The prospect of another Formula 1 team joining the grid in the near future seems more realistic following FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem’s hint at finding a new entry.
F1’s governing body the FIA will look at launching a process that invites expressions of interest for prospective new teams to enter F1.
While this is no guarantee of an 11th team, or more, joining the grid, it is a clear shift from this time last year, when the FIA said it wasn’t in a position to consider potential new entrants.
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali even said as recently as November 2022 that they were “not in the best position” to discuss a credible new entry.
But Ben Sulayem’s brief statement on Twitter on Monday this week is an indication of the attitude changing, to at least formally collate and review the interested bids.
Although the exact details of the process Ben Sulayem is referring to are yet to be known, we have a good idea of what prospective new teams will need to do to try to win a place on the grid.
The last time this happened came in December 2013, when F1 and the FIA sought to find a single new team, ultimately leading to the birth of Haas’s F1 spot.
It’s worth stressing that in the past, there has always been a condition from the FIA that if no applicant is considered suitable by both the FIA and the commercial rights holder, then no additional team will be selected.
While the FIA has led this push for a formal process to begin, through Ben Sulayem, F1 itself and even the teams will still have a strong involvement when it comes to reviewing the expressions of interest and deciding if any of them are worth accepting.
This process will only begin once the FIA officially publishes a call for expressions of interest, and that usually makes various details public, such as the specific starting point for the new entry to join the championship – usually at least one full year away from the process beginning at the earliest.
A formal expression of interest is a detailed process that requires the prospective team to be reasonably well advanced.
It needs to be able to show that a company has been incorporated with details of its administrative headquarters, plus the identity of all shareholders, and information on the relevant experience and capabilities including technical experience, racing experience, facilities, equipment, and engineering resources.
It’s part-sales pitch and part-glorified job interview – in fact, a cover letter introducing the candidacy is usually a condition, as is a CV for each director and officer of the company.
There will likely be an initial administration fee to pay of a few thousand dollars, and any team that pays this and registers their interest by the deadline will be given precise terms of the selection process.
Those that end up submitting full applications will have to fork out a much bigger fee, which was $130,000 the last time this happened. It shows just how seriously the FIA takes the process and effectively weeds out the least serious entries at the very start.
A thorough due diligence investigation will follow, with the selection criteria including the technical ability and resources of the team, the ability to raise and maintain sufficient funding to participate at a competitive level, the team’s experience and human resources.
The FIA and F1 is essentially looking for guarantees of long-term stability, and the value that the candidate may bring to the championship, with an added emphasis this time on avoiding the dilution that has been talked about so much over the last year or so.
Though this is quite intensive, it is usually resolved quite quickly. After the deadline for full applications the last time this process was undertaken, a final decision was made within three weeks.
In fact, the time from the official call for expressions of interest to the final decision being made was less than three months.
So, whenever Ben Sulayem’s tweet turns into a formal FIA announcement, we can expect a relatively quick resolution to the whole process: even if it ends with no new team being selected after all.