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Wolff claims safety concern over 11th team


Toto Wolff claims that the presence of an eleventh team would create all manner of issues for the sport, not least safety.

In their increasingly desperate bid to pull up the drawbridge behind them, the existing teams are constantly finding new excuses as to why the sport should maintain the status quo.

First it was money, then logistics, then money again, then the sport's DNA - even though several teams appear to have forgotten their own humble roots - and now safety.

An opponent of the introduction of an additional team since the concept was first mooted, Wolff hasn't changed his opinion.

"We have no visibility of who the applications came from, and what the proposals are," he dais. "I think all the stakeholders - and I think mainly the FIA and FOM - will decide on such a new entry, will assess if the proposal is accretive for Formula 1? What does it bring us in terms of marketing and interest, and whether they want to think about introducing that.

"Our position was very clear: buy a team," he continued. "You know, there's a lot of consequences. When you look at qualifying sessions, I mean already now we're looking like on a go-kart track, we're tripping over each other.

"There is a safety concern," he added, "we haven't got the logistics, where to put an eleventh team. Here in Silverstone, we can accommodate the Hollywood people but on other circuits, we can't.

"Then people like Audi and the venture capital funds, have been buying into F1 teams for considerably higher valuations. And so all of that is a picture that the FIA and FOM have to access.

"As I said before, if a team can contribute to the positive development of Formula 1, then... and in a way that the other teams have done, over the many years, have suffered over the many years... yeah, we have to look at it."

Ferrari boss, Frederic Vasseur, who unlike Wolff is an employee and therefore has no financial investment in his team, agrees.

"For once, I'm pretty aligned with Toto, that first you can't compare the impact of the movie and the impact of a team," said the Frenchman, even though the fictitious movie team is to be incorporated at other tracks over the course of the season.

"Have a look at what happened last week," he continued. "It was already a mess in Spielberg on track, with the track limits. Imagine if you have ten per cent more infringements," he warned, a meaningless argument when you consider that there were two drivers who didn't incur a single penalty, while on the other hand Esteban Ocon...

"But more seriously, we didn't change at all the position, that I think it could make sense for the F1 only if it's a huge push in every single direction.

"Very often we are speaking about the nationality of the team but for me it's absolutely not an argument. F1 is not just a UK championship because we have 70 per cent of the teams based in the UK. The attractivity of the F1 is much more based on the nationality of the drivers and so it's nothing to do with the nationality of the team."

Like Wolff, Vasseur believes potential entrants should buy an existing team.

"Today, we have a huge boom around the F1 but you have to keep in mind a couple of years ago the owners of the team made a huge effort, when the crisis was there, and it's a kind of benefit today - but again, if there is a huge push for the championship, for the F1, for everybody, all the stakeholders. Why not? But I don't see we're at that point today."

"There is no mature sports league in the world, whether it's a national football championship, or the Champions League, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, where such situation is possible, where you say I'm setting up a team and I'm joining, thank you very much for making me part of the prize fund," said Wolff.

"You have to give to qualify; you have to go through the ranks; you have to showcase the commitment to the Championship that we've done over the many years.

"But, if it's creative, then we must look at it. So far, what we've seen hasn't convinced the teams - but we haven't seen the applications and submissions that were made to the FIA and to Stefano, and they will judge whether that is positive for Formula 1 or not.

"But in any case, from a teams' owner side, is there no leagues which just increased the entries, because that just dilutes the whole league. I think if it's accretive then obviously not."

It was suggested that if F1 were to base its model on other championships, this would mean promotion and relegation to and from junior series.

"No"" insisted Wolff, "I'm looking more at the American franchises. If everybody in the NFL agrees - the teams that own the franchise there, so it's different to us - agrees to have another entry, to let another team in because of the right reasons, the right ownership, etc, etc, then that team is being admitted into the championship. And the same with most of the professional leagues in the US. We are a franchise, and this is how I would look at it."

However, it was pointed out to the Austrian that NHL has expanded with new franchises in recent years. With this is mind, Wolff was asked if, based on his earlier comment, where he said that a potential new team has to contribute in a positive way, how does a new team do that before it even has an entry... what does it have to prove to F1 and the current teams, in particular, to show itself, that it's worthy of a place?

"The NHL has added teams and I'm very aware of it, because they have decided to do so, all the stakeholders," said the Mercedes boss. "We have done that in the past when Formula 1 was on the brink of losing teams, because of bankruptcy. We increased the numbers of teams and nobody complained about that. On the contrary. We felt that we needed to make sure that we have 10 teams on the grid and not lose any. So these two factors are very different with the NHL to the current situation.

"I still have the belief that this is a league of franchises," he added. "And when someone comes in, then it should be like in the NFL, where you say what is it that the new team brings to the party? And that, I repeat, is for the FIA and FOM to decide.

"We can comment from the side-lines here and obviously our standpoint is clear, because we would only want to have a team that brings something to the cake, an 11th team brings more than what they cost the other team, more show, more exciting drivers and like Fred said, the team's nationality plays no role.

"We have an American team since a long time, we need to have a good points system that we attract more drivers from the US, that we make them eligible for a Super Licence. We need to support young drivers like Logan Sargeant to give them enough time. Because like we've seen with Fernando in Spain, you've got a race at the front. If you're not racing at the front your fellow countrymen are not going to follow. These are the things we have to do. And if one of the applications has demonstrated to the FIA and to FOM that it is beneficial that they join, we can just stay welcome, you know. At that stage, we have to embrace the decision that's been taken and say, OK, let's work on this together."

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1. Posted by Spindoctor, 26/07/2023 19:06

"Wolff goes down another notch in my estimation. "

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2. Posted by elsiebc, 13/07/2023 16:05

"If more teams would make the sport less safe than less teams would make the sport safer. I think in the name of safety toto should fold his team up."

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3. Posted by Defiant, 08/07/2023 19:41

"Zip it Toto and gag Fred while you're at it. I've never heard such utter tripe. The existing teams are just desperate to keep their noses in the trough."

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4. Posted by Superbird70, 08/07/2023 10:25

"Unbelievable!! First it was compensation ($$$), then the right DNA, now safety. The existing teams will always find a reason. The comparison to the gate driven NHL is laughable. You literally picked the weakest sports league in North America to compare yourself to.

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