The chaos at the Formula One Qatar Grand Prix which began after the Friday track sessions over shadowed what should have been the paddock talk of the weekend. In the preceding days the FIA had given Andretti Formula 1 their seal approval to join the F1 grid.
Not a single F1 team responded to the announcement and FOM who manage the commercial rights for Liberty Media issued a one word acknowledgement of the FIA’s decision.
Fan poll 84% in favour of Andretti
“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,” said FOM in a statement.
The main stream media then presumed Andretti would have to wait further to be approved by FOM and the teams, but is this really the case?
Talk of court cases quickly sprung up given the current 10 F1 teams resistance to allowing another team joining the sport.
Sky F1 did a poll amongst their viewers which revealed some 84% of them approved of a new eleventh team and team bosses were ready with their defensive opinions on the FIA’s news.
Logistic issues arise
Christian Horner of Red Bull dredged up the argument there is no room currently for an 11th team at certain venues on the F1 calendar.
“Let’s face it, where would we put them in Zandvoort, for example?” Horner questioned. “So I think there’s some operational issues to overcome as well.
“I think that’s for Liberty and the FIA to get together, come to us with a proposal and then we can all consider it.”
Yet FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is ready for the arguments suggesting operational difficulties. He points to the fact that the teams have facilitated an 11th ‘Holywood’ team this year at a number of race venues as filming for the new F1 movie got under way.
Race promoter must provide for 12 teams
“We can afford having another Hollywood team for God’s sake,” he said.
“The contracts are very clear. We are running now 11 teams for Hollywood. And when they are over [finished filming], at that time, there will be space.”
Ben Sulayem argues the current Concorde agreement allows for 12 teams on the grid and so the venues who wish to host an F1 event must comply with the requirements.
“Most of the contracts are very, very clear. It is safe to be approved and have to have place for 12. It is written.”
“It’s the responsibility of the promoter and the circuit; it’s not our responsibility. We don’t interfere but that’s the rules. The rules are not only implemented by us, the rules are implemented everywhere. By all parties.” concluded the FIA president.
FIA president dismisses legal action
When asked about growing tension between the FIA and FOM together with the potential for a legal battle, Ben Sulayem was adamant.
“This marriage [between FIA and FOM]? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think the Pope of the Vatican can get married 100 times and get divorced. But we will not be divorced,” he told Motorsport.com.
“Yes, the owners might change tomorrow, Liberty Media might sell. But the FIA with Liberty going to court? We will not allow it even. It’s not even for discussion.
“To me, we pick up the phone, we handle things. These small things that go are part of making the sport better.”
Horner: Its about money
The Red Bull boss attempted to be diplomatic when questioned over the resolution required for the current teams to be content with the arrival of another.
“I see this very much as an issue between FIA and Liberty,” Horner told Sky Sports F1. “FIA are the regulator, Liberty are the promoter, and therefore they control the funding of the sport.
“Of course, another team coming in, how is that going to be funded? I think those guys need to get together and come to us with a proposal of what they want.”
Horner tried to argue there could be a roll back of the FIA’s decision by citing the example of how Audi joined Formula One.
No team for Andretti to buy
“I think that when you look at how Audi has come into the sport, they’ve acquired an existing team and an existing franchise, should it be different for the others?
“I think that’s where Liberty and the FIA need to get together and come to us with a collective position. Because you can’t have one rule for one, and another for others,” said Horner.
Yet that ship has sailed, further Andretti claimed no team wanted to sell and none of the 10 indicated they would be interested in doing so either.
So it appears to be just a matter of time before Andretti are formally registered as a Formula One competitor with the FIA.
FIA president says teams have “no power”
Ben Sulayem suggests that in reality Liberty Media are in favour of another American based team and the global brand that is Gerneal Motors as their partner.
“First of all, Liberty is an American company and I read that Liberty were approving, and they were saying we would like to have another team.
“Then, looking at the share price, it went up instead of down when we declared it [the Andretti approval]. That’s good for them.”
So the bottom line it is the current F1 teams who have the problem with Andretti and nobody else, but the notion they have some kind of legal right of veto on the matter was dismissed out of hand by the FIA president.
“But I understand the teams. They have no power over it [the decision to allow Andretti’s entry], but we listen to them because their point is also the money. It is about the money. I mean, let’s not play a game here: it is about the money,” said Ben Sulayem.
Andretti will join whatever the debate
TJ13 noted Andretti could actually compete in F1 without a financial agreement with FOM and provide their own logistical support.
Further, it has been suggested that FOM could snippily refuse to give Andretti paddock passes in an attempt to keep them out of the sport.
“I don’t think refusing a team should be: ‘We will not give you a pass.’ How childish we can be.
“We are in the pinnacle of the sport of F1. We should be serving big teams with OEMs, to bring them in, to sustain motorsport,” concluded Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
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