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Vowles leads the resistance to Andretti bid


Williams boss, James Vowles leads the resistance to Andretti's bid to enter F1, insisting that his team is "strongly against" the move.

Even though Toto Wolff has been forced to miss his second successive race as he recovers from knee surgery, he was well represented at Lusail by his former chief strategist when discussion turned to the FIA's rubber-stamping of Andretti's bid to enter F1.

While safety, the sport's DNA, logistics and money had all been previously used as reasons why F1 doesn't need an eleventh team, Vowles came up with a new angle, the mortgages of his team's employees, though some might argue that this wasn't a major concern in the paddock when it came to the cull that followed the introduction of the budget cap.

"Williams is against the addition of an 11th team," said Vowles. "And very strongly against.

"I'll explain the reasons behind that and why," he continued. "My responsibility is to 900 employees within my company. If you go look at Companies House - you can go look it up for Williams - we've submitted it now, you can see that we're lossy. We're very lossy. In fact, compare it from '21 to '22, you'll see that losses are in the tens of millions more. Compare it to '23, which you won't see but I'll guarantee you, it's multiples above that.

"The reason why is we're investing in this sport, to become better. We believe in where the sport is going, we believe in the direction of travel of the sport. In order to do that... the reason why is we actually have, I think, a sustainable entity for once. Teams are working more and more together, we have close racing as a result of things.

"But it should be known that this isn't just us that are not financially stable. I'd say probably half the grid aren't. I think the addition of an 11th team is a sensible thing - but only at a point where the 10th team on the grid is financially stable.

"I'm fortunate to have owners that really believe in what we're doing and to invest in what we're doing, but we need to take care as a sport to make sure we look after that.

"Everyone says we're in a good place, we are in some regards, but now those facts down the line, that this is tens of millions, or, in fact, hundreds of millions you'll see shortly, being invested to make the sport better, it becomes very clear why we're very careful about diluting what we've already got, because it's just more losses on the table.

"Now, we've been clear from the beginning, we're more than happy to bring in new entities, but the pie has to grow as a result of it, not shrink, and so far it's just shrinking.

"For clarity on that, that's not against either Andretti or GM, quite the opposite. I welcome GM open-armed, and Williams welcomes GM open-arms and I hope to forge a relationship with them, should things not work out. They are an incredible entity that I think will make the sport better. So, it's not that we're close-minded to more people coming into the sport, but what we're very careful on is protecting the sport we have right now."

Asked, based on his comment, whether Williams had already been in contact with GM about a possible engine deal in the future, Vowles was quick to respond.

"No, no, we don't," he said. "We obviously have a Mercedes power unit in the back. We have nothing agreed yet for '26.

"My point was more that an organisation, an OEM like GM absolutely would be welcome in our sport, and we would give welcome arms also to them at that stage but they're clearly linked to Andretti. It's not a question of that and we're not in talks with them at the moment."

"It's not a secret that I'm not a big fan," added Fred Vasseur. "When we opened the door to an 11th team in the Concorde Agreement last time, it was for good reason, that at this stage Honda said already that they would leave F1 and Renault was on the edge. It mean that we had only Mercedes and Ferrari confirmed for the future.

"We opened the door to an 11th team in case of they could bring something substantial to the F1, and I think at this stage that was mainly the engine.

"As James said before, all the teams on the grid they made a big effort... We have to keep in mind that three or four years ago we had almost half of the grid quite close to the bankruptcy and we have to avoid to be arrogant that F1... The life is a cycle and we don't know what could happen before 2030. And I would think that we would put F1 in a tough situation for this. Except... if the new entrant is bringing massive added value to the F1. And I didn't have access to the CEO of Andretti but I think it's the first question: what is the added value for the F1? We have already a 10th team who is American with Haas. We have an American driver on the grid. And the question for me is around this. What could be the value?"

"Looking at the process, which I know a thing or two about, I think we have to remember that the FIA when they kicked the process off it was be expected that one team might actually be chosen," said Peter Bayer, formerly of the FIA and now taking over at AlphaTauri, "because as far as I remember, the regulator is purely doing technical analysis of the finances and I think they've done a very thorough job on that without knowing the dossier of Andretti.

"You can compare that to the tyre tender, you know. You have companies applying to supply tyres and then the FIA will do the check on they can supply tyres. But then I think that's the big step ahead now, it's handed over to Formula 1 to see how to integrate this team into the grid on a commercial basis.

"Remember, before the cost cap has been introduced, we had three team owners who actually called us and we had discussions back then about, you know, that they can't sustain this sort of investment any longer. We had Racing Point going into administration in 2019, I think, '18? You will tell me, it shouldn't keep guessing! And, and so I think that needs to be kept in mind, really. And so, yeah, I would probably follow my colleagues."

While Christian Horner clearly wanted to appear as though he was safely perched on the fence, like Vowles he is excited by the prospect of GM entering the sport.

"I see this very much as an issue between FIA and Liberty," he told Sky Sports. "FIA are the regulator, Liberty are the promoter, and therefore they control the funding of the sport.

"Of course, another team coming in, how is that going to be funded? I think those guys need to get together and come to us with a proposal of what they want," he added.

"I think that to have GM coming in particular into F1 is a massively positive thing. We're seeing Ford coming back in '26, Ford versus GM would be fantastic.

"I think they need to do their own engine, and I think that when you look at how Audi has come into the sport, they've acquired an existing team and an existing franchise, should it be different for the others? I think that's where Liberty and the FIA need to get together and come to us with a collective position. Because you can't have one rule for one, and another for others."

However, as many suspect, Horner admits that money is the key.

"Obviously, money makes the world go round," he said. "That's what every team will be acutely sensitive of, and the franchise value being diluted. Suddenly you go from ten to eleven, so, of course, the stakeholders, the shareholders of each individual team will have a concern about that.

"About six years ago, there were four teams on the brink of leaving. I think the sport has turned itself around, it's reinvented itself, and it's in great shape and huge strength now. And of course, those ten teams are effectively now franchises. And they have a value. Their shareholders will be looking to protect their value in that investment. They've invested across the team billions and billions of dollars or pounds. I think the teams will be looking to see, okay, what does this landscape look like, both commercially and operationally?"

The Red Bull boss also, once again questioned the logistics of an eleventh team.

"Let's face it, where would we put them in Zandvoort, for example?. So I think there's some operational issues to overcome as well. I think that's for Liberty and the FIA to get together, come to us with a proposal and then we can all consider it."

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1. Posted by matra123, 21/10/2023 14:15

"I get a chuckle out of Vowles. He should get his Mickey Mouse team out of the cellar, and then start spouting off."

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2. Posted by elsiebc, 09/10/2023 16:19

"There is enough widget makers. We don't need another maker of widgets until we ensure that the existing makers are making enough money (which is never enough). Then if you want to make widgets, even if you have a better more advanced widget, you have to buy out one of the existing manufacturers first. "

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3. Posted by Defiant, 07/10/2023 18:55

"oh more sour grapes and nonsense from the in-crowd.

The teams should have ZERO say in how is allowed to compete against them."

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4. Posted by Burton, 07/10/2023 12:26

"Vowles using some extreme rhetoric then defending a unicorn scenario. Pathetic. Change the name of the team."

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5. Posted by Chester, 07/10/2023 12:24

"Flimsy and jealous excuse by Vowles, a guy I really like. “I’ll take the GM engine, but not Andretti”. Sorry, sir, your economic performance is not guaranteed. Just because you spent a lot of cash does not mean you’re entitled to block competition.

Pound salt"

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