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Revealed: Details on a surprising new F1 team

The FIA’s new team process has attracted a number of hopefuls, but RacingNews365 can reveal that one in particular has the funding and a business model that will be difficult to ignore by the sport’s authorities.

According to various sources on condition of anonymity during the Saudi Grand Prix weekend, the FIA expects to attract at least three and potentially four new entrant applications under the Expressions of Interest process as outlined announced here . Although the Concorde Agreement, the covenant that outlines the commercial obligations of F1 commercial rights holder Liberty Media and the teams collectively, currently caters for 10 teams, the document is believed to provide for up to 12 teams. Similarly, Article 8.6 of F1’s Sporting Regulations states: No more than twenty-six (26) cars will be admitted to the Championship, two (2) being entered by each Competitor. Setting aside whether F1 has a right to block any number of new teams that qualify for entries under the EoI process, the overriding question is: Who are the four teams?

For starters, Andretti is far advanced, having staked a claim on an entry by calling a press conference during which it announced Cadillac as a power unit partner, having previously spoken of a technical agreement with Alpine. Indeed, as revealed here , former Renault/Alpine Technical Director Nick Chester has recruited a number of experienced heads under the Top Tier banner to begin concept modelling of a 2026 car. Although Alpine management vehemently denies that Top Tier has an agreement to use its Enstone facilities for modelling purposes, sources in the loop are adamant that some or other deal exists. Possibly it is only a matter of time before Top Tier enters the wind tunnel and/or the French team’s executives becomes aware of it… The second hopeful is Panthera, but the project’s prospects seem to blow hot then cold, and whether the principals get it all together before D-Day (30 April) remains to be seen. Either way it faces some stiff opposition. Then there is HiTech, the F2/3 outfit headed by Oliver Oakes, the former world karting champion who hit paydirt by linking up with the Mazepins during Nikita’s early career. Although Oakes denied (in an email to RacingNews365 ) that HiTech is still linked to the sanctioned Russian family, a number of suspicious fingerprints remain, and the FIA (and F1) are understandably wary about a lingering connection. Follow the money… Then, there is a Swiss-based project originally revealed by RacingNews365 , about which little was known save that it is headed up by Craig Pollock (pictured below with 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve), who founded British American Racing by acquiring Tyrrell with a pile of tobacco and converting the traditional British team into BAR, which morphed into the current Mercedes F1 operation - same address and same basic buildings and facilities; merely updated over 20 years.

Having been tipped off that Pollock, who brought Jacques Villeneuve into CART and F1 before founding BAR and has spent four years of his life on the latest project, had originally conceived the broad idea of an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team aiming for a 50/50 gender quotient across the entire operation - including, when the talent emerges, in the cockpit – RacingNews365 approached the Scotsman. As expected, he was tight-lipped save to confirm that he had submitted the EoI documentation required to date – in any event confirmed by FIA sources - and that he was in talks with some serious investors. Who could his backers be? Rumours in Jeddah linked Pollock to Saudi Arabian figures, said to be keen on a) having a F1 team officially represent the Kingdom at world championship level as opposed to being ‘merely’ a promoter and global partner to the sport, and b) do so in conjunction with an operation that has EDI at its core. Thus, RacingNews365 exclusively approached Prince Khalid (pictured below), President of the Saudi Motorsport Federation, for comment. “It’s still in the very early stages,” the Prince admitted, adding, “there are lots of feasibility studies, there’s a lot of things we still need to do and consider. Now things are a lot easier to enter Formula 1, but there’s a lot to do before we take the final decision. “Hopefully we can sort a lot of things soon and not later, because to enter Formula 1 later will cost a lot more. We are looking closely, and we have a lot of interest.” He did, though, stop short of admitting that a EDI project was under consideration, saying only, “It is too early to go into these kind of details.” No denial, then…

However, during an earlier select media conference the Saudi had admitted that the Kingdom was hoping to turn “Motorsport into a profitable business,” in the country, adding, “It’s our goal to bring the knowhow, experience and expertise [to Saudi Arabia]; its our goal not just to host events. “We want to have a bigger role in Formula 1, we want a Saudi team hopefully, one day in the near future we want to have Saudi mechanics, maybe we can start manufacturing cars here, maybe move some of the [team] headquarters to Saudi.” Thus, the ambitions and goals exist, EDI obviously ticks a number of regulatory and societal boxes, funding is clearly no problem and the well-connected Pollock’s previous experiences in managing a champion driver and two F1 teams will obviously stand in good stead. On that basis it is difficult to foresee the FIA turning down the EoI; ditto, it will be difficult for F1 and the teams to block a Saudi entry on commercial grounds. Ultimately it will come down to royal blessing – as it always does in Saudi Arabia.

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