Bad news for Andretti and others as F1 boss gives opinion on new team entry

Henry Valantine
George Russell (Mercedes), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Stefano Domenicali (F1) and Mohammed Ben Sulayem. F1 Monza, September 2022.

George Russell (Mercedes), Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Stefano Domenicali (F1) and Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Monza, September 2022.

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali feels a 10-team grid in the sport is “more than enough” for what it wants to achieve, and he wants to “respect” the teams who have been on the grid in tougher times.

F1 is going through a ‘boom’ period following its acquisition by Liberty Media, with the runaway success of Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive bringing a new wave of fans to the sport.

When coupled with more races and an increased demand for hosting grands prix around the world, alongside spending controls making teams roundly profitable, interest in entering F1 is high – with applications having recently closed for prospective new teams to join the grid from 2025 onwards.

The FIA opened an ‘Expressions of Interest’ process followed by a formal application period at the start of 2023, and is now looking over applicants to join the F1 grid, with the likes of Andretti Autosport, who have partnered with General Motors through Cadillac, among several known entrants.

But opinion on the current grid has been widely against expanding those on it, with multiple team principals citing a dilution in prize money and wanting new teams that would add significant extra value to the sport as reasons behind denying new entrants.

But when asked for his take on how he feels the sport should proceed, F1 boss Domenicali believes the current grid is “very strong” and there is no need for any expansion for now – though he was keen to point out he is not looking to be “protectionist” over the sport as a whole.

“This is a very interesting question,” Domenicali told the Beyond the Grid podcast when asked about the prospect of new teams joining the grid.

“Because as you know, there are different positions, and there are also legal implications [of] what we have to say.

“I think, to be honest, if the real value that is bringing to the sport is important, and is real and stable for the future, there is also another consideration I have to take.

“If the contest that is growing is what we can see today, I think that 10 teams are more than enough to create the show, or the business and the attention that we want to see on the track.

“So there is an evaluation going on today that involves the FIA and us [FOM] to make the right call for the future. And this is something that is also connected to the future discussion that will happen with the renewal of the Concorde Agreement – that we need to remember that the expiry on is 2025, so we have still a long time to go.

“But yeah, it’s an evaluation that we need to take. Considering what I said in this period of time where, in the past, there were teams that were coming in and getting out with zero value, now the teams are stable, very profitable, and very strong in terms of also technical capability to be competitive on the track.

“Therefore, the right answer is that in the next months, it will be a very important point of discussion that we need to tackle, that is do we need to stay with 10? Do we need to have more teams? Or we can give the exemption to [a] future possible team to be really very, very strong, that can join Formula 1.

“So this is all topics that will be part of the discussion for the future.”

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The former Ferrari team boss added that he would be open to seeing a new team on the grid, but it would have to be the “right” entrant – which would add a significant amount of value to F1 moving forward.

But even so, he elaborated further on the spectacle of having a competitive 20-car field, which the budget cap was brought in with the intention of creating, rather than large gaps throughout the teams.

“No, I don’t think so,” Domenicali stated when asked outright if he would like to see more than 20 cars on the grid. “I mean, personally, that’s a personal opinion.

“As I said, I need to say that because it’s something that, if you have a good show, 20 cars are more than enough.

“You see, if you have two cars, or two drivers fighting, the level of attention is mega. So if you have already two teams fighting, that means four cars, it’s just incredible.

“So can you imagine 20 cars, so 10 teams at the level where there is a competition on the track? It would be impressive. So I would say let’s wait and see.

“My ‘no’ is not against someone who wants to come in. I need to clarify that because otherwise it seems that I want to be protectionist. That is not the case – I want to see the right one.

“And I need to also respect the ones that have invested in Formula 1 in the last period because we forget too quickly the respect, and now everyone wants to jump in the coach that is [moving] very fast.

“But we need to be prudent. We need to take that as a decision. That’s what I’m saying.”