Andretti's planned entry into Formula 1 with General Motors has sparked discussions. FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has sided with the US alliance. The head of the world association describes in an interview why.
Formula 1 is becoming more and more attractive for car manufacturers. Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault are already on board. After leaving at the end of 2021, Honda was at least still in disguise via a supply contract with Red Bull. In 2026, the Japanese manufacturer could make a full-fledged comeback in the premier class. Then new, even more sustainable engine regulations will take effect. In any case, Honda has signed up for 2026.
Audi will definitely join in 2026 and build its own engine. With General Motors, the next big player is already knocking on the door of Formula 1. Andretti has won over the large US automobile manufacturer for his project, which is to start as early as possible. Andretti aims to be on the starting grid as early as 2025 if possible. As it is said, the entry should initially be made with a Renault customer engine.
Ben Sulayem pro Andretti
But there is resistance to the US alliance. While the FIA is supporting Andretti and General Motors, there are concerns in Formula 1 management and most of the teams. One hears that eight out of ten racing teams are against Andretti - despite a manufacturer like GM on board. Only Renault and McLaren are mostly positive about a possible entry.
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem is aggressively promoting Andretti and General Motors, which wants to enter its Cadillac brand into the race. "I spoke to Mario and Michael Andretti at the Miami race weekend," he told "auto motor und sport" on the sidelines of the Monte Carlo Rally. "We were very clear in our answer at the time. We want a manufacturer. We told Andretti to work with one if they were serious about it. We encouraged them, they delivered."
In this respect, the FIA President does not understand why a rough wind is still blowing against the US alliance. "How on earth could we say no to someone like GM?" asks Ben Sulayem - and answers himself: "We wanted a big manufacturer. You are one. I had good discussions with the President of GM. He told me it wasn't his decision alone. It was the governing body. They sent us a letter. We have three races in the US. It's a healthy market."
Up to 26 cars possible
In order for new teams to be able to apply for a place in Formula 1 at all, the FIA must first set up an official process and publicly advertise the starting places. There could be other applicants who stay in the background and don't drum loudly for themselves like Andretti. The rights holders of Formula 1 also refer to this again and again.The FIA President has already taken the first step by instructing his team to set up an "expression of interest process for prospective new teams".
Ben Sulayem stresses that serious signings serve the stability of Formula 1. "We can add two more teams. That's what the rules say. If they're credible and they mean business, then we should let new teams come in." Theoretically, Formula 1 could even increase to 13 racing teams. Article 8.6 of the Sporting Regulations stipulates that no more than 26 cars may be admitted – two from each competitor.
The president doesn't think you should slam the door on a big fish like General Motors. "Imagine if we did that. That would be wrong. I wasn't elected to make money, I was elected to support the sport. I am an elected representative of the sport. We need a strong and fair FIA. Fairness is very important to us." And by that Ben Sulayem understands fair treatment of those who knock.
Ben Sulayem vs. skeptics
But that doesn't mean Formula 1 doesn't do it. After all, the management of the premier class was itself in contact with General Motors for months. But there are still other people interested in entering the premier class. And this is pointed out. If the field is actually expanded, then the best candidate for it should also be determined. Formula 1 management and the FIA must agree. You can block each other.
F1 management strives for growth. Liberty Media wants higher sales. After all, Formula 1 is a business that has to pay dividends. The teams fear that Andretti-Cadillac will bite off their cake - and their own income will be reduced by other racing teams. Ben Sulayem replies to the skeptics: "There is an effective cost cap. And we are working to make it even more effective."
The established teams have so far voiced their concerns behind closed doors. They skillfully pass the ball on to the FIA and F1 management. "Cadillac and GM: That's a statement," said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff recently. "The fact that they have teamed up with Andretti is definitely a positive. It adds another dimension to the project that may or may not be beneficial for Formula 1. But definitely none of us would ever compare Cadillac and GM's pedigree in motorsport and as Question car companies." That's the point: teams want to be sure that as they join, their revenue increases.
New manufacturer in sight
The hint of the established companies that General Motors wanted to buy entry with a customer engine relatively cheaply is wiped off the table by the other side.There are ambitions that the US giant will incorporate its own know-how in the future and invest its own resources. The opponents still point out that Andretti does not have the basis and infrastructure to drive at Formula 1 level. But that would be primarily the problem of the US team. There is certainly also skepticism insofar as Andretti-GM could poach engineers. Or sponsors. And that the new US alliance might get a better World Cup position.
FIA President Ben Sulayem sees the radiance of the name, which from his perspective could help Formula 1 shine even more. "We have to open the door to serious applicants. That could attract other interested parties." Then he makes another promising announcement: "In a short time, maybe as early as next week, another manufacturer could sign for the 2026 engine regulations."