FIA president changes tune, tells Andretti ‘to buy another F1 team’

© XPB 

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has shifted his stance on Andretti Cadillac’s F1 project, and now “advises” the American outfit to acquire an existing team on the grid.

Ben Sulayem was personally behind the governing body’s efforts to expand F1’s current field through last year’s ‘Expression of Interest’ application process.

Andretti Cadillac was the only prospective outfit to satisfy the FIA’s stringent criteria in its selection procedure, which led to Michael Andretti’s project receiving a green light to join the grid from the institution.

However, its potential entry into the championship in 2026 was rejected earlier this year by Formula 1 whose ten teams took a dim view to sharing their current prize money fund with an eleventh entity.

But this hasn’t deterred Andretti which is moving ahead with its F1 plans despite its lack of clarity on its future.

In an interview with Reuters last weekend in Monaco, Ben Sulayem stated that he still supports increasing the number of competitors in F1 but acknowledged that quality is more important than quantity.

"I have no doubt FOM [Formula One Management] and [commercial rights holders] Liberty [Media] would love to see other teams as long as they are OEMs [car manufacturers]," Ben Sulayem said at the Monaco Grand Prix.

"I would advise them [Andretti Cadillac] to go and buy another team, not to come as the 11th team.

"I feel that some teams need to be refreshed. What is better? To have 11 teams as a number or 10 and they are strong? I still believe we should have more teams but not any teams. The right teams.

"It's not about the number, it's about the quality."

Ben Sulayem’s new stance is somewhat disingenuous given that no team is currently for sale, with everyone riding out the wave of prosperity that is carrying the sport upwards and onwards, and minimum valuations reaching a billion dollars.

Also, Andretti made a push several years ago to acquire Sauber and came close to completing a deal before the Swiss outfit’s owner, Swedish billionaire Finn Rausing, abruptly ended the negotiations.

But Ben Sulayem insists there are teams that could be considered as takeover targets.

"Without mentioning names, there are teams which are struggling... Struggling with performance, struggling even with management," Ben Sulayem said.

"It's about having the right team, not to lose a chance or an opportunity where someone like GM [General Motors] with a PU [power unit] is coming to Formula 1.

"Imagine the impact. We have three races in America. We have such a huge fan base. But we don't have a proper [U.S.] team.

“I'm so happy to have Ford in [with Red Bull from 2026] but imagine having GM and imagine having American drivers."

As a reminder, a new team’s barrier to entry into Formula 1 includes a $200 million anti-dilution fee, a payment to be distributed between Grand Prix racing’s ten incumbents.

Within the context of the sport’s 2026 Concorde Agreement, the all-important covenant that dictates the commercial and financial terms between F1, its teams and the FIA, there has been talk about boosting the anti-dilution fee to a staggering $600 million!

"We have to have a balance,” said Ben Sulayem. “Is $200 million too low? I believe $600 [million] is something where it is right for the current market.”

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, Liberty Media boss Greg Maffei and Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali on the grid in Miami.

The FIA and Ben Sulayem’s relationship with Formula 1 has been highly conflictive and antagonistic in the past year, but both parties have sought to bury the hatchet and hit the reset button.

Earlier this month, they announced a joint strategic plan to tackle the sport’s future.

"Peace is always good, you can't have all the time unnecessary issues," Ben Sulayem said.

"We both understand that we need to go forward and the only way to go forward is to have much more clarity between us. We are on the same boat regardless and what we want is sustainability of the business.

"We are with FOM when it comes to business. We are the partners and we have to also forget the small things and find a solution how can we address these issues."

Keep up to date with all the F1 news via Facebook and Twitter