Formula 1 | 11th F1 team: How the naysayers’ best argument backfired

Therefore, it is noted: the FIA ​​has decided to launch a tender to attract the 11th (or even 12th) team in F1.

And with the new Andretti-Cadillac project announced today, a very serious – though impossible to refuse – rival has already presented itself.

Of course, the FIA ​​will have to accept the Andretti-Cadillac candidacy – and Michael Andretti himself is very confident, as he was after the announcement of this solid partnership.

“Yes, we think so. After all, it’s still an FIA series. »

“President [Mohammed Ben Sulayem] he made it clear that he wanted to have at least an 11th team on the grid. He is a “racer” and understands the importance of this to the show itself. »

“So, yes, we’re very confident, especially with our great partnership with Cadillac, that we have a very, very, very good chance of ticking all the boxes and being on the grid soon. »

“I believe it 1000% [que nous allons entrer en F1]. I believe we have ticked all the boxes that need to be ticked to be able to enter F1. And I feel like we’re definitely ahead of our competition in getting there. Yes, I am very, very sure that we will be online soon. »

The expected reaction from Mohammed Ben Sulayem and the FIA ​​is therefore very positive.

The same overwhelmingly positive reception from the teams? is to do!

How will the current 10 teams welcome this news? There should be no doubt that most – but not all – of the current structures will not necessarily open champagne, except for facade reactions – especially the most modest teams.

Because for a long time the arguments of the teams (the most modest ones) against the entry of an 11th team into F1 (especially Andretti) have not been heard by the FIA: so why?

In fact, first of all, to block 11, it is necessary to remember what these “mass” arguments of the existing 10 structure are.

Faced with the Andretti rumors, mainly due to financial stability, most teams decided to take a negative, even offensive stance. It is clear that the teams are afraid of a decrease in revenue: the revenue pie to be distributed will be less massive, the teams will lose 10% (because the revenue will have to be distributed to the 11th team).

There is certainly an anti-dehydration fund (the newcomer has to pay $200 million to the FIA, which it splits equally among the teams): but $20 million at a time doesn’t seem like enough to compensate for a 10% loss of revenue. in the long run… far from it.

The most obvious point was Alfa Romeo boss Frédéric Vasseur, who has perhaps one of the most fragile teams in the boardroom and is not yet at the budget ceiling in 2022.

“We don’t need to welcome a new team, jeopardize two or three teams in the network” concluded the French last May.

This concern was still shared by Haas boss Günter Steiner. And this is for two perfectly understandable reasons: on the one hand, Haas, like Alfa Romeo, is still a fragile team, and after the departure of Uralkali, it came close to the worst; on the other hand, Haas fears the possibility of an American rival coming (Andretti is on rails).

“If an 11th team comes in and they make, say, 10% more, why not? But if the eleventh team comes in and takes an eleventh of the current revenue, do you reduce everyone else’s revenue? Why would you do that? » He turned on Steiner. “I think F1 knows and Stefano knows that the sport is in a very good state at the moment. Does adding an eleventh team generate more revenue? Does it make Formula 1 bigger? »

A very rhetorical question in the mouth of Günter Steiner…

Financial stability risks evoke painful memories

The views of Frédéric Vasseur and Günter Steiner are certainly understandable… they carry with them the scars of the severe crisis that F1 went through in the 2010s.

The three structures that emerged in 2010, Caterham, HRT and Marussia, all disappeared in the 2000s (the last survivor was Manor-HRT). These previous examples serve as the first argument for Günter Steiner and Frédéric Vasseur: we should not attract new lame ducks by further weakening the finances of fragile teams.

That’s why financial stability, budget strength of the project are the prerequisites that FIA set in the tender call to attract the 11th team.

Moreover, it is important to remember that in 2019 or 2020, Haas, Alfa Romeo, Williams are facing a big financial threat. For example, Williams avoided liquidation by being sold to Dorilton Capital. One can also mention the situation of Force India, which was saved from bankruptcy by only Lawrence Stroll’s millions.

But these financial stability fears are no more today.

But arguments that were valid in 2019 or 2020 are not so valid today. This is the price of success for Haas, Alfa Romeo and Williams: F1’s financial situation has improved and, as a result, F1 has less to fear the disappearance of its not-so-fragile structures. Especially after Dorilton Capital bought Williams and Sauber announced its merger with Audi.

Indeed, F1 benefits from the scissor effect that any entrepreneur dreams of. Incomes increase, expenses decrease. On the revenue side, the conquest of new markets, record attendance on the slopes in the US or youth and women (thanks Netflix!), the rights of rising promoters, all this goes directly to the pocket. FOM and teams. On the cost side, the appearance of constrained budgets allows for both cost reduction and predictability, making an incredibly strong argument for any investor.

So much so that, as Toto Wolff revealed last January, the once bottomless Formula 1 teams are now profitable: “For us, it’s been since the 2021 season. The engine is an exception. More specifically, excluding engine development costs. »

As for the valuation of a Formula 1 team, even outside of the top teams, McLaren Racing CEO Zach Brown estimated it to be close to a billion. Let’s listen to it: “Formula 1 teams can certainly be worth billions. There are many sports franchises – NFL, NHL, Premier League, NBA, etc., worth billions. Now that Liberty has come along and made the sport financially viable, financially sustainable, we’ve seen rapid growth in countries wanting to compete. McLaren will be a profitable racing team for the not too distant future. Before the budget cap, I don’t think you could say that. »

And with an F1 team now worth a lot of money and the sport becoming profitable again, Sauber was reluctant to sell itself to Andretti – he no doubt needed an offer worth its weight in gold from Audi. hand

In short, the arguments made by the 10 F1 teams for years to refuse the arrival of the 11th team were legitimate in their time and indeed allowed to limit access to the work of the new structure.

These arguments were effective, but they are over: now the financial stability of the teams is guaranteed forever; so much so that the argument advanced by Fréderic Vasseur, Günther Steiner and others is now turned against them. This once legitimate opposition is now becoming anachronistic and irrelevant.

Moreover, the arrival of a prestigious manufacturer like Cadillac – with General Motors behind it – will certainly increase F1’s US presence and thus circulation. This is how the income pie to be shared will grow! This is another argument for the 10 structures on the board…

This is ultimately the redemption of success for both F1 and midfield teams: because they are doing so well, the time of survival and closure ends to open the time of sharing and generosity!

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