Stefan Grand Prix
|Full Name||Stefan Grand Prix|
|Base|| Cologne, Germany |
Staro Pazova, Serbia
|Team Principal(s)||Zoran Stefanović|
|Technical Director||Mike Coughlan|
Stefan Grand Prix was a Serbian Formula One team that raced between 2010 and 2015. The team was led by enigmatic Serbian businessman Zoran Stefanović whom had tried to enter Formula One at least two occasions before this entry in 2010.
A lifelong fan of the sport and competent racer in his native Yugoslavia, Zoran Stefanović first appeared on the Formula One scene in 1996 when it was announced in Autosport magazine that he had begun to seek investment for a team - but FOM supremo Bernie Ecclestone refused to meet him to discuss terms. Three years later, in 1999, Stefanović was rumoured to be in the running to purchase the MasterCard Lola F1 Team but he was outbid by Irish businessman Martin Birrane.
Stefan Grand Prix was one of the four new teams who received an entry for the 2010 season. An agreement was reached with Toyota, whom had departed from F1 the year before, to take their already-designed 2010 car and engine - rebadging the chassis as the Stefan S-01 and the engine as the Stefan RG-01. The team based their operations out of Toyota Motorsport's Cologne base for their initial season and signed Kazuki Nakajima alongside 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve. The Stefan package was a major success, with Villeneuve scoring two wins over the course of the year on their way to fifth in the Constructor's standings.
Stefan moved their operations to Belgrade and signed an engine deal with Renault in the off-season, with Villeneuve opting to retire once more. Nakajima was promoted into lead driver status with Formula Nippon champion Shinobu Katayama joining the team in the second seat. Katayama and Nakajima had great seasons, taking several podiums throughout the year which were enough to bring the Japanese pair to ninth and tenth in the Driver's standings respectively - with Stefan sat in fifth for a second year running.
Stefan switched to Hyundai engines in 2012 as Katayama was promoted to team leader having bested Nakajima the year before and was joined by Serbian driver Miloš Pavlović in the second seat. The third season was tough for Stefan - and Katayama was fired in favour of Russian driver Vitaly Petrov midway through the year. Petrov did manage a second place in the Canadian Grand Prix but this was not enough to prevent Stefan from being stuck to the bottom of the constructor's table.
Petrov and Pavlović were retained in 2013 and it was looking likely that Stefan were in for another tough season until their car was revealed at Barcelona in pre-season testing. Stefan was one of the fast packages in Spain and many onlookers tipped them for a strong season although some pundits noticed several uncanny similarities between their S-04 and Ferrari's F1310. This discussion continued throughout the whole season as Petrov emerged as an unexpected title contender by racking up eight wins but the FIA were unable to find any real evidence to suggest foul play. Pavlović was replaced by young Russian Mikhail Aleshin midway through the year but neither made much of an impact. Petrov finished the season in second overall - which was also enough to secure Stefan a best ever finish of second in the constructors standings as well.
Petrov left the team to join Brabham in 2014 - which meant Stefan splashed the cash on 2012 World Champion Lewis Hamilton on a two year deal to lead their team alongside Aleshin - the popular Brit also bringing high-profile sponsorship from Adidas to the team. Hamilton and Aleshin unveiled the Mercedes-Benz-engined 2014 challenger at Stefan's brand new "Stefan Technology Park" in Stara Pazova but festivities were embarrassingly cut short when a power cut struck the compound - perhaps an indication of what was to come. Hamilton's aggressive driving style tested the Stefan to its absolute limit which saw the Brit suffer with horrendous reliability. Hamilton only managed a solitary third place whilst Aleshin struggled as well barring a single second place finish. Stefan were back down in ninth place and severely against the ropes.
Stefan kept the same lineup for the 2015 season but there were strong rumours that the team was in extreme debt stemming from the construction of the Stefan Technology Park the year before. Hamilton had reportedly not visited the factory in the off-season because of the mire that the team was in - with the Briton having his seat fitting on the eve of testing in Barcelona. As expected, the S-06 was a complete dog and neither Hamilton or Aleshin were able to extract any real pace from the package - consigning them to stone dead last in the standings. Stefan Grand Prix announced their withdrawal at the end of the 2015 season however Zoran Stefanović has made it a near yearly tradition to express his interest in bringing the team back to the grid ever since.