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Andretti only new team to express interest to FIA in joining F1 grid

Andretti is the only potential new Formula 1 entrant to have expressed an interest to the FIA in joining the grid, according to Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

Michael Andretti, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman Andretti Autosport

FIA president Ben Sulayem tweeted at the start of the month that he wanted to explore the possibility of expanding the F1 grid by calling for expressions of interest from potential new teams

This was soon followed by Andretti announcing a new partnership with General Motors to form Andretti Cadillac Racing and join the F1 grid in the future. 

Andretti’s plans have so far been met with a lukewarm reaction from the F1 paddock, with F1 itself issuing a statement saying there were other less visible parties who were also interested in joining the grid. 

Speaking to Autosport at the Rallye Monte Carlo about the reaction to his call for expressions of interest, Ben Sulayem said: “To us directly, it’s Andretti,” clarifying that it was “up to now” the only party to have come forward.

Ben Sulayem held meetings with Andretti Global chief, Michael Andretti, and his father, 1978 world champion Mario, about their F1 plans last year, and said he was “very clear” that they needed to work with a major car manufacturer.

While the addition of GM to Andretti’s F1 plans has resulted in some encouragement, with the likes of Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff calling it a “statement”, doubts remain over just how involved the American car maker would be in F1 through the partnership. 

But Ben Sulayem revealed he had a “good meeting” with the president of General Motors, Mark Reuss, ahead of the manufacturer’s board of directors giving the go-ahead, and questioned how such a big brand could be denied a place on the grid.

“How can we say no to a big manufacturer?” he said. “We talk about the United States, we have three races there, it’s very healthy. But I am elected not to make money, I’m elected to sustain motorsport, clearly.”

Mohammed ben Sulayem, President EMSO (UAE)

Mohammed ben Sulayem, President EMSO (UAE)

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

Ben Sulayem has been clear in his desire to bring new teams into F1, believing that an expansion of the grid would be beneficial to the series. But concerns remain from many of the existing teams over the impact adding teams would have on their prize money payouts.

“They might say, ‘oh it’s taking our piece of the cake,’” said Ben Sulayem.

“Yes, to them - but what do you want? Maybe kick [out] five teams, and then you have more money? You can take it both ways.

“I want them to succeed, but to get more money and less money… I mean the cost cap was effective, and we’re trying to make it more effective. Imagine if you are having 145 [million] on everyone.

“But I cannot be blocking a manufacturer. Imagine me doing that. It’s wrong.”

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Tensions have also grown in recent days after Ben Sulayem questioned a rumoured $20 billion valuation of F1, which he claimed was “exaggerated”

It prompted F1 management to send a legal letter to the FIA accusing Ben Sulayem of “interfering” with the commercial rights of the series. 

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