Bernie Ecclestone used to say ‘join F1 as a billionaire and leave a millionaire’ yet over the years many have tried with varying degrees of success. What can be said of the latest rumoured F1 team owners is Formula One – whatever the cost – is hardly likely to break their bank.
The FIA is currently evaluating four potential new F1 teams under its “Expression of Interest (EoI)” process. The most well known of these applications is the Andretti Racing Corporation who have made it clear for some time they are keen to enter the sport.
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One of the lesser known applicants is Craig Pollock who brought Jacques Villeneuve into CART and Formula One before founding the BAR team which was formally known as Tyrrell.
BAR over the years morphed into Honda, then Brawn and is operated now as Mercedes AMG F1 from the same location as Pollock’s BAR.
Pollock’s company is shrouded in secrecy though his LinkedIn entry has him listed as CEO of a “stealth mode startup” founded in 2018 and a known associate of his lists this as “Formula Equal.”
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Pollock’s project meets EDI criteria
F1 writer Joe Saward believes the company was founded to deliver a team entry to F1 in 2022 when the FIA had originally scheduled a next big regulation changes. However the $200m entrance (anti-dilution) fee was apparently hard to come by.
The FIA’s criteria for the EoI process required both consideration of “sustainability” together with “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)” and “societal benefit.”
Whilst considered a little ‘left field’ at the time, the EDI requirement is clearly a perfect fit for Pollocks agenda which is supposed to promote a 50/50 gender split amongst the employees of the new team.
“Gulf country” set to back new F1 team
In a recent interview with CNN Pollock admitted to being “in intense discussions with I would just say a Gulf area country.”
“I’m not really in the position to talk about that and be fully open about it at this present time – that will come out in the very near future. And I just hope it’s going to work because it does take a lot of money.”
Pollock clearly believes he is creating a revolutionary concept with Formula Equal, particularly by basing it in a country not well known for its rights on equality.
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“Obviously that [project] is linked to equality, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability. This is not a question of me going to them [the Gulf state],” he said.
“This has to be built from the bottom up in a Gulf state and this is what we are aiming to do. This is a long-term project – this is not short-term,” Pollock adds.
In a fairly astonishing final claim, Formula Equal’s founder reveals, “In reality, it’s them [a Gulf state] having come to us because we have a turnkey operation with the business plan, with all the costings, with everything ready to go.”
Saudi previously declared interest in F1 team
The Saudi wealth fund currently has investments in McLaren and is the second largest shareholder in the Aston Martin Group together with being an official F1 partner.
Recent rumours suggested the fund made an offer to Liberty Media to buy Formula One in a deal believed to be close to $20bn, though F1 officials denied the sport was for sale.
Back in January, Prince Khalid who presides over the Saudi Motorsport Federation revealed, “we have a 20-year programme that hopefully will launch at the end of 2023, early 2024.”
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Our aim is not just to host international events, we want to be involved more.
“We want to have engineers, we want to have mechanics, we want to build cars, we want to be creative.
“We are investing a lot in infrastructures, in building tracks in Saudi Arabia. We want to build academies so we can be more involved – Saudi teams with Saudi drivers or other drivers to race in Saudi teams.”
Prince Khalid admits ongoing project
At the recent Saudi GP in Jeddah rumours swirled linking Pollock and his project with the Prince.
When asked how it was progressing, Prince Khalid replied, “It’s still in the very early stages.”
“There are lots of feasibility studies, there’s a lot of things we still need to do and consider. Now things are a lot easier to enter Formula 1, but there’s a lot to do before we take the final decision.”
Entry after 2025 “cost a lot more”
The project is clearly part of the FIA’s current EoI given Khalid’s additional comments.
“Hopefully we can sort a lot of things soon and not later, because to enter Formula 1 later will cost a lot more.”
One reason for Andretti pushing hard to join Formula One before 2026 is that under the current Concorde agreement the new entrant (anti dilution) fee is set at $200m.
EDI project would change Saudi culture
Negotiations begin in 2025 for the next Concorde agreement where it is widely expected to be upwards of $600m. Clearly Prince Khalid is aware of this too from his reference that “later will cost a lot more.”
Racing365 questioned Khalid over how the EDI aspect of an F1 project would sit the Saudi rulers, but received the equivalent of a “no comment” response.
“It is too early to go into these kind of details,” replied Prince Khalid.
With most things Saudi Arabian its the blessing of the Royal family that is the final seal of approval. Yet Khalid and his family will first have to wait for the FIA to rubber stamp the project before their hope of owning an F1 team can become a reality.
Applications under the ‘Expression of Interest’ process close on April 30th, with final rulings from the FIA expected by June 30th 2023.
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