Formula 1 teams should operate along the lines of American sports franchises where the only route in for a newcomer is to buy an existing competitor, says Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
The FIA invited potential new applicants to submit bids earlier this year. Both F1 and the sport’s governing body have the power to veto any new entrants.
However Ben Sulayem said this week it would be hard to turn down an application from a major American carmaker such as General Motors. “Do we allow anyone to enter? No,” he said to the Associated Press. “But how on earth can we refuse GM?”
At Silverstone on Friday Wolff pointed out few major sports allow new competitors to come in without taking over or replacing another. “There is no mature sports league in the world, whether it’s a national football championship or the Champions League, the NBA, the NFL, the NHL, where such a situation is possible,” he said. “Where instead of just setting up a team and joining – ‘thank you very much for making me part of the prize fund’ – you have to qualify.
“You have to go through the ranks. You have to showcase commitment to the championship.”
He believes an 11th team should only be allowed to enter if they increase the overall value of the championship.
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“If it’s accretive then we must look at it. So far, what we have seen hasn’t convinced the teams. But we haven’t seen the applications and submissions that were made to the FIA and to Stefano [Domenicali, F1 CEO] and they will judge whether that is positive for Formula 1 or not.
“But in any case, from a team owner’s side, there are no leagues which just increase the entrants because that just dilutes the whole league – if it’s a great difference or if it’s not.”
Wolff said new entrants should “buy a team” to enter F1, and that adding an 11th team would present complications.
“There is a lot of consequences. When you look at qualifying sessions, already now we are looking like we’re on a go-kart track, tripping over each other. There is a safety concern.
“We haven’t got the logistics where to put an 11th team – in Silverstone we can accommodate the Hollywood people, but on other circuits we can’t.”
Prior to the arrival of F1’s last new team, Haas, in 2016, the last time the grid expanded was in 2010 when three new teams were allowed to enter. This followed the withdrawal of several major manufacturers from F1.
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“The NHL has added teams […] because they have decided to do so, all the stakeholders,” he said. “We have done that in the past when Formula 1 was on the brink of losing teams because of bankruptcy. We increased the numbers of teams and nobody complained about it – on the contrary, we did it to make sure that we have 10 teams on the grid and not lose any. So these two factors are very different, with the NHL to the current situation.
“I still have the belief that this is a league of franchises. And when someone comes in, then it should be like in the NFL where we’re saying, ‘what is it that new team brings to the party?’. And that, I repeat, is for the FIA and FOM to decide.
“We can comment from the sidelines here and obviously our standpoint is clear. We would only want to have a team that brings something to the cake – [if] an 11th teams brings more than what they cost the other teams – more show, more exciting drivers.”
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