There was a lot of excitement about last week’s announcement from Andretti Autosport and Cadillac seeking entry in Formula 1. Why wouldn’t there be? An America car company and American racing team joining F1 just as F1 has exploded in popularity in the US is an exciting proposition.
There have always been smaller group interested in joining F1 and I recall former boss Bernie Ecclestone suggesting that a consortium needed $1B in liquidity to be a serious contender in joining F1. Now, that may be a large number used by Bernie for impact but he’s probably not too far off the mark if you consider that back then, teams were spending $300M and more on their programs at the star end of the grid.
Today, with the cost cap, that may not be the number any longer but strong financial health is an important element. F1 has turned down many small outfits wanting to join as due to long-term financial strength. Sure, they may cover the entry fee but having enough to ensure your team will be in F1 for five years is something else entirely.
That why FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was a surprised at the adverse reaction to the new of Cadillac and Andretti seeking entry.
“It is surprising that there has been some adverse reaction to the Cadillac and Andretti news,” Ben Sulayem said.
“The FIA has accepted the entries of smaller, successful organizations in recent years. We should be encouraging prospective F1 entries from global manufacturers like GM and thoroughbred racers like Andretti and others.
“Interest from teams in growth markets adds diversity and broadens F1’s appeal.”
His point is they accepted Haas F1 and that is a smaller operation so why would. Now, this led to a statement from Formula 1 itself stating that new teams joining F1 was not the sole discretion of the FIA and it required their approval as well as the teams approval. The odd chest-pounding contest between Ben Sulayem and the teams and even F1 continues.
In the end, the FIA may want a growth in F1 team participation but there are some current teams that know adding more teams means less prize money for them as you would be splitting it even more between 11+ teams. They feel that the current 10 teams is enough.
F1 itself has stated that it’s not about the quantity of teams in F1 but the value they bring and I find that argument, also made by Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, a very interesting one. What value does Haas F1 or Williams bring to F1? I recall Toto suggesting that a new team will need to bring more value to F1 and that probably means cash and revenue growth meaning they need to offset their portion of the price money by bringing in more money due to their participation.
One can image that having an American team and an American car maker might capitalize on the burgeoning American fanbase and energize them or increase the number of fans in America. Chances are, they’d do more than what Mercedes has done to energize American fans.
For fans to understand, I think it is important for us to know what F1 and some team bosses mean by “increasing the value of F1”. By what metric is that measured? No one was asking Haas F1, Stewart GP, Marussia, Force India, Super Aguri what value they would increase in F1. Why is Andretti being treated differently?