On the surface, the conflict is about the potential entry of the US-based Andretti team with car company Cadillac.
However, this is only the medium in which it is being played out. In reality, it’s all about power, money, and influence.
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While the debate could have been handled privately, the governing body’s president, Mohammed Ben Sulaymen, has made it public.
In doing so, he has provided insight into the latest in a series of squabbles between the FIA, commercial rights holder F1, and the teams that have marked his tenure since taking office at the end of 2021.
The row is centered on US racing legend Michael Andretti’s desire to enter Formula One with his own team.
First, last year, the 60-year-old attempted to purchase the Sauber team. When that fell through, Andretti announced his intention to form his own team. That, too, was met with skepticism from F1’s power brokers, who were not convinced the project was solid enough to add the necessary value to a sport that is seeing a significant increase in global interest, particularly in the United States.
“Go away and find a car manufacturer to support your bid, and we’ll look at it again,” Andretti was effectively told.
He did exactly that. He landed a big one: General Motors, formerly the world’s largest car company and still one of the largest, announced last week that it would collaborate with Andretti through its luxury brand Cadillac.
Andretti now believes he has done enough, and the FIA agreed last week, saying it was “particularly pleasing to have interest from two iconic brands.”
However, F1 was lukewarm. It mentioned “great interest in the F1 project at this time, with a number of conversations ongoing that are not as visible as others,” and added, “Any new entrant request requires the agreement of both F1 and the FIA.”
Ben Sulaymen issued another statement on Twitter on Sunday.
“It is surprising that there has been some adverse reaction to the Cadillac and Andretti Global news,” he wrote.
“We should be encouraging prospective entries from global manufacturers like GM and thoroughbred racers like Andretti and others.”
The strange thing was that there had been no “adverse reaction” to the Andretti news, at least publicly.
Insiders say Ben Sulayem’s tweet was likely in response to F1’s cool reaction to the Andretti announcement, as well as behind-closed-doors opposition to the bid from existing teams, who don’t have an official say in the process but certainly have a powerful voice.
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“The FIA has not made any indication or comment on the potential success or otherwise of any organizations who express their interest in entering the championship,” an FIA spokesperson said on Monday.
The procedure would “follow strict FIA protocol and take several months,” they added.