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Mohammed Ben Sulayem | FIA president

FIA president performs surprise F1 U-turn over Andretti

After calling for Expressions of Interest for an 11th team in F1, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has remarkably changed his tune

Mohammed Ben Sulayem
To news overview © XPBimages

FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has surprisingly urged Michael Andretti to enter F1 by purchasing an existing team rather than persisting with plans to become the sport's 11th outfit.

In February last year, the FIA called for new teams to join F1 via its Expressions of Interest process. Eight months later, following a stringent examination, motor sport's governing body confirmed Andretti had passed on technical and sporting grounds.

At the end of January this year, however, F1 rejected Andretti's bid, categorically stating it would not add value to the sport, despite partnering with major car manufacturer General Motors via its Cadillac brand.

GM has since stated it is prepared to be a power unit supplier to the team in 2028, two years after new engine rules are introduced. Andretti is still hoping to enter F1 in 2026, running a customer engine for two years initially, and has engaged in discussions with CEO Stefano Domenicali about the prospect.

Ben Sulayem, however, has now suggested to Andretti to take a different tack if he wants to be on the F1 grid in the future.

"I have no doubt FOM [Formula One Management] and [commercial rights holders] Liberty [Media] would love to see other teams as long as they are OEMs [car manufacturers]," Ben Sulayem told Reuters.

"I would advise them [Andretti] to go and buy another team, not to come as the 11th team. I feel that some teams need to be refreshed. What is better? To have 11 teams as a number or 10 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."

'Peace is always good'

Attracted by the new PU regulations, Audi enter F1 for the first time in its history in 2026 after purchasing Sauber.

Ben Sulayem refused to state which team Andretti should purchase, although insisted there are teams "which are struggling with performance, struggling even with management".

He added: "It’s about having the right team, not to lose a chance or an opportunity where someone like GM [General Motors] with a PU is coming to Formula One.

"Imagine the impact. We have three races in America. We have such a huge fan base. But we don’t have a proper team [in the United States]. I’m so happy to have Ford in [with Red Bull from 2026] but imagine having GM and imagine having American drivers."

Ben Sulayem's U-turn on an 11th team comes after peace was recently brokered between himself and Domenicali to ease tensions that had previously existed.

Referencing the new accord, he said: "Peace is always good, you can’t have all the time unnecessary issues."

The pact has come at a time when FIA and FOM are engaged in talks that are "going well" over a new Concorde Agreement.

"We both understand that we need to go forward and the only way to go forward is to have much more clarity between us," he said. "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."

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