There is nothing short of a war fermenting within Formula One at present. The FIA president and Formula One outsider is pushing all the wrong buttons so far as the teams and the sport’s commercial rights holder are concerned. Having suffered the wrath of the Formula One Group’s (FOG) legal advisors over his comments on the value of Formula One, Mohammed Ben Sulayem is taking on FOG and the teams once again.
TJ13 reported in early January that there appeared to be some tension behind the scenes between the FIA and other F1 parties over the intentions of Andretti who claimed to have signed up General Motors brand Cadillac as their potential 2026 power unit supplier.
F1 teams don’t want Andretti
The teams have pressured FOG to back them in resisting an 11th competitor in the sport due to their prize money being diluted and the entry fee to F1 which mitigates the dilution too small.
Despite there being no reaction from the teams or FOG to Andretti’s claim to have the backing of Cadillac, Ben Sulayem took to twitter venting at the negativity over the potential Andretti/Cadilac F1 hookup.
The FIA has been searching for new power unit manufacturers since before the time Honda withdrew and the team was bought by Brawn in 2009. Bar the return of the Japanese manufacturer to supply McLaren then Red Bull with a new hybrid V6 turbo they have been unsuccessful.
Audi set for F1 entry
Audi have committed to the 2026 project though once again Honda’s appetite for F1 is uncertain.
Having formally opened a rote in January for new entrants to express an interest in joining Formula One, the president of the FIA suggested yesterday that the process may have been successful.
“In a short time, maybe as early as next week, another manufacturer could sign for the 2026 engine regulations,” Ben Sulayem told the German magazine, Auto Motor und Sport.
The FIA president also confirmed “up to now only Andretti” have availed themselves of the FIA’s application process.
Having been threatened by FOG in a legal letter to desist on commentating on matter over which he had no jurisdiction, the FIA president responded in no uncertain terms. It is reported in the German media the FIA president has reminded FOG the team bosses,“The championship is ours, we have only rented it out.”
Formula One Group threatens FIA
The FOG was furious when Ben Sulayem commented he felt the valuation being bandied around in the media of $20bn from potential Saudi buyers was too high for F1. Further, and as the head of the governing body it was his duty to ensure the future of the sport was in safe hands.
FOG duly pointed out to Ben Sulayem in a letter, this was not his remit and he had o power to stop any sale of Formula One.
Whilst this is true to a certain extent, matter may not be a simple as they appear. According to Auto motor und Sport if the rights to Formula One are sold the so called “Don King Clause” could be invoked.
This clause was inserted in the contract between the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone in a 100 year deal to use the intellectual property “Formula One.” However, the FIA appear to have a veto right over a possible change of ownership.
Clearly this is what Ben Sulaymen is referring to when he reminds FOG and the teams that “the championship install ours, we have just rented it out.”