FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem is confident Andretti’s bid to join Formula One will be accepted without legal action or a relationship breakdown between the governing body and the championship.
The FIA accepted Andretti’s bid to join the F1 grid in future, most likely in 2026, but Formula One Management (FOM), the sport’s commercial rights holder, needs to agree to a commercial deal with Andretti for the team to be eligible for prize money.
FOM, guided by doubts held by teams and F1 boss Stefano Domenicali about what benefits Andretti would bring to the sport, has been lukewarm to the suggestion of an 11th team.
It has been suggested Andretti, who’s bid includes a partnership with General Motors and Cadillac, might pursue legal action if F1 blocks its entry at this stage, with some pointing to anti-competition laws which exist in the European Union.
Ben Sulyaem has dismissed the idea of it going down a legal route.
“No we won’t have to go to court,” the president told selected media, including ESPN, ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix.
“I don’t think any of us want to go to court. Maybe it sounds very exciting and threatening to the media, 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?”
Ben Sulayem’s confidence of Andretti being accepted went against the prevailing feeling in the paddock during the Qatar GP weekend.
Asked by ESPN why he was so confident, he said: “There are many aspects to this. First of all, you look at, it is 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.”
As a last resort, Ben Sulayem said Andretti could enter the sport without signing the same commercial rights agreement the other 10 teams are bound to: “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, I hope and I trust Stefano. Stefano doesn’t come from only commercial, Stefano comes from the automotive industry and the sport also.”
Tensions between FIA and F1 have been apparent in recent seasons, based on a number of factors — the controversial finish to the 2021 championship, inconsistent stewarding and disagreements over the introduction of sprint races, to name three.
The FIA’s decision to open the process for new teams at the start of the season was seen by some to be quite a provocative one.Ben Sulayem does not think the Andretti issue will drive a wedge between the two, insisting everything has been done to benefit F1 in the long run.
“It won’t break it between us,” he said. “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.”