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FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem makes his strongest case yet for F1 expansion

President Ben Sulayem argues that Formula 1 can expand to 12 teams

2022-09-04 Formula 1 Dutch Grand Prix - Race Photo by Marcel ter Bals/BSR Agency/Getty Images

Expanding the Formula 1 field has been a huge topic in recent weeks. In the aftermath of Andretti Global announcing a partnership with General Motors to explore an F1 bid, as well as Panthera Team Asia F1 renewing their own push for an F1 team, expanding the field is one of the hottest topics in motorsports.

While reaction to expansion, and in particular the Andretti-Cadillac partnership, has been mixed, one of the individuals speaking out in favor of growth has a rather large platform at his disposal.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

In his most forceful comments yet, President Ben Sulayem made the case that the F1 field — currently set at ten teams — should expand, and welcome growth. Speaking at a press conference at the 2023 Dakar Rally, President Ben Sulayem addressed the issue of expansion, and argued for growing the field by up to two teams. “In general, if we look at the sustainability of Formula 1, we have to open it up to other brands. We can have a maximum of 12 teams on the grid.”

President Ben Sulayem’s comments also mirrored some of those made by Michael Andretti during the news conference announcing the Andretti-Cadillac partnership. During his remarks, Andretti leaned into the idea of an all-American team, and speaking in Dakar, President Ben Sulayem did the same. “A new manufacturer will help make Formula 1 better and I see no reason why we shouldn’t welcome new teams, especially the Americans. We already have three races there this year.”

FIA’s president also outlined how the presence of General Motors adds to the Andretti-Cadillac bid, and is essential for hte future of F1. “Having a company like General Motors, one of the five biggest manufacturers in the world... we have to encourage them in their interest to reach the top class. That’s what I would like the future to look like.”

President Ben Sulayem’s comments are the latest in an escalating war of words regarding the future of F1. In recent days, the idea of expansion received even more pushback. According to a report from Reuters, according to a “senior team figure” a “strong majority” of teams are against expanding the field beyond the current ten teams.

A senior team figure told Reuters on Friday that a “strong majority” of the teams were against expanding the grid and diluting the share of revenues.

The same figure also suggested the General Motors involvement was more of a “badging exercise” than a full manufacturer commitment and the $200 million entry fee, to compensate the other teams, was too little on current valuation.

During the announcement of Andretti-Cadillac, Andretti stressed how having General Motors as a partner checked one of the biggest boxes for Andretti’s dreams of getting on the grid. As he said during the announcement, “We’re bringing one of the biggest manufacturers in the world with us...that was one box we didn’t have checked that we do have checked now...it’s hard for anyone to argue with that now.”

Whether FIA truly agrees remains to be seen, but at the moment, it seems like at least FIA’s President does.