Formula One is soon to resume track action for the 2023 season and while the excitement of seeing the new cars in competition will be compelling, there’s an equally fascinating back story set to run for the first half of the year.
The FIA has set in motion a process to evaluate the applications of new entrants to Formula One with fairly tight deadlines. The new teams’ proposals must be registered with the FIA by April 30th and a response has been slated for June 30th.
FIA welcome the Andretti – Cadillac application to F1
Mohammed Ben Sulayem who presides over F1’s regulatory body has made it plain he welcomes the idea of more teams on the F1 grid.
He even tweeted, “It is surprising that there has been some adverse reaction to the Cadillac and Andretti news.”
“The FIA has accepted smaller, successful organisations [Namely Haas F1] in recent years. We should be encouraging prospective F1 entries from global manufacturers like GM and thoroughbred racers like Andretti and others.
“Interest from teams in growth markets adds diversity and broadens F1’s appeal.”
Brundle: ‘Small’ grid “not enough of a show”
Martin Brundle speaking on a Sky broadcast there his weight behind the FIA’s efforts.
“I think 24 cars will be great personally,” said the ex-F1 driver.
“We’ve got 29 races this season, 23 grands prix and six sprint races with 20 cars on the grid. I don’t think it’s quite enough of a show, personally, and [a missed] opportunity.”
The opposition to more F1 competitors by the teams appears to be out of step with the opinion of the fans and the F1 pundits alike.
Vocal opposition to new F1 teams now building
Whilst there was no immediate response from the teams or F1 to Ben Sulayem’s tweet, vocal opposition is beginning to build momentum with the season’s opener close at hand.
Christian Horner addressed the topic this week suggesting Andretti look at the tried and tested route to the F1 grid of buying a smaller Formula team. He cited the Stewart-Ford, Jaguar to Red Bull journey yet this assumes that either Williams or Haas is up for sale.
The Red Bull boss did concede, “There’s absolutely nothing against Andretti, they’re great people and Cadillac is a wonderful brand, but we need to come up with a criteria for 2026 that doesn’t diminish the value of, particularly, the smaller teams, and deals with the elephant in the room of: who is actually going to pay for it?
Horner: “compromises need to be made”
“In terms of a new entrant, putting down a down-payment that doesn’t devalue the 10th franchise, and at the same time, Liberty and the teams accepting that inevitably compromises need to be made.
Gunther Steiner was interviewed by Sky yesterday and he too addressed the 11th and 12th team proposals. The Haas boss dismissed out of hand that there was any appetite amongst the teams for this proposal.
“It is not for me to decide, it’s for the FOM and the FIA because they’re managing the business side of F1. But there is no upside at the moment for an 11th team to come for the other teams. There is just risk, no benefit,” said the Haas team boss.
Steiner’s arguments make no sense.
Steiner cited as ‘risk’ a downturn in the economy which would see the smaller teams struggling. However, there has been a global inflation crisis for most of the past year and yet the F1 teams are in rude health.
Formula One’s CEO has now waded into the debate and does not mince his words on the Andretti application. In an interview to be aired in full on Sunday, Stefano Dominicali tells Sky F1, “First of all, we are very welcoming of everyone that is bringing value to the racing.”
“I think we need to respect everyone. There are teams like Mario and Michael Andretti being very vocal about their will to enter Formula 1. But in my view [it is] not smart to say that teams are greedy.
Dominicali scolds Andretti approach
“There are others that are much less vocal that would like to come into Formula 1, so there is a process to respect and we will make sure together with the FIA that the process will be respected.”
Dominicali is frank about Andretti’s behaviour and that he has discussed this with them “very openly”, telling them “I would have acted in a different way”.
“It may seem this is a personal negative attack on Andretti but this is not the case. We need to be serious and professional in evaluating all the elements.”
New F1 teams always cause a fuss
There’s always a fuss kicked up when an 11th team wants to join the sport and it was just so when Haas applied to be the 11th team.
Following the collapse of the Marrusia team Haas bought their HQ in Banbury to serve as the European base for operations. They commissioned Dallara to build their chassis and bought everything from Ferrari allowable under the FIA’s listed parts regulations.
Given the team was only registered inn January 2016 as a Formula One competitor Haas were not restricted by testing regulations and did a substantial shakedown of their car in December 2015 ahead of pre-season testing early in January at the Circuit de Catalunya.
Haas F1 approach as Ferrari satellite criticised
Haas approach of establishing a far reaching relationship with Ferrari was met with a mixed response from the paddock. The establishment lauded Haas approach in producing a low cost model which would allow new teams to enter the sport and be quickly competitive.
However, Haas was criticised by the smaller teams who had invested more heavily in their infrastructure and designed and produced a number of components that Haas merely bought in.
Representatives of Williams expressed concern about such a close relationship between manufacturers and satellite constructors which would hand more power to the bigger F1 outfits.
A decade of F1 teams coming and going
Formula One was in a different place back then and in general more accepting of the new Haas F1 team. This was due to a decade of turmoil with teams coming and going almost annually.
In fact whilst Haas F1 joined as the 11th team for the start of the 2016 season, by the end, the last iteration of the three who joined in 2010 had gone bust and so there were just 10 again.
No longer are Ferrari and Mercedes desperate for customer teams given the improvements in F1’s fortunes. Further, the cost cap and incoming engine cost cap doesn’t require them to recoup some of the vast fortunes spent on developing power units.
Red Bull now self sufficient
Red Bull Racing’s commercial director, Nick Stoker, recently claimed the team is now almost entirely funded now by sponsorship. They have almost 40 partners and with Oracle signed up for 5 years at $100m a year so the team is practically self sufficient even before Ford comes on board.
Given the views of the fans and those involved in Formula One who favour an increase in the size of the grid, its likely a deal will be done at some point to allow Andretti and others into the F1 club.
The debate will surely boil down to the price of entry.