Stop telling Andretti to buy an existing F1 team when nobody is up for sale

Sam Cooper
Michael Andretti

The FIA president performed a remarkable U-turn in regards to Andretti's F1 bid.

The Andretti family may have thought FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem was their greatest ally, but even he now appears to have turned on them.

Having vocally supported their bid to become the 11th F1 team up until now, on Tuesday the incumbent FIA president suggested they should “go and buy another team.”

“I would advise them to go and buy another team, not to come as the 11th team,” he said to Reuters.

“I feel that some teams need to be refreshed. What is better? To have 11 teams as a number or 10 and they are strong?

“I still believe we should have more teams. But not any teams. The right teams.”

This suggestion is nothing new and was indeed made as recently as Friday by Red Bull boss Christian Horner but Ben Sulayem’s comments suggest Andretti have not even tried.

Andretti’s F1 interest can be traced back to November 2021 when they came very close to purchasing the Sauber team.

An Auto Motor und Sport report at the time claimed the Swedish billionaire Finn Rausing wanted to not only receive a buy-in fee but also a paid-upfront $50 million-per-year package for five years to ensure the F1 team could hit the budget cap –  but even these were terms that Andretti were willing to meet.

The sticking issue came to control of the team when, surprise, surprise, Andretti wanted to run the team they had just paid through the nose for.

That was the first deal to collapse and Andretti have for a number of times tried to get Gene Haas around the negotiation table to no avail.

Where next then? Sauber is off the market now and Haas have reiterated they are not for sale while Williams are not going to sell up anytime soon. Even Red Bull’s sister team RB have long-term goals they want to reach and do not think the time is right to sell.

Alpine’s shaky start has not been a good look for Renault but there are no credible reports to suggest they are looking to cut their losses, while even getting one of the top five teams to start negotiations will be in the multi-billion dollar range.

More on Andretti’s attempt to get on the F1 grid

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👉 Christian Horner offers Andretti a ‘natural solution’ to end tough 11th F1 team battle

Andretti explored all these options and found no obvious way in. According to McLaren CEO Zak Brown, even the worst team on the grid now has a valuation of around $1 billion given the F1 boom and Andretti simply do not have that kind of money to stump up even if someone was looking to sell.

The second part of Ben Sulayem’s statement is just as baffling. He suggested some teams needed to be “refreshed” before going on to contradict himself by saying F1 “should have more teams. But not any teams. The right teams.” So we are guessing the FIA process Andretti passed last year does not make them the right team?

At the bottom of the F1 grid, there are some pretty sorry examples of teams not being competitive. Stake F1 have yet to score a point this season and even if Audi are coming, that is still a potential year and a half of non-competitiveness.

Williams have found it tough to continue their form of 2023 into this year while Haas have not fallen as many would have predicted, but are still in a tough battle to score any kind of points.

The argument so often used against Andretti is that they do not bring extra value to the sport but what value has Stake brought this year? What market have they unlocked? What competitiveness have they brought?

In Haas’ 174-race history, a single pole position is the highlight. Their average points per race is 1.47. Stake have not scored a point in the last 14 races.

Andretti are being asked to meet expectations far higher than what is expected of those already on the grid. Yes the existing teams deserve to be there, particularly after the challenges of the COVID pandemic, but if even Ben Sulayem is picking perceived holes in Andretti’s bid then what hope do they have of ever making it into F1?

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