FIA president: ‘How on Earth could we say no to someone like GM?’

Sam Cooper
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. Spa, Belgium. August, 2022

Mohammed Ben Sulayem speaking with Stefano Domenicali. Spa, Belgium. August, 2022

The FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has again questioned why there has been such a negative response to Andretti/General Motors joining F1.

F1’s governing body appears to be poles apart from the sport’s commercial arm and its teams when it comes to the matter of new constructors joining the sport.

Andretti are the most public of the current bids having started their campaign almost a year ago and announced earlier this month a new partnership with car manufacturing giant General Motors which would see the prospective team run as Andretti-Cadillac.

From the off, Ben Sulayem gave his backing to the bid, openly questioning why the Formula One Management (FOM) showed an “adverse reaction” to the announcement.

The FIA president further damaged his standings within F1 by openly questioning what he perceived as an inflated valuation from a potential Saudi Arabian takeover.

While the ramifications of the latter affair continue to unfold, with Liberty Media bosses sending a letter to Ben Sulayem suggesting he had seriously overstepped his jurisdiction, for the time being the 61-year-old Emirati has refused to back down on the Andretti issue, questioning how anyone could say no to GM.

PlanetF1 recommends

Is Fernando Alonso about to turn Aston Martin from nice losers into ugly winners?
F1 stats: Which drivers have scored the most points without winning a race?
Top 10 greatest Formula 1 seasons to end in Championship heartbreak

“I spoke to Mario and Michael Andretti at the Miami race weekend,” he told Auto Motor und Sport.

“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.

“How on Earth could we say no to someone like GM? We wanted a big manufacturer. You are one. I had good discussions with the president of GM [Mark Reuss].

“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.”

The F1 teams have been consistent in their reason for giving Andretti the cold shoulder which Red Bull’s Christian Horner recently put in the clearest terms by saying it would dilute their existing profits, but the FIA has seemingly ignored the concerns of existing outfits as Ben Sulayem reiterated that under the current Concorde Agreement, more teams can be added.

“We can add two more teams. That’s what the rules say [Editor’s note – Article 8.6 of the Sporting Regulations actually stipulates that 26 cars may be admitted]. If they’re credible and they mean business, then we should let new teams come in.

“Imagine if we did that [shut the door to GM]. 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.”