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Andretti: FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem 'confident' Formula 1 will approve new team

Exclusive interview: Mohammed Ben Sulayem responds to teams' criticisms of grid expansion drive and expresses his confidence Formula 1 will approve Andretti as an 11th team; "There is no way it will be a rift," says FIA president on relationship with F1 over this matter

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EXCLUSIVE: FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem believes the addition of the Andretti team to F1 would enhance the sport

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has said he has "all the confidence" that Andretti's bid to join the grid will ultimately be approved by Formula 1.

In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports News at the Qatar GP, Ben Sulayem responded directly to criticisms of the governing body's hopes to expand the grid to 11 teams amid strong opposition among the sport's existing 10 outfits.

He also insisted there was "no way" that the matter will lead to a rift between the FIA, the sport's governing body, and F1, who control the sport's commercial rights.

The FIA this week approved the Cadillac-backed Andretti team's entry, stating they were the only one of four candidates to meet the criteria set out in its application process. The matter has now passed to F1 for commercial discussions with a final decision from them not expected for a number of months.

F1 chiefs have spoken in the past about the clear added "value" to the championship that any new entrant would have to demonstrate to them.

With a number of teams going on the record during the Qatar weekend to explain their stance, citing financial worries about the effect that splitting the existing prize money pot an additional way will have despite the presence of a $200m anti-dilution fee payable by any extra squad, Ben Sulayem said the FIA "see their concern" but outlined why he believes expansion was right for the sport.

And asked by Sky Sports' Craig Slater what level of confidence he had that F1 would give the green light to Andretti, Ben Sulayem replied: "All the confidence.

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"This is common sense. I would like a good reason. Honestly, if you look at it, I could have done this process a long time ago and I could have approved it a long time ago. But I took my time.

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The drivers have their say on the prospect of the Andretti team gaining entry to the sport, after the FIA approved the American outfit's bid to join

"Why? Listening to the others, I took my time. Engaging with FOM [Formula One Management], with Stefano Domenicali, about how to go about it.

"Then all of the worries, we excluded. We asked the right questions to Cadillac and to Andretti and when they came back to us, there is no way we can resist them because the team ticked all the boxes. It is good for the sport.

"I am actually confident that they will go through."

On the governing body's position on expanding the grid, the FIA president said: "It can only add to the sport. If you look at our side as the FIA - what is our mission? What is our objective? Our mission is very clear: promote motorsport, grow motorsport and be fair.

"Yes, there is the commercial side of it which we do respect. Of course we respect that."

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Williams team principal James Vowles explains why he is against the addition of an 11th team to the F1 grid

Asked directly about the opposition by teams, Ben Sulayem squarely stated: "I believe it's about money. I can't think of anything [else].

"As I said before, it's money to the teams. With the cost cap, look at how much it's worth now. Teams are worth billions, some of them.

"For us it's [about] the spirit of the sport. It's sustaining motorsport, sustaining the business. To them it is money and more money. And we have nothing against this, it's up to them."

He added: "We are not a profitable organisation; the federation is non-profitable.

"Meanwhile, I have to say to you: we own the championship. I represent the landlord. Yes, we lease it to FOM and they are doing a great job.

"The teams, let's go back to last year in August. The manufacturers of the PU [power units] sent me a letter and they objected to changing the PU. But then once we approved it in the FIA, guess what, everybody signed.

"The resistance was only natural at the beginning but once it is approved everybody will work with the new team.

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Aston Martin CEO, Lawrence Stroll says he is against Andretti joining Formula 1, insisting the sport is 'on fire' with its current 10 teams

"But added value - it's not just another team, it is the team."

Ben Sulayem added that he hopes "we don't go through an unnecessary mess to accept them".

On his relationship with F1 president Domenicali and whether the matter of the 11th team could cause tensions, the FIA chief insisted: "There is no way it will be a rift. I am sorry, the press can write whatever they want."

F1 is aware of Ben Sulayem's comments and is not adding to its statement issued on the matter earlier in the week, in which it stated: "We note the FIA's conclusions in relation to the first and second phases of their process and will now conduct our own assessment of the merits of the remaining application."


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