And, while we’re on the subject, we’d be quite glad if A1GP does manage to pull itself out of its present mess, field a viable Team GBR and put together a race calendar for 2010/11.
Pie in the sky? Maybe. Like Carroll, we will just have to sit tight, wait, and hope.