F1 stance on new teams remains clear as FIA left worried about court battle

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FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem is open to new teams, while F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali has been more hesitant (Image: Getty Images)
FIA president Mohammed ben Sulayem is open to new teams, while F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali has been more hesitant (Image: Getty Images)

Mohammed ben Sulayem admitted prospective new Formula 1 teams could take the FIA to court if their application to join the grid is rejected.

Up to six teams have applied to join F1 through the governing body's expressions of interest process. Submissions from Andretti Autosport, Hitech Grand Prix, Formula Equal and LKY SUNZ are the ones which have been made public.

The FIA has made it clear it is very much open to the idea of one or two new teams joining the grid. Current rules allow for up to 12 teams at any one time, with only 10 in the sport at present.

The governing body has not yet made a decision over which of those submissions meets the requirements for a new team. But even if the FIA approves any of those proposals, there remains plenty of resistance within F1 itself.

Most of the 10 teams are reluctant to accept a smaller slice of the pie to a new entrant hoping to cash in on the F1 boom. And there remains a significant difference of opinion regarding the dilution fee teams would be in line to receive should a new team make it to the grid.

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The existing F1 Concorde Agreement dictates a dilution fee of £156.5m. But that was agreed before the sport became more lucrative and so now a figure closer to £500m would be required just to get some of the existing teams listening.

As for FIA approval, the process has gone on for longer than expected – though decisions are close. "We extended it because some of the teams requested some time, and you don't want to exclude them," FIA president Ben Sulayem told Motorsport-Total.

F1 stance on new teams remains clear as FIA left worried about court battleMichael Andretti is trying to convince F1 team bosses to let him join the grid (AP)

"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.

"[We're] not far away. I think four to six weeks. We need to do it right. We are talking about big investment from people. 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."

And he warned that a legal fight could be on the cards if legitimate entries are denied access to the grid. "What if one of the applying teams take us to court? They can, if we say no to them. It's not about me. I am only implementing the rules."

The Andretti Autosport bid is believed to be among the most credible received by the FIA. As well as being an established motorsport franchise for many years, led by former F1 driver Michael Andretti, the fact carmaker General Motors is on board through its Cadillac brand is especially appealing to Ben Sulayem.

He recently said: ""I'm not breaking [rules] but do we allow anyone to enter? No. But how on earth can we refuse GM? I mean, where's the common sense in this? GM is a heavyweight and when they come with Andretti, that's good for all of us."

And GM will reportedly not be making any other attempts to join the grid if its partnership with Andretti does not bear fruit. "From what I’ve been told, GM has said it's Andretti or nothing for it in F1, and if its bid is snubbed it won't be coming back," wrote experienced paddock journalist Chris Medland for RACER.

Daniel Moxon

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