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F1’s COVID crisis a warning over 11th team approval, says Steiner

Haas boss Guenther Steiner thinks the crisis Formula 1 faced during the COVID-19 pandemic shows why it should not risk destabilising current teams by adding an 11th entry. 

Guenther Steiner, Team Principal, Haas F1 Team

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

The American Andretti outfit is hoping to agree a commercial deal with FOM to enter F1 from 2025 at the earliest, after being given approval to join the series by the FIA.

But there is no guarantee FOM will approve Andretti’s bid, as it questions whether or not there is a tangible benefit to grand prix racing in adding an extra team to the grid. 

Rival teams are also against the addition of Andretti as they fear the commercial impact that could come from having to share prize money with an extra outfit. 

NEWS: Williams against Andretti entry but would welcome General Motors into F1

And, as Steiner points out, while F1 is going through a boom period right now so a small loss of prize money would not make a dramatic impact, he says lessons should be taken on board from what happened when COVID struck. 

In particular, he thinks the speed by which F1 went from being comfortable to there being a risk of losing almost half the grid as the pandemic bit, highlights the caution that needs to be taken in adjusting the finances of the current teams. 

“In the current situation, we are stable, but it is not like we are making hundreds of millions of profits,” said Steiner. “We are still trying to get our budgets together to work on the budget cap and all that stuff. 

“I would like to go back to 2020 when I remember sitting in these video meetings when the pandemic hit and four teams were [questioning], ‘are we here next year or not?’  

Michael Andretti's team has been approved by the FIA, but must now prove its commercial value to F1

Michael Andretti's team has been approved by the FIA, but must now prove its commercial value to F1

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“We were all struggling, trying to keep alive. And a lot of people and a lot of team owners put their money into it to stay alive, and to make F1 what it is now.  I think there is value to that as well.” 

He added: “ I think most of the teams are asking why would we dilute what we have got, just to get somebody else, when Formula 1 is booming? 

“Because who knows what in three or four years will [happen]. And I go back, it's also only in 2020 when we were struggling to stay alive as Formula 1, because if four teams fall out, there are only six left. And why would you make it weaker now? 

“If something comes up again, we need to be as strong as we can be, the 10 teams which are here, which got through the hard times.” 

Steiner stands by his long-standing opinion that Andretti’s entry should only get approved if there is tangible evidence its arrival will bring benefit to the entire grid. 

Asked about the potential of Andretti to bring fresh sponsor interest to F1, Steiner said: “[There] could be, but there's a lot of could, should, would. But if they can show that they bring something which we accept, then it's fine.” 

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Steiner insists he is not alone in the paddock in feeling that now is not the right time to be considering an 11th-team entry. 

“FOM has to see it, not me, they've got the big picture,” he said. “It's not only about Haas that doesn't want them. It's general, Formula 1 is not convinced that there is a need for an 11th team.  

“Don't go down: ‘it's Andretti.’ Whoever [it is], F1 at the moment is not convinced an 11th team is bringing added value. Keep it simple.”

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