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Ben Sulayem: We are running an 11th team already because of Hollywood

Ben Sulayem: We are running an 11th team already because of Hollywood

Ben Sulayem: We are running an 11th team already because of Hollywood

FIA President, Mohammed Ben Sulayem, played down logistical concerns if an extra team joins Formula 1, referring to APX GP, the fictional team from Brad Pitt’s latest Hollywood movie.

The FIA launched a tender process earlier in 2023 to accept new teams into F1, a step that wasn’t appreciated by Formula 1 management as well as the existing ten teams.

However Ben Sulayem was undeterred and pressed on with the process, with the FIA now in the process of evaluation applications from several teams – Andretti-Cadillac and Hitech, Formula Equal and LKY SUNZ.

Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali admitted he wasn’t keen on having an extra team while the existing one are unhappy with the prospect of sharing the profits with an extra party. There have always been claims that the F1 tracks might struggle to make an extra pit garage available for a new team.

Speaking exclusively to Motorsport-Total.com, Ben Sulayem explained about his decision to see the tender process through despite the polarity is has caused in F1 circles.

He said: “We have a contract and our contract says we have up to 12 teams. So we are not breaking the rules. We are, on the contrary, fulfilling the rules.

“The FIA as a regulator has to look at all the requests, and we did. The expression of interest was the right thing to do. I know some of the teams are not happy because I can see the financial impact on them.

“Is it adding a team or do they have to buy an existing team? That’s not for me to impose on big teams. But what we have to do is the process, and the due diligence of the financial side and the technical side,” he maintained.

Decision on new F1 team not far away

Andretti Cadillac to outsource power unit

The evaluation process has been ongoing for some time now, and the deadline for a decision has been moved forward several times, and Ben Sulayem revealed there have been five to six applications with only “three of four” being “very serious”.

“We extended it because some of the teams requested some time, and you don’t want to exclude them,” he explained. “You have to be flexible. We are not yet over with it because we have to be very careful with making a decision.

“It’s a big process, and I don’t like to be rushed because the decision has to be very, very clear,” the Emirati insisted.

“Not far away. I think four to six weeks. We need to do it right. We are talking about big investment from people,” was the President’s response after begin asked when a decision will be reached.

“We just have to wait now for the next six weeks to see what is the plan. I have no doubt that FOM will do the right decision. They know what’s better,” he added.

As for the concerns related to the logistics of having an extra team in the F1 paddock, Ben Sulayem referred to APX GP, the fictional F1 team in Brad Pitt’s movie, who have been present in the paddock at Silverstone and the Hungaroring with their own garage while filming was underway.

“We are running an 11th team already because of Hollywood,” he pointed out. “And the tracks have been improving. The FIA is always there with the circuits and looking for constant ways to improve.”

Current F1 circuits can accommodate an extra team

But are the current F1 circuits able to accommodate an extra team, the 61-year-old insisted: “One hundred percent.

“If it is 10, or 11, or 12 [teams], they have to be compliant. Our circuit commission will always be there and they will check and go through the whole process.

“And you can’t have regulations that suit everyone. At the end of the day, if you ask me about the PU [regulations for 2026], was everybody happy? No. But then eventually it went through. Everybody signed, and the new teams signed up as a consequence.

“I can’t break the rules. I am not giving anyone any ideas, but if there is an application and we have enough space for it, we have to look into it,” Ben Sulayem concluded.

The head of F1’s governing body has been the subject much controversy in 2023. When reports that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was willing to pay $20-Billion to buy F1, after which Ben Sulayem warned of giving the sport an inflated value, which didn’t go down well with Liberty Media prompting them to send a legal letter to the FIA objecting to their President’s meddling in the commercial  side of F1.

Furthermore, back in April of 2023, media reports also accused Ben Sulayem of sexism and bullying towards fellow FIA colleagues.