Why taking over an existing team is not a solution for Andretti


ben sulayem strange solution to impasse andretti
29 May at 09:00
Last update 29 May at 09:50
  • Ludo van Denderen

It was a somewhat strange comment from FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Precisely he, the man who made Andretti and partner General Motors think they were allowed to enter Formula 1 as the 11th team, now thinks the Americans would be best off taking over an existing team. A remarkable U-turn from the man responsible for the ensuing chaos with Andretti. Moreover, is it realistic? Totally not anymore.

Formula 1 teams were not waiting for it, Ben Sulayem did it anyway: a year ago, he opened the registration for an eleventh or even twelfth team in Formula 1. That brought hope to Michael Andretti and his, who had been hoping for a chance in Formula 1 for ages. Those hopes were heightened when the FIA decided to grant Andretti an F1 licence. But in the end, it was Formula One Management that turned Andretti down at the last minute, saying the team would not add enough value to F1.

Ben Sulayem changed his mind

Andretti angry, the FIA angry. And now, while Andretti works unflinchingly on realising his dream after all, the FIA - or rather the eccentric chairman - seem to have come around. He told Reuters in Monaco that Andretti is best off buying an existing team, rather than focusing on becoming an 11th team. The very man who initially gave false hope to Andretti and General Motors is now coming up with the advice that the existing teams had for ages and has now become impossible.

Leaving aside the question of whether Formula 1 could make good use of an eleventh team (the answer to which is 'yes'), Ben Sulayem should have sat down with FOM prior to opening the entry at the time: 'Would you welcome an eleventh team? If yes, we will let potential teams sign up. If not, we will do nothing and continue to advise Andretti to buy an existing team'.

Ben Sulayem did none of that, caused a lot of irritation in the paddock, and now comes up with advice that Michael Andretti will question, right? For the American, acquiring an existing team is undoubtedly a done deal. After all, he has recently been hard at work on a new F1 facility at Silverstone and dozens of people have already been recruited for the project. What are you supposed to do with all that if you do take over a current team?

Which team would then be up for sale?

In any case, the question is which team is for sale at all and, moreover, at what price? In the recent past, Alpine and Visa Cash App RB have been mentioned as teams that might be sold. With Formula 1 booming, the price will continue to rise annually, and those teams are bound to be a lot more expensive than they were 12 months ago. Moreover, both teams are said to be áf they are sold, a condition is that they will continue to use their engine supplier, Alpine and Red Bull Powertrains respectively, for quite some time.

Andretti, on the other hand, has entered into a partnership with General Motors. The Americans introduced their own PU in '28, so there is no way, for example, that an Alpine under Andretti's ownership would run with an Alpine engine first through '30.

So it's all easily said by Ben Sulayem. But not buying an existing team, rather having Andretti join as the eleventh team is the best solution for Michael Andretti and also Formula 1.