The existing teams on the grid have almost without exception spoken out against the notion of any additional entrants to the current Formula One grid of 10 teams and 20 cars.
A variety of reasons/excuses have been given for why the exclusive club in the fast growing world of F1 should not allow any new members.
Andretti tried to buy F1 team
The most recent given by Toto Wolff before the British Grand Prix was that anyone wishing to join the sport should “buy a team.”
The FIA is currently running a process to evaluate five teams which have expressed an interest in joining Formula One which includes the controversial Andretti Motor Racing Group.
Michael Andretti now claims he has exhaustively tried to follow Wolff’s suggestion. Speaking to Racefans he reveals, “We’ve been to every single team. They keep saying ‘buy a team’, and nobody wants to sell!
The most recent team to sell has been Sauber, although their future is more of a merger with Audi taking the majority stake as they prepare for their entry into Formula One in 2026.
Mario criticises F1 submissiveness
“You go there, and they’re not even interested in talking. I’ve been there, done that,” Andretti adds.
Andretti upset a number of senior paddock members last summer when he accused them of small mindedness and only seeing their immediate “self interest.”
He also accused the commercial rights owners Liberty Media of now towing too much to the current F1 teams.
“It would be different with Bernie (Ecclestone),” he added. “Liberty gives the teams too much say.”
Wolff questions Andretti credibility
Toto Wolff publicly criticised the Andretti outfit suggesting they had no idea what it took to launch a successful Formula One team, but motor racing icon Mario Andretti called out the mercedes boss for a lack of respect.
“Toto Wolff spoke very openly about our credibility,” the 82-year-old told Auto Motor und Sport.
“I find the public criticism very disrespectful because we have been active in motorsport for much longer than he has. I respect his success so far but he has no reason to look down on us,” added Andretti.
Having been criticised by Andretti for failing to consider the bigger picture, Liberty Medias F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali appears to have softened his position and is prepared to wait and see the outcome of the FIA’s application process.
F1 CEO has a change of heart
“I would say let’s wait and see. My ‘no’ is not against someone wants to come in, I need to clarify that because otherwise it seems that I want to be protectionist, that is not the case.
“I want to see the right one and I need to also respect the ones that have invested in F1 in the last period, because we forget too quickly the respect.
Having locked horns at the start of the year with Domenicali, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem too appears to be open to consensus on any proposed new F1 entrant.
He stated during the British Grand Prix, “we have been working with FOM and with Stefano Domenicali [Formula 1 CEO]. That’s very important to do due diligence.
New team announcement delayed
“And they realise that the FIA is also one of the main partners in that. And we both agree that having a team or a new team… we cannot really force big teams to say yes or no. It’s up to them.”
The FIA were set to announce the findings of their application process at the end of June, but due to the requirement for further information this has been delayed.
However, the signs are clear that Ben Sulayem is preparing the way for an announcement that is positive for Andretti and maybe up to two other new teams, as the current Concorde agreement allows for a maximum of thirteen competitors in Formula One.
When questioned in Silverstone by the Associated Press, the FIA president was crystal clear in his message:
FIA cannot “refuse General Motors”
“People have to understand we are here to promote motorsport and we are here to be fair. The Expressions of Interest process is very robust and there is no circumstance where we can deny any teams if they fulfil the criteria to enter.
“So imagine me saying no to someone like GM? We have in the regulations that we can go up to 12 teams. I’m not breaking (rules). But do we allow anyone to enter? No.
“But how on earth can we refuse GM? I mean, where’s the common sense in this? GM is a heavyweight and when they come with Andretti, that’s good for all of us.”
Liberty huge shift in attitude
Andretti late last season signed an agreement to partner with General Motors brand Cadillac in their Formula One project. This appears to have been the key to their application now becoming difficult to refuse.
Further, Liberty Media’s CEO Greg Maffei had a recent change of heart now claiming an expansion of the F1 grid would be welcome particularly if it involved an American manufacturer.
Prior to this Liberty Media and F1’s CEO Domenicali had been opposed to an 11th or 12th team on the grounds it would dilute the value of the other teams.
FIA laid ground for Andretti
“I think in the right set of circumstances we would work to get the 11th team,” Maffei said before th eAustrian Grand Prix.
“Somebody who could bring a lot of value to the sport, a lot of value to the fans, because of their position in technology, their position as an OEM (original engine manufacturer), their position in marketing – some combination of all that – you could imagine coming to some kind of an agreement.”
“But it’s not without controversy, certainly among the 10 teams,” admits the boss of the commercial rights holder.
Clearly the FIA and Liberty Media are now laying the ground for the big announcement which may be imminent that Andretti Motorsport will be joining Formula One.
$200m or $600m?
The bun fight yet to be concluded is how much will Andretti have to pay to the existing teams. There is a clause in the current Concorde agreement that provides for an anti dilution fee of $200m to be made by any new entrant to the rest of the existing teams.
Yet despite the ink on the agreement being less than two years old, the teams now believe the fee should be more like $600m in line with a recent NHL franchise startup joining fee.
Andretti say they will be ready to join Formula One in 2025 year before the next Concorde agreement will be signed and a year before the $200m anti dilution fee becomes rather more expensive.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 11, 2023