The controversial matter of an 11th team in Formula 1, which captured many headlines, went quiet of late but is still in process and while it seems likely there will be another team on the grid, the current ten are circling the wagons for a fight against it.
Andretti Global with Cadillac (GM) and the Hitech Global Holdings, project headed by Oliver Oakes and Kazakh businessman Vladimir Kim, are reportedly being considered for one, and possibly two slots on the F1 grid. Although two seems highly unlikely.
Whatever the case, the FIA has the final say on whether F1 gets another team or two or not. However, there is a caveat, in that Formula 1 (aka Liberty Media) needs to first approve the concept. In other words, if they reject it, FIA have nothing to approve. Initially, it needs to be a YES from Stefano Domemeicali on behalf of the owners (Liberty Media) before FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem ratifies it with a YES too.
If there is a deadlock right now, perhaps it is because Domenicali is still lobbying to keep it to ten at the behest of the current F1 teams while Ben Sulayem, who opened up the bidding process, asked the question: “How can we refuse GM?” Backers of the Andretti project.
What should be a simple case of a reputable manufacturer or racing team applying for an F1 entry by passing all the stringent due diligence elements the FIA requires – including allocating lots and lots of money to the plan, as well as having the right infrastructure, plus pedigree, of course, bring value etc. and also paying the $200-miliion entry fee, all to get a garage for their two cars at each Grand Prix – but it is not that simple anymore it appears. Hence explaining the lethargic process.
This contrasts vastly with two decades ago when many of the same F1 team bosses who are now the Nay-men in chief, saw no problem allowing three new outfits into the paddock – HRT, Marussia and Lotus/Caterham.
They were doomed to fail, but in those days Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault (engine suppliers) bled them dry until the projects fizzled away. Failures, riddled in debt. At the time there was no palaver from the team bosses about accepting the three new F1 teams.
Wolff: I would hope that Ben Sulayem and Domenicali will make the right decisions
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, who sat in those meetings 20 years ago to okay those three unfortunate F1 teams, updated reporters in Singapore last week on the 11th team debate: “I think why Formula 1, and the team. have survived in the last years is because we all stuck together – the FIA, FOM and the 10 teams.
“We need to protect the sport, we are holding this sensitive sport that’s growing at the moment in our hands and that’s why the right decisions need to be taken, all of us together when it comes to – let’s say – a mindset and then obviously the FIA and FOM, when it comes to these decisions because it’s out of the teams’ hands.
“But I would hope that Mohammed Ben Sulayem and Stefano will make the right decisions for Formula 1,” added Wolff, who has been the most vocal anti-new team spokesperson, as if asking of Andretti: What do you bring to the party?
A lot, thought Zak Brown not too long ago. The McLaren boss supported the bid by Micahel Andretti from day one, but it appears the American has been herded into the coral lobbying for things to stay the same.
This is what Brown had to say: “I’ve not heard anything new recently. It’s not been spoken about so I think our view’s unchanged and (we’re) just going to wait and see how the process plays out. I think the one thing I would say is the value of a Formula 1 team and an entry, from what it was five years ago is…”
Brown: Just going to wait and see what the FIA and Formula 1 do
This suggests Brown has swayed and won’t be music to Andretti and their partners’ ears: “The sport is worth substantially more so I think that that element needs to be discussed. But beyond that, I’m not sitting on any new information that I hadn’t heard months ago and just going to wait and see what the FIA and Formula 1 do.”
While Hitech is in with a chance of that 11th team entry, the smart money is on Andretti getting the greenlight, should and when it be given. Although in theory, FIA can accept two entries as the agreed limit is 12 teams this appears unlikely. If indeed Michael’s plus GM bid gets accepted, this would mean a second American team on the F1 grid, alongside Haas.
Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 boss, weighed in on the matter of an extra F1 team: “I haven’t heard anything that it was accepted or not accepted. I don’t know and I’m sure Stefano knows how to deal with this in our best interest. We put our faith in FOM to deal with it and as Zak said, the teams are worth now a lot more than when we were deciding the Concorde agreement in 2020.
“[At the time] some teams were struggling to stay in business and were worth basically nothing. So the market has changed, but in the end, I don’t have any news about it so I just wait to hear and then F1 will do the deal for us,” added Steiner.
Should a new team enter the F1 scene, Alpine (aka Renault) would be the Power Unit for the cars, which means of all the current ten stakeholders, Alpine have the most to gain. While their stance was supportive of an 11th team, the team was hit by a revolution and the current scenario at Alpine is confusing, if not dire.
Amid uncertain times at Alpine their ability and willingness to service a new F1 team is unclear
“The other candidate teams have been told to go fly kites instead of racing in F1, but nothing is being said about Andretti. The little birds in the paddock at Marina Bay were saying that Andretti no longer has a valid Renault engine deal. From what I hear no deal has been terminated, but one might have lapsed and has not been renewed.
“Renault has had a clean out of staff (and perhaps ideas as well) and Andretti may no longer fit. It is quite logical for Renault to be more worried about doing better itself, rather than complicating matters with customers.
“Cynics will no doubt suggest that Renault might think that an upgrade to its engine is worth more than a possible customer deal,” writes Saward.
Alunni Bravi: We need to protect our business but rely on the FIA and FOM to make the right decision
All very confusing stuff as Mercedes supplies four teams including their own, three teams are powered by Ferrari PUs, and Honda RBPT takes care of two teams, with Renault supplying engines F1 only to Alpine.
For now, interim Alpine team principal, Alessandro Alunni Bravi, is revealing little while towing the line: “For us, we think that any new team must bring an added value to the entire F1 community and so it needs to be a solid project, not just for five years’ period, but must be a really long term project.
“We are a strong foundation and of course, it needs to recognise any new entry, the value and all the investment that has been made by the current teams. And as Zak and Toto mentioned, the worth of the current teams has grown significantly in the past few years.
“We need to protect our business but we rely on the FIA and FOM to take the right decision. We will be ready to welcome any new teams that have this kind of characteristic. But we need first to also understand what is best for the entire F1 community with a long-term perspective,” explained Alunni Bravi.
The FIA Press Office has been approached for comment and an update on the status of the 11th team application process, as well as a timeline for it to become a reality or not. We will update readers when a reply is received. [Note: Answers to our emails on the matter were never received from the FIA.]