Charlotte, Monday: Workers at the USF1 factory in North Carolina reacted with surprise today as it emerged that the team has disappeared overnight.

Gone: USF1's disappeared factory

In the location where the team’s headquarters had previously been located, there was simply a notice reading, “These premises have been removed following a copyright claim by Formula One Management.”

Rumours have been abundant in recent weeks that USF1 will not make it to the grid in time for this year’s opening Grand Prix in Bahrain; the removal of the team is expected to be a further setback for an outfit that has already been reportedly struggling.

“To be honest we’re quite surprised at this development,” the team’s PR boss Peter Windsor told (other) journalists. “As far as we’re aware FOM have no right to order the removal of any Formula One team. We are looking into the issue but so far we can’t find anyone at FOM to contact.”

FOM, the commercial arm of the Formula One group, has been implicated in the removal of other F1 teams in the past, although no one has ever been quite certain how they achieve it. On occasion they have been known to order the removal of certain components of an F1 team – such as the car, in the case of Prodrive, or the team principal in the case of Renault – but leave the rest, providing a frustrating experience for fans wishing to see an entire team in operation.

“This action is quite unprecedented,” team investor Chad Hurley said. “I can’t think of anyone else who would possibly do anything like this.”