Michael Andretti hasn’t been quiet about his desire to expand his racing team’s operations into the FIA Formula 1 World Championship. Late last year, Andretti was days away from buying the Alfra Romeo F1 Team before the deal collapsed. The failed acquisition of the Sauber-operated team has shifted Andretti’s effort towards entering a brand new entry. Though, recent statements made by the Formula One Group CEO hint that the commercial arm of the World Championship might prevent Andretti or any other entity from entering a new team.
As reported by Autosport and RaceFans, CEO Stefano Domenicali believes that F1 shouldn’t add a team to the current field of 10 constructors unless it would add commercial value to the sport. Though, the responsibility of accepting new entries doesn’t belong to the Liberty Media-owned Formula One Group. The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of international motorsport, oversees the application process and makes the final decision. There is an ongoing evaluation for new F1 entries, but little else is known beyond that. However, Formula One Group carries influence in this process.
“It is a matter of understanding really not only the one that has a bigger or louder voice, but there will be other people. Andretti was quite vocal about his request, but there are others that have done the same in a different way.”
“The evaluation is not only with Andretti. The evaluation is with others that are respecting the silence on trying to be more productive on proving who they are and respecting the protocol we [have] put in place.”
“I do believe, as I’ve always said, that I don’t believe that is today the problem of having more teams that will give more value to the championship. But there is a protocol that has to be fulfilled and everyone, Andretti included, is following that. So this is the situation today.”
By the letter of F1’s regulations, there is a maximum limit of 13 teams on the World Championship grid. Each spot is highly valued, especially when cost cap rules now make operating a team realistically sustainable from a financial point of view. It also means that it would be difficult to displace a constructor on the grid for someone else. Formula One Group seems far more interested in getting manufacturers in those limited number of spaces rather than independent teams. Porsche is rumored to be nearing an agreement to partner with Red Bull Racing. Audi is also rumored to be purchasing Sauber.
Andretti Autosport recently announced that it is building a new $200-million global headquarters outside Indianapolis for its racing operations. Michael Andretti’s team is very accomplished, winning the Indianapolis 500 five times and the IndyCar Series Championship four times. Though, many accomplished European independents have been kept out of F1 and dissuaded from even attempting to join over the past decade, like ART Grand Prix or Prema Powerteam. France-based ART and Italy-based Prema have won over 20 drivers’ championships each across Europe’s major single-seaters categories beneath F1.