The FIA has announced it has approved the Andretti Formula One LLC application to join Formula One. In recent weeks TJ13 has reported leaks from the sport’s governing body suggesting Andretti was to be given the green light.
New FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulaymen caused uproar in January this year when he tweeted from his personal account, “I have asked my FIA team to look at launching an Expressions of Interest process for prospective new teams for the FIA F1 World Championship,” read the tweet.
F1 bosses oppose new teams
The immediate response from a number of Formula One bosses was extremely negative as they argued any new team must add value to the current grid.
Despite resistance from the teams and F1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali, the FIA opened expressions of interest from applicants with a number initially taking up the offer. Just four teams moved towards phase two of the process making a full application.
The situation now is unclear as to exactly how F1 will proceed given Andretti has been approved by the sport’s regulator as accepted for meeting the strict criteria laid out.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem says the evaluation of each applicant was extremely detailed and in line with legal requirements, as well as satisfying the governing body’s remit to increase interest in motorsport.
“The FIA was very clear in establishing stringent criteria for entry from the outset of the Expressions of Interest procedure,” Ben Sulayem said. “Our objective, after rigorous due diligence during the application phase, was to only approve prospective entries which satisfied the set criteria and illustrated that they would add value to the sport.
“The FIA is obliged to approve applications that comply with the Expressions of Interests application requirements and we have adhered to that procedure in deciding that Andretti Formula Racing LLC’s application would proceed to the next stage of the application process. In taking that decision, the FIA is acting in accordance with EU directives on motor sport participation and development.
“Andretti Formula Racing LLC was the only entity which fulfills the selection criteria that was set in all material respects. I congratulate Michael Andretti and his team on a thorough submission. I also want to thank all prospective teams for their interest and participation.
“The Expressions of Interest process builds on the positive acceptance of the FIA’s 2026 F1 Power Unit Regulations among existing OEMs which has also attracted further commitment from Audi, Honda and Ford and interest from Porsche and General Motors.
F1 response noncommittal
“I would like to thank all of the FIA team members involved in the Expressions of Interest process for their tireless efforts in ensuring a diligent assessment of all of the applications received.”
A statement from Formula 1 following the FIA’s announcement simply acknowledged the decision.
“We note the FIA’s conclusions in relation to the first and second phases of their process and will now conduct our own assessment of the merits of the remaining application.”
A number of news outlets are reporting the matter will now be subject to approval from F1’s commercial rights holders, though this is not the case. The FIA approval is all that is required and it is for F1 to rework their commercial arrangements to include Andretti.
Teams want to raise entry fee
Formula One’s legal framework which binds the FIA, the teams and Liberty Media set out in 2020 that any new team should pay an anti-dilution fee of $200m. This is to compensate the existing teams for the reduced prize money they would receive when it is apportioned across 11 rather than 10 teams.
Talk of raising the figure to $600m have been reported widely, though until the next Concorde agreement is signed there appears no mechanism to enforce this. The next agreement is due to be signed before the 2026.
Just to add to the impending row which will consume F1 for weeks, Andretti claims it will be ready to take its place on the grid for 2025, before the teams and F1 can raise the fee for joining the sport.
However the waters were muddied when the FIA opened its formal application process because it suggested: “Existing F1 teams will be given priority over new applicants. In the event that no applicant is considered suitable by the FIA and/or by the F1 Commercial Rights Holder, no new F1 team(s) will be selected.”
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem earlier this year raised the possibility that F1 could suffer legal action from an applicant under EU anti-competition legislation should Andretti’s request to join the sport not be considered properly
“What if one of the applying teams take us to court? They can, if we say no to them,” Sulayem remarked.
“It’s not about me. I am only implementing the rules.”
Of course Liberty Media and the teams can make it difficult for Andretti should they wish to. yet precedents have been set previously by the likes of Haas who joined F1 in 2016. The timescale from the approval to Haas starting the season in 2016 is similar to that Andretti now faces to make the grid for 2025.
Haas pulls up draw bridge
As the most recent team to join the Formula One family, Haas has made its position clear and intends to raise the draw bridge behind it. Gunther Steiner claimed this year that he failed to see what any new team could add in terms of value to the current Formula One setup.
“At the moment there is no need for it, and if there is nothing actually valuable to Formula 1 (in adding another team) why would we share the pie with more people? And I think that is almost every team’s opinion about it, it’s FOM opinion about it, if there is no clear advantage to have an 11th team we are good with 10 teams. They are solid, why would we risk the 10 solid teams just to have 11? The sport’s in a good place.”
When it was put to Steiner that another team would mean more opportunities for drivers, engineers, mechanics and so on, he replied: “But you risk other teams and then it could be less again, because it is diluting everything.
“The 10 teams which are here are here a long time. We are the youngest and we’ve been here seven years. You don’t want to be diluted if there’s no upside to it.”