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Is Ben Sulayem’s tweet indicative of F1’s benefit to Andretti and co.?

The unexpected tweet sent by FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem caused a stir in the F1 world; however, will a “new” application process actually give prospective teams a chance?

As the F1 world emerged from the winter break, a Tweet sent by FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem earlier this week served as a little wake-up call.

Ben Sulayem wrote, “I have asked my FIA team to look at launching an Expressions of Interest process for prospective new teams for the FIA F1 World Championship.

” This sparked some excitement regarding whether or not Michael Andretti – and indeed anyone else who might be waiting in the wings – would finally be allowed in.

The Tweet also appeared to be another example of MBS flexing his muscles and reminding us who is now in charge of the governing body—an approach that appears to be his style—ahead of any formal press announcement.

However, it must be emphasized that Ben Sulayem is not the only one who has a say in who enters the world championship; the F1 organization also has a say in who enters, so even a successful completion of the FIA hurdles will not necessarily guarantee an entry.

On Jean Todt’s watch, the most recent two similar calls for expressions of interest were issued on December 11, 2013 and May 28, 2015. Both took place at a time when some of the existing teams were in doubt about their ability to continue, which gave people even more reason to look for new teams to join.

The first time, the deadline was short, and a potential candidate had only three weeks, including Christmas, to get ready—unless, of course, they were already fully prepared.

In fact, a few weeks after registrations closed, Gene Haas went public and formally announced his well-planned 2015 entry. It was clear that he had been working on the project for some time and that lobbying the FIA had at least partially motivated the process.

Stefan GP and the Romanian-backed FRR/Forza Rossa project were two other potential teams that submitted applications; however, only Haas was selected to race on the grid, and that was in 2016, after being postponed for a year.

When Caterham failed at the end of 2014, reducing the field to ten teams for a season, those worries about existing teams’ survival became apparent.

After a crisis meeting of the F1 Strategy Group failed to find a way forward that would assist existing teams, such as by introducing a cost cap, the subsequent process in May 2015 was a response to that.

There was a slight delay of 33 days between the opening of registrations and their conclusion, but this time there were no credible bids, so there were no new entries. After all, why would anyone start from scratch when so many teams are clearly struggling and seeking investment? It was a buyer’s market. In 2016, the late arrival of Haas brought the field back up to 11, but Manor failed, and we fell back to 10.

At that point, Sauber, Force India, and Williams were among the teams whose futures were still in question. However, Liberty Media’s arrival and the beginning of significant changes occurred during the 2017 season.

The situation is very different six years later, with a new Concorde Agreement in place, the sport benefiting from the Drive to Survive effect, and a worldwide increase in interest.

The cost cap has greatly reduced spending, and teams that were having trouble have long had new owners who are well-funded. Values for the team have gone up, and if anyone wants to sell, they can set their own price, like Finn Rausing did with Audi.

To put it another way, since the risk of teams failing and the entry falling below 10 is long gone, adding a new entry is more about strengthening what we already have than providing some kind of safety net.

The majority of observers believe that with two more cars on the grid, drivers will have two more opportunities.


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