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President of the FIA Mohammed bin Sulayem seen during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022. // Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202201150131 // Usage for editorial use only //
President of the FIA Mohammed bin Sulayem seen during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022. // Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202201150131 // Usage for editorial use only //

Ben Sulayem: We won’t have to go to court over 11th team

President of the FIA Mohammed bin Sulayem seen during the WRC launch at the Hangar 7 in Salzburg, Austria on January 15, 2022. // Joerg Mitter / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202201150131 // Usage for editorial use only //

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem does not believe the looming stand-off between Formula 1 and Andretti Formula Racing, the sport’s 11th entry, will have to be decided in court.

Should his well-founded and super-serious application be blocked, despite the rubber-stamp of approval by the FIA, F1’s governing body, it has been reported multiple times that Michael Andretti will trigger an “army of lawyers” to challenge the decision.

It is well documented that the existing ten F1 teams are circling the wagons and have convinced their former F1 team principal colleague, Stefano Domenicali to sing their tune to the Liberty Media board that the whole Team 11 concept is a bad idea.

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It is widely known that most F1 fans, pundits, media and drivers including seven-time F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton spoke for many when he said: “I’ve always felt there weren’t enough cars on the grid. There definitely will be people who won’t be happy for me to be so supportive of it but I think it’s great.

“It’s an opportunity for more jobs, another two seats available for a potential female driver to come through. It opens up more possibilities and I think it would be exciting,” Hamilton told reporters at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Current King of F1, Verstappen agrees and values the Andretti bid: “Everything I’ve seen so far, plus the partners they have and the name, they have shown that they are a professional team. So it would be I think nice because it gives more opportunities for the driver’s side.”

But drivers and F1 fans, have little clout and are often ignored by F1 powerbrokers, and certainly seldom consulted about matters that affect the future of their sport.

Ben Sulayem: I read Liberty were approving, saying we would like to have an 11th team

ben sulayem domenicali

However, they have an ally in Ben Sulayem told reporters in Qatar, who seems adamant that no court resolution will be required, suggesting a slam dunk: “No we won’t have to go to court. I don’t think any of us want to go to court.

“Maybe it sounds very exciting and threatening to the media, but it’s like, oooh, it’s very very nice to them. But it will not go to court, I am sure of that. Why should we go to court?” Because Domenicali, F1 and co. are going to block it…

Ben Sulayem explained why he thinks that won’t happen: “There are many aspects to this. First of all, you look at, it as an American, Liberty is an American company. I read that Liberty were approving and they were saying we would like to have an 11th team. And then looking at the share price, that it went up instead of down when we declared it, that’s good for them.

“And thirdly, to say no to an American OEM, it’s very hard. In the country, it’s good for business. If FOM refuses to have the funds, still the team can enter by the way, you know that? But, do you really think it will go that far?

“One thing I would say, is I hope and I trust Stefano. Stefano doesn’t come from only commercial, Stefano comes from the automotive industry and the sport also,” added the FIA chief, passing the buck to Domenicali.

Horner: It’s all about money and it’s very political

Domenicali says no plans to abandon Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Also passing the buck to Domenicali was Red Bull team boss Christian Horner whose comments in Qatar suggest not even teams know which way the decision will sway: “This is a question you should ask Stefano. It’s all about money, and it’s very political. It would help if you asked him what he wants from this sport.”

Now that it’s approval time for Andretti’s bid, the F1 world waits on Domenicali to make the call. And be sure with F1 camping in the Americas for the next month, be sure the question will arise, and arise and arise with nowhere for the F1 Chief to hide.

Whatever the case, it is hard to imagine an outcome where all three four parties are happy with another team, those parties being F1 teams, Liberty Media, Andretti and the FIA. For that to happen a miracle appears to be needed, so massive is the divide.

But Ben Sulayem remains optimistic: “It won’t break it between us. We did not put FOM in a strange position. There was no, none of my people, either me or the FIA, had this intention at all. That’s very clear. Our intention is to add value to the sport and to make an OEM.”