Green light for 11th team within ’weeks’ - FIA boss
"It’s about big names and big money"
It will still take "four to six weeks" for clarity to emerge over whether Formula 1 will be getting up to two new teams.
After several groups responded to the official FIA tender, it was reported recently that two prospective new teams - Andretti-Cadillac and Hitech - may already have been green-lighted by the governing FIA.
But with Liberty Media and most of the existing F1 teams opposed, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem explains that there are still hurdles to jump.
"This is obviously a political and financial issue, but it is clear to me that the FIA must respect the process. The EU also regulates us, so we can’t manipulate anything," he told formula.hu.
"If a team is interested and our rules say you can have that many teams, how can we say no?"
Ben Sulayem says he understands the existing teams’ opposition on financial grounds, but it is his duty to "do the right thing for the sport".
"We can’t tell a big team that wants to come to F1 to go and buy a team or you can’t come in. I think that’s wrong," he added.
It is clear that Ben Sulayem’s personal favourite for an eleventh team entry is Michael Andretti’s outfit, with the backing of Cadillac and General Motors.
"These are serious people and we don’t want to disqualify anyone without thoroughly reviewing the submitted applications," he said. "It’s about big names and big money.
"Of course we don’t want just anybody, but A teams or a car manufacturer. I prefer the manufacturers, because that would be good for the sport.
"We have taken our time, the FIA team worked very hard, we had meetings with the teams where we reviewed their applications, and I think the final decision will be made within four to six weeks," Ben Sulayem concluded.
Financial concerns aside, figures like Toto Wolff (Mercedes) have argued that more than 20 cars on the grid is actually a safety issue, as "we are already tripping over ourselves like on a go-kart track".
"I don’t understand that," the FIA president hit back. "Safety is the most important thing for the FIA and our safety people say that 11 or 12 teams is also safe.
"We’ll wait until the evaluation of the teams is finished and then we’ll see, but I have said it before and I say it now - how could we turn down General Motors? I don’t understand the negativity.
"I heard that Liberty Media would also like an 11th team - this was said by CEO Greg Maffei," Ben Sulayem added. "It seems that we are both looking at the interests of the sport and its sustainability, because this way there will be more business for the promoter as well.
"Hopefully next month we can make a statement."
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