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Ben Sulayem tells Andretti to buy a team

NEWS STORY
29/05/2024

Well that didn't take long... days after agreeing a truce with F1, FIA President, Mohammed ben Sulayem tells Andretti to buy an existing team if it wishes to enter the sport.

In a 62 word statement issued on 16 May, F1 and the FIA announced that they were developing a new strategic plan for the sport.

While the statement appeared to signal an end to at least one of the squabbles that has been damaging the sport in recent times, we commented that it also posed more questions than it answered.

Almost from the day he was elected President, Ben Sulayem has been at loggerheads with F1 over all manner of topics, and on one occasions the lawyers were brought in to keep him in line.

Thus far there have been no outward signs of the new detente between the two parties other than a distinct lack of criticism from either party of the other, no further departures from the FIA and no more whistle-blowers.

Indeed, if proof were needed of Ben Sulayem being fully on board and now working with F1, the Emeriti has now joined the growing number of voices calling on Andretti to buy an existing team if it wishes to enter the sport.

"I have no doubt FOM and Liberty would love to see other teams as long as they are OEMs," said Ben Sulayem over the Monaco weekend, according to Reuters. "I would advise them to go and buy another team, not to come as the 11th team.

"I feel that some teams need to be refreshed," he added. "What is better? To have eleven teams as a number or ten and they are strong?

"I still believe we should have more teams but not any teams. The right teams. It's not about the number, it's about the quality," he said, though many would argue the same prniciple would be better applied to the number of races. Indeed, only a year ago Ben Sulayem said he would rather see more teams than more races.

"Without mentioning names, there are teams which are struggling. Struggling with performance, struggling even with management," he said. "It's about having the right team, not to lose a chance or an opportunity where someone like GM with a PU is coming to Formula One."

Having given the green light to Andretti last year - when there were no such recommendations from the FIA, which appeared to stand as a lone voice in welcoming the American outfit - not only do Ben Sulayem's comments come as a surprise - to put it mildly - but curiously echo the comments made by the likes of Christian Horner at the start of the Monaco weekend.

Naturally, Ben Sulayem doesn't mention which teams "need to be refreshed", but with talk of each of them valued "north of 1bn" - at least according to Zak Brown - there might be no end of current owners willing to bite off the hand of an Andretti or GM proffering such a huge amount of dosh.

And what exactly does Andretti get in return, a team that needs refreshing as opposed to an outfit built from the ground up and which carries none of the baggage that has left the likes of a Haas, Alpine or whatever in need of a 1bn makeover.

A team that is "struggling with performance, struggling even with management" and a team which Andretti would be expected to pay 1bn for and then rebuild from the ground up.

The lawyers were called in because Ben Sulayem disputed the valuation placed on the sport when the Saudis appeared to be interested in taking F1 off Liberty's hands - presumably to refresh the sport - so now, with the FIA President appearing to agree with the 1bn valuation of the teams he must surely agree also with the price tag on the sport.

Not wishing to put Andretti off entirely, he makes clear that F1 would benefit from an American team, whilst suggesting that the existing U.S. outfit doesn't fit the bill.

"Imagine the impact. We have three races in America. We have such a huge fan base. But we don't have a proper team. I'm so happy to have Ford in but imagine having GM and imagine having American drivers."

And finally there's the entry fee for new teams which currently stands at $200m, but, since Andretti appeared on the scene, has been described as too low, with the teams calling for a $600m payment to be shared among them to make up for the shortfall that might result of an eleventh team.

Surprise, surprise, Ben Sulayem claims the current $200m fee is indeed too low.

"We have to have a balance," he said. "Is $200 million too low? I believe $600 is something where it is right for the current market."

Referring to the newfound detente with F1 and its owners, the FIA President said: "Peace is always good, you can't have all the time unnecessary issues."

Revealing talks with (Liberty CEO) Greg Maffei on the new "Concorde Agreement" to have been positive, Ben Sulayem said: "We both understand that we need to go forward and the only way to go forward is to have much more clarity between us. We are on the same boat regardless and what we want is sustainability of the business.

"We are with FOM when it comes to business. We are the partners and we have to also forget the small things and find a solution how can we address these issues."

In many ways this smacks of what we are hearing from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic at present as they seek to maintain their positions, telling everyone what they want to hear in order to please them and keep their jobs.

The saddest thing about this is that Ben Sulayem appeared to be the last line in defence, the one that might possibly prevent Liberty from continuing to ride roughshod over the sport. Clearly this is no longer the case, he is now on board with Greg and his gang, a fully paid-up member.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by FIRSTINTO 1, 12/06/2024 3:23

"And we thought the team owners were piranhas twenty years ago. Hah. They were minnows compared to now.
I fear for F1."

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by kenji, 30/05/2024 1:41

"Wow...What an about face! Sulayem has, in this writers opinion, lost any credibility vis a vis integrity. He finally 'drank the Kool Aid'. I'd be pretty certain that there is an entirely new story attached to this latest 'volte face' taken by the FIA. It certainly makes a mockery of the conditions that were in place to effect a bona fide entry to the grid. Those conditions were fully met by Andretti. On the surface it appears top be the result of a massive shakedown aimed at Andretti. Quite disgusting really as on the surface I believe that Andretti has stood the test for inclusion only to be shafted at the gate by what appears to be very strange bedfellows, given their past associations."

Rating: Positive (3)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Celtic Tiger, 29/05/2024 21:59

" I wonder if the big boss John Malone paid a visit and gave him an "offer he can't refuse". There was a rumor around this time last year that Red Bull are looking to offload VCARB before 2026. Now after this FIA/FOM/Teams group hug Sulayem appears to echo Horner's sentiments on buying an existing team, very suspicious.

Well, teams who forget their own history aside, lets hope the US DOJ still push through with their probe into Maffei and those Liberty idiots."

Rating: Positive (4)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

4. Posted by ChickenFarmerF1, 29/05/2024 20:39

"They've either finally found good dirt on him, or he's been bought. Possibly both."

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5. Posted by Superbird70, 29/05/2024 18:53

"Expand F1 to thirty teams divided into three tiers. This will allow for relegation year to year and allow racing across about 60 homologated tracks throughout the year. It’s a win, win, win. More teams, more tracks, more drivers. More $$$."

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6. Posted by meatball, 29/05/2024 18:47

"What a Coward."

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7. Posted by rnorm, 29/05/2024 13:42

"I have a better headline: Ben Sulayem, grow a pair."

Rating: Positive (5)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

8. Posted by Max Noble, 29/05/2024 12:51

"Do Mr Bond? I expect you to get on the Gravy Train and shut the phuck up Mr Bond… Sigh…"

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9. Posted by Burton, 29/05/2024 12:43

"This is all very disappointing and predictable. Perversely, at least it's better to emphasise the subpar teams (Haas didn't even know to tell their mechanics how to assemble the upgrades, ffs) than say truly stupid stuff like "Andretti/Cadillac don't bring value"."

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10. Posted by rnorm, 29/05/2024 9:40

"You got a little problem, your approach doesn't achieve the solution you seek."

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