JANUARY 6, 2023
FIA-Formula 1 divide exposed after Andretti's announcement
The battle for control of Formula One between the FIA and the Commercial Rights Holder was very much exposed in their respective reactions to the Andretti-Cadillac announcement made on Thursday.
While FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem warmly welcomed the news that General Motors was getting involved in Formula One soon, Formula 1's reaction to the news was, at best, lukewarm, making a point of reminding that any new team also needs to get its green light to start competing in Grand Prix racing.
It is now clear that this was the reason Ben Sulayem tweeted earlier in the week that, "I have asked my FIA team to look at launching an Expressions of Interest process for prospective new teams for the FIA Formula One World Championship", as he was fully aware of the deal between Andretti and General Motors and, almost certainly, had given the Americans the green light to go ahead with yesterday's announcement.
Therefore, his statement following the press conference where details of the deal between the American team and General Motors were explained, was a full congratulatory message to this new venture: "Today's news from the United States is further proof of the popularity and growth of the FIA Formula One World Championship under the FIA's stewardship. It is particularly pleasing to have interest from two iconic brands such as General Motors Cadillac and Andretti Global."
He then added that, "any additional entries would build on the positive acceptance of the FIA's 2026 PU regulations among OEMs which has already attracted an entry from Audi", before warning that, "any Expressions of Interest process will follow strict FIA protocol and will take several months", which is way we previously reported that any new team that will be accepted into Formula One is unlikely to start competing before the start of the 2026 World Championship.
While the FIA's reaction was one of delight, and in line with what Ben Sulayem had said when Audi made its own announcement regarding entering Formula One in 2026, Formula 1's statement was very far from that warm: "There is great interest in the F1 project at this time with a number of conversations continuing that are not as visible as others. We all want to ensure the championship remains credible and stable and any new entrant request will be assessed on criteria to meet those objectives by all the relevant stakeholders. Any new entrant request requires the agreement of both F1 and the FIA." Not a single mention of Andretti or Cadillac, giving the impression that the Americans, fed up with Domenicali's negative reaction to all their approaches, completely bypassed the Commercial Rights' Holder and held discussions exclusively with the FIA.
By comparison, the Stefano Domenicali's reaction to Audi's announcement, at the end of last August, was completely different: "I am delighted to welcome Audi to Formula 1, an iconic automotive brand, pioneer and technological innovator. This is a major moment for our sport that highlights the huge strength we have as a global platform that continues to grow. It is also a big recognition that our move to sustainably fuelled hybrid engines in 2026 is a future solution for the automotive sector. We are all looking forward to seeing the Audi logo on the grid and will be hearing further details from them on their plans in due course."