Andretti should ‘go and buy another F1 team’, says FIA president Ben Sulayem

Comments represent major change in attitude from US-based outfit's most vocal external supporter.
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  • FIA originally accepted Andretti bid, before FOM rejected proposal
  • F1 and FIA signed ‘strategic plan’ just two weeks ago to ‘enhance the potential’ of the series

International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has said Andretti should “go and buy another team” instead of pushing to expand the Formula One grid to 11 entries.

Speaking to Reuters, the Emirati revealed a notable change in his opinion around the prospective Andretti entry, with the 62-year-old previously at odds with Formula One over the matter.

“I have no doubt FOM [Formula One Management] and [commercial rights holders] Liberty [Media] would love to see other teams as long as they are OEMs [car manufacturers],” said Ben Sulayem at last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix.

“I would advise [Andretti Cadillac] to go and buy another team, not to come as the 11th team. I feel that some teams need to be refreshed.

“What is better? To have 11 teams as a number or ten and they are strong? I still believe we should have more teams but not any teams. The right teams.

“It’s not about the number, it’s about the quality.”

Ben Sulayem has been a vocal supporter of the Andretti entry, officially approving the bid in October last year before publicly stating that Formula One needs “more teams and fewer races”.

Now, less than two weeks after the signing of a strategic plan between Formula One and the FIA, Ben Sulayem has changed his mind on the matter. Instead, he points to struggling teams on the grid as providing a solution.

“Without mentioning names, there are teams which are struggling … struggling with performance, struggling even with management,” said Ben Sulayem.

“It’s about having the right team, not to lose a chance or an opportunity where someone like GM [General Motors] with a PU [power unit] is coming to Formula One.

“Imagine the impact. We have three races in America. We have such a huge fan base. But we don’t have a proper [US] team. I’m so happy to have Ford in [with Red Bull from 2026] but imagine having GM and imagine having American drivers.”

BlackBook says…

Formula One and the FIA’s ‘strategic plan’, which was more or less a truce between the feuding organisations, has already begun to have its intended effect.

The Andretti saga has been a noisy and unnecessary distraction hanging over Formula One – regardless of one’s opinion on whether or not the team should have been accepted. Getting Ben Sulayem to back down over the matter will give Formula One executives some hope that this can progress out of the spotlight.

Reading between the lines, Ben Sulayem’s comments point towards discontent with the management of some teams. Haas are clearly not a ‘proper’ American team in the eyes of the Emirati, while rumours around Renault-owned Alpine and the second Red Bull team have persisted this season.

But why would any team sell now? Formula One has financially never been better, with its most recent revenues surging 45 per cent year-over-year in Q1 2024 to US$553 million. The average value of a team has also hit US$1.88 billion, according to Forbes.

The goalposts have moved again for Andretti, but now their bid looks increasingly isolated.

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