F1’s chief tech officer open to new teams but warns of HRT repeat

Sam Cooper
Mohammed ben Sulayem talking to Michael Andretti. Miami May 2022.

Mohammed ben Sulayem talking to Michael Andretti on the grid. Miami May 2022.

The chief technological officer of F1 said he is open to new teams joining but only with the guarantee that they are “quality.”

Over the years, Formula 1 has seen plenty of teams arrive on the grid only to disappear a few seasons later. Since the sport’s inception in 1950, 171 constructors have taken part in at least one race and some are more memorable than others.

Alain Prost is a legend of F1 but his team lasted just four seasons before going bust in 2001. Another historic Formula 1 name in, Benetton, almost suffered the same fate in 2000 but was instead sold to the returning Renault.

One of the more recent examples of a team that failed to establish themselves in the sport is the Hispania Racing F1 Team or HRT.

HRT joined F1 in the belief that a cost cap was soon to be implemented but that never came which left them financially lacking compared to their competitors.

Having joined the grid in 2010, it took until November 2012 for the owners to announce they were putting the team up for sale.

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Despite the numerous examples of past failures, that has not deterred prospective new owners from wanting a spot on the grid with the Andretti family currently working to get into the sport.

An argument against Andretti joining has been what value do they bring to F1 and the current teams but F1’s chief technological officer Pat Symonds is not concerned by that, instead he wants a focus on if the team is sustainable.

“I’d welcome new teams,” he said during a panel at Autosport International. “There’s no harm having more cars, providing they’re quality.

“We don’t want to go back to the HRT thing of 2011 or whenever it was.

“But the sport is incredibly successful at the moment. [With it being] successful as it is, it’s no wonder people want to get involved, because we’ve turned the sport around in the last five years from being a cost centre to a profit centre, and that’s quite something.

“So I’m not surprised they want to be involved.”

Symonds was joined on stage by Willem Toet who, while also being a senior sales manager, is an aerodynamics consultant for Alfa Romeo. He suggested that 12 teams would be his ideal number for Formula 1.

“From the perspective of a fan to watch a healthy Formula 1, I would say 12 teams [is ideal],” the 70-year-old said. “Teams will always vote against another team coming in, because they’ve got a budget owned by Formula One Management.

“Divided by 12 will be smaller than divided by 10 and so the teams will always vote against but personally, I’d love to see 12. But they all have to be strong and they have to be close.”